Palau January Dive Report: sharks, rays, macro and wrecks!

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Sunshine and smiles greeted our 13 guests from around the world as they boarded the Palau Siren on the last day of the year. After everyone settled in and had dinner many people stayed up late in to the night chatting and getting to know each other until it was that special time. At midnight we rang in the New Year with a champagne toast with new friends in an exciting destination. Shortly thereafter everyone said their good nights and made their way to bed.

The morning started bright and early with a hearty breakfast. We headed West to the Teshio Maru a Japanese WWII wreck near Malakal Harbor, the visibility was good today and the wreck had plenty of life scattered about as well as history so everyone enjoyed themselves. After a nice break and some lunch we headed the opposite direction to the East side of Malakal to Short Drop Off a nice wall with a small deep corner. We returned to the Palau Siren for a bit of a rest and snack but soon enough it was time to head to our dusky night dive on Hafa Adai, a small ferry sunk in the 1960’s that is amazing with macro, especially on night dives. We saw nudibranchs, black velutinids, overfull puffer fish, lionfish, candy crabs, and even a free swimming eel. It was a fabulous dive and helped us work up our appetites for a nice dinner.

As the sun began to rise we departed Malakal Harbor for Ulong Island. An early dive at Sandbar treated us to grey reef sharks out in the clear blue water along with schooling trevally and big eye barracuda. Along the reef we found leaf scorpion fish, mantis shrimp even a juvenile rock mover wrasse. After a hearty breakfast we departed for Siae’s Corner. We encountered a few grey reefs and a young spotted eagle ray on top of the plateau. After cruising the top of the reef we detoured to the deep cleaning stations where grey reef sharks circled and cleaned alongside a 2.5 meter silver tip! Returning to the Palau Siren and seeing all the happy faces of our crew we sat for a delicious lunch. No trip to the Ulong area would be complete without visiting Ulong Channel. Dropping in on the outside of the wall we drifted along with a large school of yellow fin barracuda and twenty baby grey reef sharks, they melted away at the mouth of the channel to be replaced by several of their adult counterparts. We hovered in the mouth while observing them circle lazily in the eddy current. Drifting in we passed the cabbage coral wall and visited our giant clams to round out the dive. A light snack was in order to keep up our energy for our night dive at Sandbar. At night our usual suspects were around and we were graced by some shy octopus and two spot lionfish.

The sun rose beautifully illuminating nearby Ulong Island for everyone to enjoy with their morning coffee. Our first destination of the day was Siae’s Tunnel a huge cathedral like cavern on a very small corner with one massive window on one side and two large sea fan framed windows on the other. We explored the interior of this massive cavern for unique fish life, nudibranchs, and the simple splendor of the site before exiting and shallowing up along the wall watching all the colorful reef fish. After a nice breakfast and surface interval we journeyed to Shark City a deep coral covered plateau with a small corner, located at the outer edge of the reef it can experience strong currents and large swell. Though some swell was present the current was relaxed and we were able to explored the site watching schools of barracuda, snapper and more lazily swimming above the plateau. A few turtles and grey reef sharks also put in appearances to our delight. Everyone returned to Siren hungry and ready for a rest after such a nice dive. It was time for a chill dive so we roused everyone and headed to Aquarium, a beautiful wall dive with a small plateau and miniature plateau that is covered in life. We were lucky enough to see two juvenile spotted eagle rays which kept coming around curiously checking us out, some baby grey reef sharks, huge schools of five-lined snapped and two spot snapper, as well as yellow fin barracuda hanging above the plateau. To round it out right off the tip there was a large circling school of orange spine unicornfish being pursued by about 6 adult grey reef sharks. It was quite an all-inclusive show and people were sad when it was time to leave. After a sweet snack, it was time for the night dive. We headed out to Ulong Cliffs where we had been a bit previously on our Ulong Channel Dive. It was time to watch the reef go to sleep for the night. Before it got too dark to see there was some predation happening which is always exciting. Once it got fully dark some creatures settled in for the night while others began waking up and coming out of hiding, one group even saw a massive lobster just walking along.

