Sunday afternoon we welcomed on board 16 guests from the US all with Aqua Hut dive center from Ohio. This is a very special two week charter with spending one week up North visiting sites we haven’t gone to in over 2 years, then one week down South visiting our dives sites we do during a normal one week charter. We started with an introduction to their cabins and went back out to the dive deck to set up their dive gear. Before heading up stairs, we checked certification cards and in the salon we covered the vessel orientation and safety briefing. After the briefing we moved over to the tables and dinner was served. After dinner all the guests were off to bed.
Early Monday morning our last two guests arrived and we left Malakal Harbor in route to Ngardmau State. After breakfast we covered our general dive briefing and around 8:30am we arrived in Ngardmau Bay and went out to Ngardmau Coral Garden South for our first check out dive. We went out through Aiwokako Passage to the outside reef on the South side. We entered the water, did a weight check and descended down to the reef. It was a slopping coral garden and we started with shallows on the left. We went along the coral garden but the current switched so we turned around. We found a cuttle fish and two turtles. As we got closer to the channel the current was outgoing so again we turned around and went the other way. As we were ending our dive the guests at the front of the group saw a manta. For dive two it was a outgoing current and we did Devil Fish City. We started on the inside of Aiwokako Passage and stopped at the cleaning station. We had one manta come in to be cleaned. It stayed at the cleaning station for over thirty minutes. We left the cleaning station and drifted out the channel, we saw another manta, but this one was one of the black pelagic mantas. Back at the big boat we had a late lunch then went out for our last dive at Ngardmau Coral Garden North. We went out the passage and this time to the north side. We started to see feeding action on the surface and a couple of mantas. We entered the water and watched as over 6 mantas were feeding above us at the surface. After the dive we had dinner and most of the guests went right to bed after.
Tuesday morning we pulled the anchor and left Ngardmau State. We took the big boat through Aiwokako Passage and up the East side of Palau. Now in Ngarchelong State our first dive was at Yengel Channel. It was an outgoing current so we started the dive from the inside of the channel and drifted out. The coral garden was very beautiful at the start of the dive in the channel and wasn’t that great outside the mouth. In the channel there were a lot of giant clams and some nudibranchs. At the mouth we saw a large school of black snapper. To end the dive we drifted out to the north side of the channel. Between the dives the big boat moved further up the reef and dive two was at Cormoran Channel. The current was still outgoing so we started on the inside and drifted out. This channel also had some giant clams and hard corals. Also a small school of red snapper. During lunch the big boat moved the rest of the way to our anchorage on the inside of the Northwest Reef Ngereal. We secured the big boat and covered our last power point presentation on how to use reef hooks. Our third dive was on the outside of the Northwest Reef Ngereal at Ike’s Corner. We started the dive with the wall on the right but closer to the tip of the corner the current switched a couple of times on us. We did see some sharks in the blue but spent the rest of the dive on top the plateau seeing a bunch of beautiful anemones. Right before the fourth dive a bad rain storm came in so we waited it out and once it cleared, we headed out to Ben’s Coral Garden. On the surface this dive site is marked by two big rocks that are exposed on top the shallow reef, one at either side of the dive site. We made our way out towards the furthest rock and entered the water over the coral garden. We followed the slopping garden down to where it drops off into the blue and the current pushed us slowly along the top of the drop off with the shallows on our left. We had a very quick encounter with a silver tip shark that did two passes then took off into the blue. A little further down a big nurse sharks came racing though the group and down into the deep water off the drop off. During the rest of the dive we saw a couple dog tooth tuna, wahoo and a school of horse eyed jacks. Back at the big boat dinner was soon ready and after, the guests were right off to bed.
Around 5:30 am on Thursday, we pulled the anchor and headed to our next anchorage in Kayangel State. We dropped our anchor in the inside of the Ngkesol reef close to the skiff channel that cuts across the shallows to the outside reef. A Kayangel State ranger met with us and spent the morning with us showing us where to dive. Our first dive we named Sue Ann Reef after a guest on board and the ranger showed us the spot. This dive site was a slopping wall that dropped off to the deep blue. In areas the coral was nice, other area were bare. We saw schools of fusiliers and snapper and a couple of sharks. Dive two was at a site we named Ed & Mary’s Drop Off. This time we went out the channel across the shallows to the right and a ways out dropped in on another slopping wall that dropped off to the deep. We saw a grey reef shark, white tip sharks and schools of tropical fish. After lunch we had a longer boat ride all the way out to the reef surrounding the island of Kayangel. This site was called Kayangel Coral Garden this dive site was mostly a vertical wall that towards the end it started to slope. The coral life was good, and we spotted two silver tip sharks off in the blue. The first one didn’t come close but the second one came in for a couple passes. Also we had a school of rainbow runners that came in to check out the divers. For our last dive of the day we went to a dive site we named Jeff’s Wall. This site was like the two morning dives, a slopping wall with big schools of fusiliers and a couple of sharks, a couple of wahoo passed by in the blue. The big boat stayed in Kayangel State for the night and dinner was served soon after we arrived at the big boat. After dinner some of the guests stayed up for a while playing cards, everyone is starting to be acclimated to the time change from back home.
