Francis Toribiong

Francis Toribiong

Growing up in Palau after the end of World War II, Francis was strongly influenced by the first divers who came to Palau to do salvage work. During the early 1960's, Francis helped divers salvage metals and met pioneer divers who came to Palau, including J.Y. Cousteau aboard the Calypso, leaving a great impression on young Francis who was determined to become a professional diver.

From 1968 -1975 Francis attended Long Beach State University where he studied anthropology. At Laguna Beach, Francis met Dean Westgaard who introduced him to all of the 1970's extreme sports: mountain climbing, skydiving, white water rafting and SCUBA diving. Westgaard initially helped Francis get his SCUBA license and in 1974 sponsored, encouraged and helped qualify Francis to become a dive instructor.

1976 brought Francis back to the ocean where he began collecting tropical fish for export. During that same period, Francis started to provide diving services to visitors who had heard about Palau and shortly thereafter he founded Fish 'n Fins dive shop.

During the 1980's and 1990's, almost single-handedly, Francis carried the dive industry of Palau to where it is today. Flying with his wife, Susan, to dive shows and conferences around the world with the amazing support from Continental Airlines who flew them anywhere, anytime, to advertise Palau. 1980 -1992 Francis and his friend Klaus Lindeman were on a self-appointed mission to recover and document the remains of a WWII Japanese fleet which sunk in Palau during operation "Desecrate 1". In the mid-1980's along with Carl Roessler and Avi Klapfer, Francis laid the foundation that opened up live-aboard diving in Palau.

In 1993, an IMAX production came to Palau to document the underwater wonders of Palau. Soon after they started to shoot the movie they realized that Francis was as interesting a story as was the nature in Palau. Francis and his family became the stars of IMAX's "The Living Sea".