Another glorious sunny day greeted us as our early wakeup call roused everyone from their slumber. For our last dive for now in the Ulong area e headed back to Ulong Channel where the baby Grey Reef sharks were waiting for us! We were so engrossed in the large school of tiny sharks we didn’t mind that the tide changed early and we didn’t get in to the channel, instead we hung out on the plateau with these beautiful creatures. After breakfast we pulled anchor and headed to the Ngemelis area to try out the other major dive area of Palau. Our first stop was the stunning Blue Holes, a massive underwater chamber with two windows out to the reef and four large chimneys leading down from the top of the reef. It was beautifully lit and stunning and we explored until it was to time shallow up along the wall and extend our dive. After a nice lunch and surface interval it was time to visit yet another famous dive site, German Channel. It was afternoon with an incoming current so we went to seek both shark and manta cleaning but also watch the feeding of the schools of fish on the available plankton. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse of two manta cleaning for a few minutes and found quite a few gray reef sharks hanging out at their favorite rock formation. One group was even lucky enough to see a massive ray briefly swim by. After snack time quite a few divers headed out to our night dive at Barnum’s Wall where they saw a slipper lobster, nudibranchs, crabs, shrimp, cool starfish, sleeping reef fish, and much more. Dinner was a lively affair and people stayed up late chatting.

The sunny morning greeted us and it was the perfect way to head out and see Blue Corner wake up for the day. With little current we got to explore off the wall finding sharks deep playing in the blue and the friendly Napoleon wrasse playing with us the whole time, then shallowing up to the plateau to see the huge schools of many types of snapper and barracuda until it was time to go.  After a nice breakfast we made our way back to Peleliu state waters to Turtle Cove to see this gorgeous wall during the day.  With a tiny current we slowly explored this wall with all the beautiful soft and hard corals, schools and schools of fish off the point, and some were even lucky enough to see a baby silvertip.  Everyone was smiling after the dive.  Then it was lunch and rest time again already.  After our rest we headed back to Blue Corner where the current couldn’t decide what to do but we had a gorgeous dive anyhow with large schools f barracuda off in the blue, a Great barracuda hanging out watching us all and grey reef sharks in abundance in the blue, along the wall, above and below they cruised being beautiful and graceful.  We explored and enjoyed until it was time to go, another great Blue Corner dive in the books.  It was time for an early dinner and a late night special dive.  It was time for our blackwater dive exploring the strange and unusual things the rise up in the night from the depths closer to the surface. We found all kinds of post larval and juvenile fish, eels, crabs, all kinds of squid and other cephalopods and much more.  Everyone really enjoyed themselves and couldn’t stop talking about the dive despite the late hour.

It was a very early wake-up and breakfast because it was time to head to Peleliu Island for some diving and for some a historical WWII land tour.  After stalling our skiff ride to play with dolphins we eventually made our way to the southernmost tip of Peleliu Island for our first dive of the day.  We checked the current and decided that the Peleliu Cut was the dive for us and we were not disappointed.  The current was light but the wall was gorgeous, visibility was phenomenal, the schools were everywhere and the sharks cruised back and forth, turtles made an appearance, Blue tangs darted around the plateau and we all had an amazing dive.  After everyone surfaced we headed to South dock for snacks, showers, and a bit of surface interval.  Five of our divers dried off and headed out with Peleliu Adventures for a half day historical WWII land tour exploring the battle for Peleliu exploring the airfield, landing beach, memorials, and museum among other points of interest. Our divers headed out to the landing beach for the American invasion, Orange Beach, now a beautifully regrown sloping coral garden.  They enjoyed a peaceful dive with lots of turtles and fish life as well as a bit of history thrown in seeing a landing vessel and some unexploded ordinance.  We all reconvened on the Palau Siren for a late lunch and bit of rest before we headed out to Barnum’s Wall.  If was a very mellow dive with no current but tons of schooling fish in the shallows and macro life to seek out among the coral both in the sloping garden section and the wall later along in the dive.   After a nice snack it was time to gear up for the night dive at Vernie’s Reef, a sloping sandy area right behind one of the rock islands with scattered bommies and eventually a small wall like section.  Divers spotted all kinds of fun life including pipe fish, nudibranchs, tons of shrimp, and all kinds of sleeping reef fish.  After everyone dried off it was time for a delicious dinner and stories of diving past and future.

