Log Date: Sunday, Mar 29, 2015
Entry By: Palau Aggressor Crew
Palau Aggressor Charter Mar 29-Apr 5, 2015
Water Temp: 81-85 deg F
Air Temp: 78-86 deg F
Crew: Zach, Cameron, Dan, Sadie, Ernan and Joe
This week we welcomed aboard a group of 17 from China. Some were returning guests to Palau from years ago while others were here for the first time. All of the divers were very eager to get in the water and see all that beautiful Palau has to offer.
With half of the group arriving at 1630 Sunday afternoon and the other half arriving at 0400 Monday morning we decided to make today a very relaxed day and only do three dives. We selected the Helmet wreck as our check out dive. Although in the lagoon visibility was quite good today. The guests swam a couple of laps along the wreck before penetrating the hulls in search of artifacts. A Saw Blade Shrimp was in the mood for a photo shoot today and our video pro Dan was able to get a few good shots of him. After our check out dive we took a nice long break and headed for the Ngemelis Island. Ferns Wall was to be our 2nd dive. A moderate current pushed us along the wall steadily as we observed all the beautiful soft corals. Schools of fusiliers and Pyramid Butterfly fish were dancing about atop the reef. A small turtle was spotted feeding on some corals towards the end of the dive. For the 3rd dive we decided to head down towards Peleliu. There was a Typhoon moving towards Palau and while we had the weather window we decided to head south. We stopped at Barracks Point to round out the day. This dive site is known for its beautiful plateau with plenty of marine life. Turtles were abundant as well as a few pelagic creatures out in the blue. The guests were amazed when they saw a couple giant clams sitting just behind a coral head. Easily 100 years old these clams have electric blue spots on them that really pop in the sunlight. We made our way into Camp Beck and had a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Cameron. After dinner the guests gathered for a Reef Hook Briefing in preparation of some heavier current dives the following day.
Tuesday morning and the water surrounding Peleliu is almost flat. We took off for the Peleliu Express for the first dive. A moderate current pushed us along the wall to the hook in location. Once we were situated we were able to see about 30 reef sharks swimming about. A school of Barracuda swam by as well as a few Napoleon Wrasse. West Wall and Orange Beach were our 2nd and 3rd dive of the day. The reef sharks are common to the area and provided a nice contrast to the macro shooting we were doing. Multiple Nudibranchs were spotted during both dives. A crocodile fish failed at his attempt to camouflage into the reef and we were able to take a few good photos of him. Pulling out of Camp Beck we headed north and dropped the skiff for the 4th and final dive on Peleliu. The guests jumped in and descended onto the south side of Barracks Point. The plateau was swarming with turtles!! A very welcome sight as the guests switched over to wide angle lenses just before the dive. We explored the plateau further and came across a couple of Giant Clams. Although partially closed their colors are mesmerizing and kept us intrigued for a good 10 minutes. Upon ascending we boarded the skiff and met up with the big boat inside Turtle cove. Being moored in such a prime location we decided to do Turtle Cove for the night dive. Nine guests jumped in the water and were instantly hooked on the beauty of this wall. Covered in soft corals Turtle Cove provides an excellent back drop for photography. Numerous creatures were spotted on the wall this evening. A juvenile White Tip Reef shark was the first to swim by. Very curious he came within feet of our guest. After him we found a Pleurobranch. A magnificent sight this particular Nudibranch only comes out at night and is a star attraction. After spending much time taking photos we moved further down the reef and encountered multiple crabs, shrimp and a lobster. Surfacing after 45 minutes the guests enjoyed a quick skiff ride back to the big boat and enjoyed dinner and drinks before turning in for the night.
We started off the day on Blue Corner. A steady outgoing current pushed us along the wall through a few big schools of Fusiliers and Barracuda. Upon reaching the hook in site we were greeted by about 12 Grey Reef sharks. Of course a few Napoleon Wrasse paid us a visit. The guests were tickled pink at how friendly the wrasses were. Our green friends were by far the highlight of the dive for our guest. Blue Holes followed the first dive. As with most sites in Palau if you take your time you can find something new and interesting every time. Upon descending into the holes one of the divemasters, Dan, was observing a sea fan at about 28 meters. He started tapping on his tank to call some of the guests over. Sure enough he found something great, a Pygmy Seahorse! Light pink in color and about the size of your pinky nail this guy is such a cool little critter to come across. The guests were well pleased and photographed our little companion to the best of their ability. Big Drop Off and German Channel rounded out the afternoon dives. A nice current kept the fish out and about. Big Drop Off with its array of soft and hard corals kept the guests entertained and offered plenty of places to look for critters. German Channel had plenty of schooling Jacks and Trevally. A massive stingray was spotted buried in the sand and a Scorpion fish lay perched atop a coral head waiting on its prey. The night dive this evening was at German Coral Garden. A beautiful sunset lit the way as we made the short skiff ride out. As the sky turned from orange to pink the divers descended down the mooring line and began their dive. Large Hinged Beak Shrimp darted in and out of the coral heads as the light would pass over there. A juvenile Spiny Lobster was tucked in nicely next to a pair of Parrot fish who were deep in sleep. About 30 minutes into the dive a guest came across a very well camouflaged Crocodilefish. Such an interesting fish, even upon close examination the fish lays perfectly still as if it were a real crocodile!