Friday morning we pulled the anchor, left Kayangel state and moved back over to Ngarchelong State. We dropped anchor in the same area as the other night and went out for our first dive at Ike’s Corner again. This time the current didn’t switch and moved us nicely along the reef. We hooked in and watched a couple of grey reef sharks in the blue. After a while we unhooked and drifted across the plateau. Again we saw some beautiful anemones and a turtle. For dive two we headed back to Ben’s Coral Garden. We started this time a little further up then the last and the current was shallows on the right. We descended down to the coral garden and went out to where it dropped off to the blue. We saw some turtles and giant clams, and a couple of dog tooth tuna and Spanish mackerel passed by in the blue. Also half the group spotted a scorpion fish and a small octopus. Back at the big boat lunch was ready and we pulled the anchor and started heading South on the East side of Palau. We dropped the skiff for one last dive of the day at Yengel Channel South Side. The current was again outgoing and we started inside the channel and drifted out. We saw giant clams, some sharks outside the mouth and some nudibranchs. After the dive the big continued moving towards Ngardmau State to our anchorage in Ngardmau Bay. We had to get there before it got too dark to see the shallow areas. The guests had a nice rest period, editing pictures and social time before dinner. After dinner some guests played cards and were shortly off to bed.
We woke up Friday morning and had a great day planned diving in Ngardmau State. After breakfast dive one was at The Sunken Bridge, this is a dive site we heard about and went looking for it. We were told you could see the hole on top the reef that you descend down into, we went looking for it but could not find it. We decided to go to Ngardmau Coral Garden South, and go looking for the Sunken Bridge on low tide to have a better chance finding it. At Ngardmau Coral Garden South the current was a light incoming; we started above the coral garden and drifted into towards the channel. We saw some nudibranchs, at the start of the channel we found a feathertail ray sitting down on the sandy bottom. Before we ended the dive we saw a big wahoo and a school of humphead bannerfish. For dive two it was the start of the outgoing current and we did Devil Fish City again. We started the dive from the inside of the channel and stopped at the cleaning station. We weren’t lucky this time, no mantas. After a while we left the cleaning station and drifted out the channel seeing a scorpion fish and a school of yellow tail barracuda. After lunch it was low tide and we went looking again for the hole on top the reef that marked the dive site Sunken Bridge. We spent some time but still couldn’t find it. So we stopped looking and did the dive right where we were at, we named this dive site We Can’t Find The Hole. It was a very beautiful slopping coral garden. We saw schools of fusiliers, a juvenile crocodile fish and as we were starting our safety stop a manta came in to check us out. It was fun watching this manta; it had three big remoras that were bugging the manta. It came doing a couple of jerks to try to shake off the remoras. Our last dive of the day was at Ngardmau CG North. It was an incoming current and we started the dive from outside the channel and let the current push us in. We saw the school of fusiliers feeding in a ball at the surface but didn’t see any mantas. We continued into the channel and saw a big marbled ray resting on the bottom. Just inside the channel we saw a large school of black snapper. Back at the big boat, we started moving back to Koror State and tied up at our mooring in Malakal Harbor. After dinner most of the guests stayed up again playing cards and were soon off to bed.