German Channel was the first dive of the day a gorgeous early morning wake up with manta, sharks cleaning on the cleaning station, schools of fish all over the place, feathertail stingray sleeping in the sand, and the trevally striking on the smaller reef fish. After a hearty breakfast it was time for another gorgeous cave formation in the reef, Virgin Blue Hole, a singular chimney down to a tunnel exiting the reef at about 30 meters. It was absolutely full of nudibranchs and flatworms as well as fun fish life and just a stunning visual. After exiting we shallowed up and played in the gorgeous shallows with swim through areas and canyons until it was time to surface. Since we went diving it must be time to eat and lunch was delicious. New Drop Off was calling to us with its gorgeous wall full of huge fan corals, tons of reef fish, schools of barracuda, grey reef sharks and for a lucky few even two silvertips who circled around in the blue for a while. It was a gorgeous dive! The chefs outdid themselves and the snack was delicious in preparation for our night dive. A squall blew in and we decided it wasn’t safe to do our black water dive we had planned so Vernie’s Reef right around the corner was a wonderful night dive for a few intrepid divers. Dinner was a delicious if drizzly affair with everyone happily chatting in to the evening.

It was time for our final dive in the Ngemelis area and watching Blue Corner wake up was the perfect way to say goodbye. It was an incoming current and the fish life was amazing right around the cut with huge schools of barracuda, snapper, jacks, and Grey reef sharks everywhere we looked! Though the current was light we hooked and just chilled out watching the show, we were visited by the local friendly Napoleon wrasse, some Bumphead parrotfish, and even the local Longnose unicornfish who loves to play in diver’s bubbles. During breakfast Siren pulled anchor and headed back to the Ulong area while we ate and relaxed. Because it had been so popular we returned to Ulong Channel to see the baby Grey reef sharks on the plateau again before heading in to the channel with no current giving us time to really explore and enjoy the amazing coral life represented as well as the copious fish life. It was an amazing dive and we all stayed a little over our hour dive time before returning to Siren. Lunch was well deserved as well as a bit of a surface interval and rest before returning to Siae’s Corner. The current was slack and we had plenty of time to explore the wall and plateau, the baby Eagle ray showed up and just kept circling around posing for everyone and showing off for quite a while. The sharks weren’t to be outdone and they chased around a school of Rainbow runners right off the point of the corner, herding them back and forth. After our dive it was time for something special, time for our sunset beach barbeque on Ulong Island. A few guests and one cruise director went early with the crew and hiked up a new trail provided by the Koror State Rangers up through an ancient village all the way to the ridge line of the island. The crew outdid themselves with amazing food, a gorgeous presentation, and fun for all until it was time to return to Siren where people chatted late in to the evening.

It was surprisingly the last day of diving already and time for our last dive on the outer reef. Sandbar put on a show for us to say goodbye, the early morning predation was everywhere we looked! The schools of fish darted here and there fleeing the bluefin and golden trevally, whitetip and grey reef sharks, and Napoleon wrasse. It was nonstop action, we barely had time to enjoy the amazing reef and myriad of amazing life all over the place. After a nice breakfast we had the briefing for our second dive at the Iro, a WWII wreck then we boarded the skiffs and headed out fir a gorgeous tour of the Rock Island Southern Lagoon with a stop at the famous natural arch before ending at our dive site. The visibility was very good for the inner lagoon and we had a wonderful dive exploring Iro, a massive Japanese oiler sunk in Operation desecrate one in 1944. After surfacing from the dive, the Palau Siren put her sails up and everyone boarded the skiffs for the gorgeous picture opportunity before a nice relaxing lunch. The Palau Siren continued back in to Malakal Harbor where she dropped anchor and we all headed to Chandelier Cave for the last dive of the trip. Some people elected to stay outside and only muck dive finding Mandarinfish and nudibranchs, others enjoyed the cavern first, while two divers did their navigation portion of their advanced open water course they undertook during the cruise before heading in to the cavern.

It was a fun time everyone chatting and snapping pictures, talking about this trip and future plans! We hope to see you soon on board!

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