Blown away by the numbers…
Blown away by the numbers…
We welcomed aboard S/Y Palau Siren our guests, predominately from the United States, with some idyllic weather ahead of us for 10 days of exceptional diving. Equipment set and everyone fully refreshed from their travels the adventure began with a gentle dive on the Iro Maru, initially damaged by submarine USS Tunny during March 1944 and subsequently sunk by bombing, under the gaze of bigeye jacks and yellow fusiliers to keep to the military theme. This was followed with our visit to Ulong Island where the variety and abundance amazed all and included numerous grey and whitetip reef sharks, midnight and black snappers, Napoleon wrasse, banded boxer shrimp – the list is endless.
Day two gave us flat waters and clear skies without a hint of a breeze, so a gentle drift dive over the coral gardens of Ulong’s channel with grey and whitetips reef sharks paying us little attention as they swam about. The following morning our move to the German Channel brought a mild current along with five mantas at a cleaning station, the sharks continuing their patrol along the reef’s edge and the usual plethora of fish continued to absorb our divers. New Drop Off also had a mild current, though showed its potential as always with a variety of marine life including hawksbill turtle, schools of fish, grey and whitetips making this dive particularly special.
As requested by our guests we revisited the German Channel for our first plunge of the day with three more mantas making an appearance, together with the usual mass of fish accompanied by the ever-present sharks. To limit travel time on our tenders we then moved Palau Siren around Peleliu Island for Fairyland and Turtle Cove’s wall where soft corals, small overhangs and the cove’s chimney-like cave provided the backdrop for the last dive of the day. We entered the water just before sunset, always a fantastic way to end an exhilarating day’s diving as the fish swarmed over the reef to get their final meal in before the last rays of light disappeared.
The following morning, February 23, a large swell at Blue Corner made for a tricky dive as hooks occasionally failed to stay hooked, though the rewards were well worth the effort as we were treated to a spectacular show of some 40 grey reef sharks swimming in front of us. Even a rainstorm later in the day could not dampen our guests’ spirits as they enjoyed another fish and shark-filled dive at New Drop Off, plus a close-up with a huge dogtooth tuna. I swear it was smiling for the camera!
As many of our guests were from the U.S., most decided to join the optional land-tour to Peleliu Island, location of one of the bloodiest (but sadly mostly unknown) battles between American and Japanese forces during WWII. Those who remained aboard were treating to more shark-filled dives at Blue Corner & Blue Holes. It was clear that mating season for the grey reef sharks had begun in earnest with many of the females covered in bite marks.
The rain passed as quickly as it came and what a difference it made with colors popping on the huge variety of fish, green & Hawksbill turtles and reflected in the huge schools of barracuda. We returned to Blue Corner and what a dive! Between 40 to 50 grey reef sharks surrounded us and this at a depth of only 10-15 meters. This combined with the usual abundance of marine life made for another memorable dive.
All good things must come to an end and we cruised backed to Malakal for our final day’s diving starting in Chandelier Cave. It is a site some divers are at first apprehensive about, though the cave provides an easy dive, with surfacing in caverns a unique and surreal experience for all, especially being guided by sunlight streaming in from the exit of the last cave. Those with a keen eye are treated to the stunning colorization of the reclusive mandarin fish, which can be seen on the reef near the exit of the cave.
We left the Ngemelis area and headed towards the ever-popular Jellyfish Lake, or Ongeim’l Tketau as it is called in Palauan, and its golden jellyfish (Mastigias sp.), always a special experience. Sandy Paradise provided the sunset dive of the day and had not only sharks and a huge array of fish, but for a lucky few a rare encounter with an eagle ray.
We trust our guests had an amazing time, we thank them for an amazing 10 days and are looking forward to seeing them aboard S/Y Palau Siren again in the future.