Palau Northern Expedition, Full Moon Spawning and Blackwaters, what else? By Richard Barnden

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Palau Northern Expedition, Full Moon Spawning and Blackwaters, what else? By Richard Barnden

The weather forecast looked amazing as the luxury liveaboard Palau Siren headed north for a ten day full moon Twin Spot Snapper spawning expedition. Almost dead calm sea’s enabled our divers to head north for a couple of days at the beginning of this cruise to check out a few relatively unknown dive sites. Brits, Poles, and Germans made up the mainly European guest list with an Australian and Canadian to complete the group, ready to witness a few secret’s about Palau diving.

The first day warm up started with the Teshio Maru, a Classic World War II cargo ship out on the west side, typically great visibility and nice super structure area with simple swim through penetration, before we continued on to West Passage. An incoming current brought along a nice sized school of Big Eye Jacks while Grey Reef Sharks patrolled the plateau and schools of reef fish lined the sloping walls. Turtles cruised by casually on both sides and beautiful soft corals hung down from the crevices in the walls.

MantasDevilfishcity3After this, the Palau Siren continued North to our home and shelter for the next night, where we were looking for Manta’s. Paul from Unique Dive Expeditions gave an in-depth presentation on Mantas after dinner and everyone went to bed looking eager to see some.
The Palau Siren floated around Devilfish city, a massive channel with huge possibilities, giving us a bird’s eye view and so a perfect place to wait for the exact time for feeding.

Our first dive of the day started with a cleaning station dive. One very large manta was on the station when we arrived and stayed for over twenty minutes. Four to five more cruised by during the dive and the pressure was off a little as we boarded the boat for breakfast. Like clockwork, 9 or 10 mantas arrived shortly afterwards and everyone seemed eager to try snorkeling with them. As the current picked up and our chance to stay with them slowly diminished it was time to try another dive. 7 or 8 of the mantas were still feeding when we got down, as they did their flybys we drifted into the channel and so ended a full day of manta activities.

Palau-spawning-trip-02The following day we headed south, staying on the outside of the western barrier reef, where our first dive would be Satan’s wall/corner a beautiful sloping plateau dropping down to 25m. Schooling Barracuda, more turtles, and fantastic visibility greeted us, with a pod of Pilot Whales seen by the Captains as we were diving just off the reef.
On our second dive at Siaes corner we had a nice surprise with a Silvertip shark on the newly discovered cleaning station. Blue corner would be our final dive of the day and until now we had seen no other dive boats all day, we knew however that this would not continue. Diego (The Palau Siren’s Cruise Director) picked a great time and we entered the water at 3pm alone again. The current was slack and the corner was filled with life. There were Grey Reef Sharks, Marbled Grouper, Barracuda, and lots more for everyone to spread out and enjoy their own show.

Palau-spawning-trip-04The southern Lagoon highlights though were mid trip. Blue Holes, New Drop Off and Blue Corner all living up to their famous reputation for the days diving.
Later in the day, we were on the outside of German Channel in around 160m of water. So far we had not done any Blackwater night dives and I always wondered what it would be like where we were at and now it was time to find out. We hung two lights around 12m and one large HD at the surface and waited. It only took ten minutes before things started to get busy.

The first thing to catch my eye was a juvenile Ghost Pipefish not yet fully formed floating around in the abyss near the surface. A few of us jumped in and a sixty minute dive was then filled with lots of unusual jellyfish harboring juvenile fish, crustaceans and a few regular suspects like baby puffers and juvenile box fish. Everyone seemed very happy with their new night dive experience.

GreyReef-GermanchannelHeading South again to Peleliu the following morning we started our diving with Peleliu Express. The current was not too strong to allow us to drift along the edge of the reef, where Grey Reef Sharks were hanging out, though the highlight of the dive was the big school of hundreds of Giant Trevally hanging right on the tip of the corner.

Our second dive was at Peleliu Cut, which had a few nice surprises. One of the biggest schools of Big Eye Trevally I have witnessed. Thousands joined forces with the hundreds of Giant Trevallys we had seen on the previous dive and a true show unfolded as a 3m bullshark came up from the depths right at the end of the dive and swam through all of them. We had just witnessed Peleliu in typical fashion. After the dive we continued through the Denges Passage to Ulong Island where we would stay for the next three days for our main event, the Full Moon Snapper Spawning.

Palau-spawning-trip-03Our first attempt greeted us with strong currents that, combined with fast moving fish, made our lives hard work. The school was, however, huge and even though only five minutes with them was possible, an eagle ray and several sharks helped make it a good dive. A dive at Siaes Tunnel followed by one Siaes corner finished the day.

We awoke early the following morning excited, ready to give it another go and really nail this dive. After some discussion and a small time adjustment we were ready to see something special. I stuck my head in to check the current. The school was right below me and boy was it big. The current was running, but nothing like yesterday so I liked our chances.
The approach was perfect as we saw thousands of Twin Spot Snapper appear out of the distance. Seven minutes into the dive and all hell broke loose as the spawning began, the water becoming a vibeing mass of reproducing fish!! Two Bull Sharks paraded around and one Black Fin Shark swam close by looking for a Twin Spot breakfast.

Palau-spawning-trip-05The dive was a massive success and big smiles all round lasted all day. Drinks on the beach were followed by who wants to try again for the last time for the early morning spawning dive. Most people were up for it, a few had already had a great experience and understandably choose to sleep in. It had, after all, been 8 days of intense action. Another early rise and we were welcomed by even less current, great visibility, and great action as two more Bull Sharks and fantastic spawning action gave us another success.

Turtle Cove followed with more great visibility and lots of sharks on the corner. Turtles flew past and large schools of Black Snappers, Rudderfish and Jacks passed us along the wall. We ended our Ngemelis experience with the famous German Channel, a favorite amongst divers for Manta rays.

Palau-spawning-trip-palau-sirenA fantastic trip with great diving was had by all, many thanks to the Palau Siren crew and the Unique Diving Expeditions team!
See you next time!

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