On Saturday morning we started the day with a dive at The Iro. We descended down the mooring to the bow of the boat and the bow gun. We dropped down into the cargo hold to see the three cases of Nippon Brewing Company beer bottles sitting in the silt bottom. We then passed though the side of the wheel house and the visibility started getting bad the deeper we went. We turned around and the stern gun and circled up the “Tripod King Posts” to the red anemones at the top. We spent some time photographing the anemones with the two large clams tucked away in the anemones. We went from king post to king post back to the mooring line at the front to do our safety stop. Dive two was at the Helmet Wreck. We again descended down the mooring and over to the stern of the wreck, passed by the artifacts and into the first cargo hold with the depth charges and Japanese helmets. We then swam down the wreck to the middle cargo hold, saw more depth charges and the large search light, crossed over to the forward cargo hold to see the airplane motors and generator. At the bow we turned around and swam all the way back to the stern of the wreck and spent the rest of the dive looking at all the artifacts collected and placed for viewing at the stern. During lunch the crew took the time to do some of the necessary re-provisioning; ice, fuel and some shopping. After a rest period we took the skiff out further to dive the Jake Sea Plane. All the guests enjoyed seeing this WWII Japanese sea plane that sits in 40 feet of water. The plane doesn’t have much coral growth and is in good shape. The photographers took turns photographing it from all different angles. For our last dive of the day we headed over to do Chandelier Cave. We arrived just before dusk and started through the cave. The divers surfaced in all four chambers seeing the stalactites and some crystal formations. Outside the cave we spent some time looking for the mandarin fish mating. We did see a couple mandarin fish mating and also some signal gobies before it got too dark. Back at the big boat dinner was ready and after Chef Andy went ashore to restock his galley, and after all the groceries were on board the big boat left Malakal Harbor and headed to Ulong where we will spend the next two days diving.
Our first dive on Sunday was at the famous Ulong Channel. We started the dive from the mooring and descended down to the coral garden. The incoming current pushed us along to the hook in area at the mouth of the channel. We hooked in and watched the show; there were several sharks in the blue that kept going back and forth in front of the divers. We then unhooked and drifted into the channel; we saw the lettuce coral and ended the dive at the two giant clams. For our second dive we headed all the way out to Shark City. The current was still incoming and we started with the wall on the right. We decided not to hook in the light current and just explored the entire corner. We saw several grey reef sharks, turtles and the school of humphead bannerfish. After lunch our third dive was at Siaes Corner. The current was outgoing so we started the dive from the furthest mooring then drifted along the beautiful wall covered in soft coral, sea fans and saw some sharks along the way. The current started to pick up as we approached the corner; we hooked in and held on tight. The current was moving pretty good, there had to be at least 40 grey reef sharks of the wall in the blue, unfortunately they didn’t come that close. In front of the divers hooked in shallow, a big school of red snapper looked like they were able to sit motionless in the strong current. We spent most of the dive hooked in in the strong current, and when we finally unhooked, we saw a couple of turtles in the coral garden. For our fourth dive of the day we went to Ulong Coral Garden. We started from the last mooring and headed towards the mouth of the channel. We saw some sharks, turtles, beautiful anemones and a bait ball of scads. We then turned into the coral garden and saw the one giant clam in the rubble area and when we got closer to the mouth the current was outgoing so we turned around. After dinner we headed out to Sandy Paradise for the night dive. We started from the mooring and descended down to the coral garden, we found a big crocodile fish hiding in the coral garden and some nudibranchs.
Monday morning we kicked off the day with a repeat dive at Ulong Channel. We started from the same mooring outside the mouth of the channel but when we arrived at the mouth of the channel, the current was mild so we decided not to hook in. We saw some sharks around the mouth and started drifting into the channel. There we saw turtles; the school of big eyed crescent tails and ended the dive by the lettuce coral. For dive two we went out to Siaes Tunnel. We entered the water at the mooring and descended down to the entrance of the tunnel in the black coral bushes we spotted a couple of lion fish and the black and white butterfly fish. Further into the tunnel we saw the blue backed pygmy angelfish and in the sandy bottom, the decorated dartfish and fire dart fish. When we exited the tunnel we started wall on the right but it kept switching on us, we turned around twice and we came up the wall and ended at the mooring we started from. After lunch we went for a repeat dive at Siaes Corner. The current again was outgoing and we started the dive from the furthest mooring. The current was not as strong as yesterday and we hooked in at the corner. We saw again the large school of sharks and red snapper. We unhooked and spent more time exploring the coral garden. For our last dive in Ulong we headed out to Sandy Paradise. We started from the mooring and descend down to the sandy bottom. Nothing was happening at the cleaning station so we passed by it and stopped at the rock outcropping with the two anemones. Some of the guests put up their hands and the cleaner wrasse came out and did a once over. We then continued along the bottom to the rock out cropping with all the glassy eyed sweepers. We found the three gold leaf scorpion fish and on either side of the rock we saw the mantis shrimps. Then we made our way shallower and turned around and headed back to the mooring, along the way we saw a school of yellow tail barracuda and jacks. Back at the big boat dinner was soon ready as the big boat moved to the German Channel area for our next day of diving.
