A Unique Spawning Adventure in Palau!!

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A Unique Spawning Adventure in Palau!!

Talks and planning had been going on for some time now and the first of five exclusive trips in 2015 were finally about to begin. Things looked promising for our first New Moon expedition, with Bumphead parrotfish spawning to look forward to, as we boarded the Palau Siren to greet our guests. British, Americans, Europeans, Canadians and a couple from China were the lucky adventurists about to embark on a week-long itinerary designed around spawning and blackwater dives, a one of it’s kind itinerary for Palau liveaboards!!!

There was, however; one element of the equation which only mother nature herself can take care of, the weather. Luckily for us she blew from a northerly to north easterly direction which, although a hindrance, was still workable and people’s spirits were still high, even when the week’s forecast was read out.

Grey-Reef-Shark-Blue-CornerOur first few days started with the usual big dive sites in Ngemelis. Blue Holes dazzled us with its ambient rays from above followed by some nice manta cleaning at German Channel before wetting everyone’s appetite with a magical dive at Blue Corner, filled with 30+ grey reef sharks at the hook on and plenty of schooling fish all around to finish the day. Presentations, photo hints and tips, and plenty of questions are built into the itinerary and so after dinner activities started with Paul giving a presentation of Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometepon muricatum) and how the spawning dive for the following morning would work, followed by short 3 minute video clip of what to look for.

Day 2 and it’s 4.30am, the early hours of the morning, as the Palau Siren pulls anchor and heads north. We awake to a rainy and windy morning and, although still dark, the decision is made to take both skiffs to the spawning site in case the wind picks up and we’re unable to go the following day. During each Unique Spawning Trip all guests have the chance to do a spawning dive at least twice. No matter how many presentations you give, it’s always hard to fathom what will happen and the chance to see this magical event only comes around once a month.

Bumpheads-Mating-DanceAlthough conditions were a little darker than normal there were still hundreds of Bumpheads gathered around the reef, ready to participate in a typical spawning fusion. Loud bangs, sounding like big guns, erupted around us as male Bumpheads banged heads like buffalos to gain superiority over females with colour changes taking place as the fish prepared to spawn. From the deep, rising from the sandy bottom to the surface like a firework display the fish released their gametes into the water column over and over again as we all looked on in amazement. A truly unique spectacle!!!

Siaes Tunnel and Siaes Corner followed afterwards and everyone sat down that evening ready for a presentation on Blackwater diving after an action packed day. The whole concept of doing a ‘real’ blackwater dive and the usual suspects we can see was explained but faces were a little down after we explained it wasn’t possible to go offshore. Winds were still strong and seas need to be calm, or keeping up with a fast drifting boat in the middle of the ocean at night can be hazardous. However, it might still be possible to try something new….. Blackwater inside the lagoon. We have always wondered what this might be like, with the inter connectivity between the deep sea and the inner lagoon, as fish return from their first stages of open ocean life and begin to settle on their new habitats. Now we were about to find out….

Cardinal-Fish-With-eggs-copyMyself and the Palau Siren divemaster Nick were to be the guinea pigs. We placed a powerful light at the surface and two small lights at 6m and waited. Sure enough the water became full of life. Copepods and plankton started arriving attracting bigger predators like miniature squids and the show was on. It was around nine and most people were sleeping as we donned our gear and jumped into the black for our first inner lagoon blackwater dive. Bobtail squid, larval stage mantis shrimps hunting cocopods and several species of cardinal fish harbouring fully formed eggs in their mouths were among the candidates. Ninety minutes later and nearly a full SD card the dive was a success!!

Manta-German-ChannelThe following day was a mixture of another great spawning dive, with seven guests joining us on another inner lagoon blackwater dive. The trip was over half way now but still plent y of time to visit to Blue Corner and German Channel. Cold water thermoclines brought up sea salps from the depths making a nice unexpected meal for the reef fish. Sharks in their dozens also hung out and a nice pod of pilot whales greeted us as we were just about to leave the site. Five to six mantas flew by at German Channel as if to say goodbye.

DSC 0183-copyFor our last morning’s activities, we hung with nautilus from the deep before finishing the dive with a drift at Turtle Cove. Heading back north we tried Ulong Channel again. Last time we tried the current was slack and beginning to push out but we wanted a nice steady incoming current to bring in the sharks and show off the full potential of this dive site, and we got it! A good dozen grey’s paraded in front of us before the forty minute drift inside the channel, past huge lettuce coral formations and pristine healthy corals, as more sharks passed by. Everyone had a huge smile on their faces as we boarded the boat from our last dive, not only the diving but some trickery from the phantom pink bootie ninja made us all smile as Tom removed his booties to find a severe case of pink foot.

Although the week was mostly rainy and a little windy the diving was still world class, and with the home comforts of the Palau Siren close by and its amazing crew to warm our spirits it really didn’t matter. Spawning Bump heads in their hundreds, dozens of sharks surfing the currents, blackwater creatures hunting larval stage fish, bobtail squids, mantas, millions of stingless jellies and a world war II wreck to name but a few of the highlights of our first Unique Dive Expeditions cruise aboard the Palau Siren.

DiegoIt was a pleasure to share our knowledge of this amazing place with all of the guests aboard. The enthusiasm from everyone was all equally shared, from getting up at ridiculous hours in the morning to jumping in the blackwater at night, we all made it happen………and we can’t wait to do it again!! Thanks again to Diego, Nick and Verni for helping underwater and dealing with our crazy schedules, and to the rest of the fantastic crew aboard the Palau Siren!!!

Unique Dive Expeditions and Siren Fleet have teamed up to offer limited exclusive trips based around lunar phases. To offer the best possible expeditions in Palau it’s not just luck, it’s all about timing. Don’t miss out on your chance to see something magical!!

For the chance to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience, visit our website or contact the reservations team for further details and ask about the following dates in 2015, but be quick, space is limited!!:

25th April – 5th May
24th May – 3rd June 2015
8th – 15th October 2015
19th – 26th October 2015

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