Pelagics in Palau
Pelagics in Palau
After a late arrival to the Palau Siren, we opted for a nice easy check dive for our American guests at the Iro Maru wreck which lies in Malakal Harbour followed by the Helmet Wreck, which we have been unable to visit for some weeks. Here we found a big crocodile fish, different kinds of shrimps, crabs, gobies and two beautiful chelinodura nudibranchs. Even our divers who were not typically into wrecks enjoyed these dives for their vast array of marine life. Chandelier Cave and its mandarin fishes at the exit won the first prize of the day, and Sam’s wall brought all the strange critters expected. The combination of jetlag and four dives led everyone to bed very early but eager for more dives the next day!
The Siren started sailing just before sunrise on the way to Ulong Island for the first dive in the channel where a very gentle current allowed most of divers to use their hooks for the first time. Sharks were circling in front of us coming closer and closer and for the first time in a long time in the channel, two hawksbill turtle enchanted the group. Siaes Corner with slack tide allowed everyone the opportunity to look more for small critters, Serene neon slug, beautiful flatworms and hermit crab delighted us all. Sandy Paradise in the afternoon was easy as usual and the two leaf scorpionfish were out for everyone’s pleasure. After a very smooth day, some needed a little intensity with a night dive in Ulong Corner, knowing the sharks are around…
Siaes Tunnel for the first dive on day 3 brought an amazing surprise that had me screaming into my regualtor, like when if you would find a diamond in your dessert or won the lottery! There it was hiding behind a tiny sea star… an harlequin shrimp! Its always exciting when we find something we are not expecting on the dives, but this hungry critter we hope will be here for trips to come. After I got over my excitement we moved on to Ngemelis Island, for a beautiful dive in Fairyland followed by Blue Corner. After each diver here we are always asked the same question upon surfacing “Can we do it again?” – its such a superb dive for shark action and big fish that of course we re-visit during our trips. One diver, previously terrified of sharks, made it to the corner and stayed hooked in looking at sharks coming close for more than 30min, a huge proof of courage…even if her guide for couldn’t feel her fingers after as she was holding her hand so strongly. Only five divers opted for the night dive in Big Drop Off, such a shame as this is a super spot for leaf fish, soft coral crabs and even sleeping Napoleon wrasse – guess our beer on tap kept everyone else busy. Other divers realizing they missed out decided to return the following evening – with the night dive group creeping up to 7 divers.
With ideal weather, the next morning we headed to Blue Holes and its wide openings and light coming in each direction. Inside, the usual disco clam was electrified but the surprise lay in the juvenile clown triggerfish. German Channel was on the list for the next dive, and always the secret hope of a manta ray… at least one… well our divers where the luckiest in a long time, as after 10 minutes sitting around the cleaning station the first one appeared, followed soon by the second one, they were slowly swimming just in front of the amazed divers, no words needed, even after thousands of dives you can’t stay insensitive to their beauty. As they left, the groups headed to look at other critters, but headed back towards the cleaning station before the safety stop and were enchanted by a 6m manta flying by… The question on the skiff was the one to be expected, “Can we do it again?” we already knew to expect that! After so much emotion, Dexter’s Wall and its turtles was just perfect.
Last chance to dive Blue Corner and German Channel, the first with no current was as magic as with current, sharks were there circling around, the Napoleon wrasses were extremely friendly, the huge school of big eye jacks created a shadow above our heads, Blue Corner is famous worldwide and there is a reason… You cannot come to Palau without diving Blue Corner. German Channel didn’t make everyone’s dream come true, no manta but a cowtail stingray at the end of the dive. Some decided to partake in a little bit of history and headed for the land tour on Peleliu Island where the Americans and Japanese fought so roughly while others dived Orange Beach a beautiful garden with different surprises on every dive.
The last day was set to be the one with strange experiences, Jellyfish Lake saw our photographers fill up their memory cards again then the Palau Siren took the East route back to Malakal to get closer to Short Drop Off for our dive with the Nautilus or along the reef wall. Two wrecks dives brought an end of our liveaboard safari in Palau; the Teshio Maru a favorite playground of many divers whgich allows easy penetration of the ship through the massive openings and Jake’s Sea Plane, a Japanese reconnaissance plane that crashed very close to the shore.
With fond farewells we bid goodbye to this group, some of our guests quoted MacArthur in the Philippines “I shall return”, we can only quote ourselves “We shall welcome you again”.
Photos by Theresa Foote