Tuesday morning our first dive was at the famous Blue Corner. We started on the incoming side of the corner and drifted along the wall to the hook in area. We hooked in at 60 feet and watched the show. There were lots of sharks and the school of jacks in front of the divers. Once we unhooked, we saw the 3 juvenile spotted eagle rays, as we drifted across the plateau to start our safety stop. For dive two we headed to German Channel. The current was still a light incoming and we started from the Peleliu side of the channel. We sat down in the rubble bottom around the cleaning station and waited. Just before we were going to leave a big manta came in to be cleaned, it did a couple of passes the left. We waited for it to come back and sure enough it did, along with a baby manta. The two of the circled around the cleaning station for a while then another big manta came in also. For a short time all three mantas were in sight then all left. By the time we left there were several other groups with us watching the mantas but we had the best spot because we got there first. We then drifted into the channel to finish the dive. After a nice lunch outside around the bar our third dive was at Turtle Cove, the tide was just high enough for the divers to swim along the surface and drop down to the chimney entering the cavern. We spent a few minutes of our dive time exploring the cavern and saw the disco clam then exited towards the wall outside. The wall is covered in colorful soft and hard corals, some square spotted anthias, nudibranchs and turtles. At the tip of the corner we came up on top the plateau and explored for a while. We saw the school of reef jacks, another turtle and a octopus. The current now pushed us the other way so we turned around and explored the top of the wall. For our fourth dive we did the New drop-Off. We started on the incoming side close to the hook in area. The current was so mild that we didn’t hook in. We explored the top of the plateau finding two flounders, turtles and the small school of blue lined snapper. There were some big swells over the top of the dive site that gave us some big surge, it was fun swaying back and forth along the reef. After dinner our night dive was at German Coral Garden. We started the dive from the Peleliu State mooring and with the light incoming current; we just drifted into the channel. During the dive we found several banded coral shrimp, a lions paw sea cucumber, and lion fish.
Wednesday morning we started the day off with a repeat dive at Blue Corner. The current was again incoming and we entered the water between the last two moorings. We drifted along the wall seeing sharks in the blue and hooked in at the 60’ hook in area. The current was nice and we enjoyed the action as the sharks were swimming back in forth in front of us. After a while we unhooked and started to explore the plateau, we went looking for the eagle rays, but didn’t find them. We did have the massive school of horse eyed jacks swim over top of us and we drifted along the sand channel to end our dive. Big Drop-off was our second dive and we started off were the ball and chain was located and headed wall on the right. There were sharks, nudibranch, flatworm, scorpion fish, anemone and barramundi as we were drifting along the wall. After a nice lunch and short rest our third dive was at Blue Holes. We tied up the skiff to one of the moorings and swam over on top the reef to enter through one of the holes. Inside the big cavern, we spent some time exploring finding the disco clams and the photographers took some nice photos with the ambient light filling the cavern from above. We then left the cavern and swam along the wall covered with soft and hard corals and down at Blue Corner, the current was mild so we just came up on top the corner to explore until we started our safety stop. Our fourth dive was at Ngedebus Coral Garden. This skiff ride to the site was one of the shortest we had all week. The dive site is just right in front of the big boat, we entered the water and found some leaf scorpion fish, saw a feathertail and marbled ray sitting on the bottom as well as tropical fish. After dinner our night dive was at Turtle Cove; we explored the beautiful wall and saw how the wall comes to life at night, all the cup coral comes out to filter feed at night turning the wall into beautiful orange and yellow colors. We spotted a slipper lobster, banded coral shrimp and other great macro life.
Early Thursday morning we fired up the engines and headed down to Peleliu, we dropped anchor in Camp Beck, aka South Dock and our first dive of the day was at Peleliu Corner. The current was outgoing and we did the “D’Cut” side of the corner. We did a live drop in the blue water and descended down to the wall. The current pushed us right along and we hooked in around the large cut in the reef. There were a couple of sharks and a large school of horse eyed jacks. After awhile we unhooked and drifted down towards the corner, before we made it down to the second hook in area the incoming current picked up and was stronger than the outgoing. We were kind of stuck, if we went to the corner the incoming current would push us out to the blue, if we turned around we would be swimming against the outgoing current. We decided to turn around and swim against the outgoing current to end the dive. After the dive 9 guests went ashore for a Peleliu WWII land tour. They spent a couple of hours on a guided tour of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific, learning about the war and Peleliu then and the island life today. For dive two the remaining guests went out to West Wall. We started from the mooring and descended down along the wall. We saw several nudibranchs, a turtle, some sharks in the blue and ended the dive at the red anemones that line a crack in the reef and cascade down to the edge of the wall. Before lunch everyone came back from the tour and after our third dive was at Barracks Point. The current was outgoing and we descended down to the slopping coral garden seeing a bunch of turtles and giant clams. Everyone enjoyed this beautiful slopping coral garden filled with hard and soft corals. Our last dive in Peleliu was at Orange Beach Coral Garden. This dive site is a beautiful sloping coral garden that was the landing beach during WWII so artifacts can be seen mixed in the coral garden. We did the dive with the shallows on the left and dropped down just about where the 3 bombs are located. We saw a bunch of artifacts left over from the war, bombs, bullets, coke bottles and a landing craft. Also during the dive we spotted some turtles and a giant clam. After the dive the big boat pulled the anchor and we started heading back to the German Channel area and after dinner our night dive was at Big Drop Off. We started the dive right in front of the moorings and started the dive by swimming through the shallow sand channel. We saw a turtle wedged up under a ledge and a leaf scorpion fish. We then exited out to the wall and went wall on the left, we saw another turtle and leaf scorpion fish and one of our favorite nudibranchs, marionia sp. Also found a bunch of the banded coral shrimp and a sea hare.
Friday morning the guests wanted to do one last dive at Blue Corner. The current was a light incoming current and we started the dive close to the middle mooring. With the light current we came up on top the reef around the 45 foot hook in area but did not hook in, we just started to explore the plateau. After playing with a lion fish, it seemed the current was starting to pick up so we kicked over to the 60 foot hook in area and some guests hooked in. There were some sharks and two divers had fun playing with a big nose unicorn fish that was cleaning in their bubbles when they exhaled. We then unhooked and went to find the eagle rays, we saw all three swimming in formation, even a napoleon wrasse came over to say hello. For dive two we headed out to Dexter’s wall and did wall on our right. We explored the beautiful wall and in total we saw about 12 turtles and macro life. After lunch our third dive was at German Channel. We started from the Koror side of the channel, dropped down and stopped at the red anemone for some pictures. We then sat down around the Koror side cleaning station. No mantas came in to be cleaned so we headed across the channel. Right in the middle of the channel we spent some time watching two octopuses getting it on. Some guests stayed to watch and the others kept on to the Peleliu side cleaning station. We just weren’t lucky this time for the mantas, we turned around and let the incoming current push us into the channel. For our last dive of the charter we went to Barnum’s Wall. We entered the water and started exploring the sloping coral garden. There were turtles, devil scorpion fish some sharks, a balled up anemone and one of our crew was able to find a small black frog fish that was very exciting. Back at the big boat the guests broke down their gear, washed it, hung it to dry and met upstairs for some stories and some cocktails. Soon after dinner was ready and we sat down to a final supper that consisted of a prime rib feast. We also had some great extras, roasted potatoes, mixed veggies, and Yorkshire puddings. Then moved over to the couch to watch our video of the charter put together by our video pro Jim. Everybody enjoyed this look back at the two weeks of diving.
Saturday morning the big boat started moving back to Koror and at 7:30 am we dropped the skiff for a snorkeling and rock island tour. All the guests fly out of Palau on the early Sunday morning flight and did not want any diving on Saturday. We stopped for a snorkel at Cemetery Reef. This is a shallow hard coral garden that has a lot of tropical fish and even a turtle. Next we did a quick snorkel at Soft Coral Archway. This is a very beautiful spot; it’s a hole in the rock islands that is lined with soft coral in every color. Then we went over to the natural archway for some photos. Last snorkel was at the old fishing vessel that sits in about 20 feet deep. On the way back to the big boat we saw the Japanese pill boxes, Japanese big gun emplacement, and a area we pulled in to see a sea snake. On the big boat we took a group photo and settled our bills. Lunch was ready and the guests enjoyed their free time, some guests went ashore to try to check emails, some went for massages and at 6pm we gathered back in the salon for the beer and wine party while our photo pro showed his slideshow of all the images he took during the charter and the guests received a copy on the flash drives given to them as a gift from the boat at the beginning of the week. After the party, the guests went into town for dinner at one of the local restaurants after they finished dinner we picked them up from the dock to bring them back to the boat.
Very early Sunday morning we took the guests ashore to transfer them to the airport to catch their flight home. We would like to thank everyone from Aqua Hut for joining us this week on board the Rock Islands Aggressor. Hope to see you all again, until then safe diving…
-Rock Islands Aggressor Crew