We decided to go back to Blue Corner to start off our Thursday. The sharks put on quite a display for us this time. They seemed to be in a single file line as we approached the hook in. At least 15 Grey Reef Sharks were just in front of our hook in. A massive school of Barracuda split the group in two. Hundreds of Pyramid Butterfly fish danced about between the divers bubbles, it was a very tranquil morning to be in the water. Barnums Wall was our second dive of the day. Only a few divers went but all wished they had! Dropping down to about 25 meters in a sand slope the divers spotted a 2 meter Leopard shark. Not long after him 3 Cuttlefish slowly floated by. Not extremely rare here but rare enough to make everyone a bit excited. We were back to German Channel for our third dive today. As we approached a juvenile Manta breached and did a couple back flips. It is still unknown why some Manta Rays do this but it is quite the sight none the less. Just past the cleaning station a pair of Robust Ghost Pipefish were spotted by Dan, who has a self proclaimed magic eye. After finishing up our dive at German we headed to Wonder Channel to spend the night. Upon picking up our mooring the guests were off to Jellyfish Lake. After many years without needing a strong defense mechanism the jellyfish have lost their tentacles and do not sting as you swim through them. Spending about an hour in the lake taking photos the guests were extremely happy with their relaxing afternoon and headed back to the boat to play a few card games before dinner was served.
Friday morning we woke up on the north side of Ulong Island. Moored about 40 meters from the cliff side the rising sun bouncing off the face of the island made for a very dramatic scene. Morning coffee doesnt often come with such a beautiful view. Siaes Tunnel and Siaes Corner started the day off for us. We entered the tunnel and found about 100 Jacks circling just above the sand. A bit deeper into the tunnel we spotted a few Dart fish and a Disco Clam. We exited the tunnel to a very mild current and preceded down the wall where we encountered a few Grey Reef sharks, a turtle, a Spotted Eagle Ray and Joe, one of the divemasters found a Blue Ringed Octopus!! The corner was jam packed with sharks. A quick count had us in the company of 20+ Grey Reef sharks. A steady current kept the action on the corner hanging around for the duration of the hook in. The afternoon dives kept us closer to Ulong Island. We went to Sandy Paradise first followed by Ulong Channel. Sandy Paradise proved quite fruitful. As soon as we entered the water we found a 5 foot White Tip sleeping in the sand. Moments later we were at a small coral head with cleaner wrasse darting around atop of it. A few guests settled onto their knees in the sand and extended their hand over the station. They were extremely excited to see the wrasse hurry over and give them an aquatic manicure. A bit further up the reef we saw three Leaf Scorpion fish, a flatworm and a few big schools of Barracuda and Big Eyes. Ulong Channel rounded out the day. A steady current pushed us along the channel and allowed the guests to lay back and enjoy the ride. The massive patch of Lettuce Leaf Coral was quite the sight for our guests and they particularly enjoyed the Sean Anemones that were scattered around this area. Just over the reef we settled into a nice sandy patch and took a few photos with the Giant Clams. Ascending to a slowly setting sun and calm seas we shuttled the guests back to the big boat for our final dinner out to sea. After feeding we all congregated in the salon and were treated to the video of the week made by Dan. Not long after this it was lights out for all as tomorrow morning would be one more early dive on Ulong.
Our guests were so pleased with Ulong Channel we decided to do sun rise dive in the channel before beginning our trip back to Malakal. The water was extremely calm this morning, practically glass as far as you could see. We got to the mouth of the channel and noticed and outgoing current. We back tracked and started the dive next to the Giant Clams. Thanks to the current we moved swiftly down the channel. We passed a few sharks and one of the divemasters, Joe, found another octopus amongst the coral. We arrived at the mouth of the channel and moved north down the wall. We noticed a turtle eating and dropped down a bit to get a better look. Well when we did we dropped through a layer of cold water, 4 degrees Celsius colder to be exact. Well worth the chill as the turtle continued his feeding and allowed us to take a couple of photos. Moving up the reef wall and onto the plateau we settle in to a natural bowl made by the coral heads. We found a few Dart fish here amongst other creatures. After taking a few group photos we began our ascent and noticed a pack of juvenile Grey Reef sharks. I counted 14. It was very cool to see the young predators swimming about. The dive came to a close and we all headed back to the big boat for some breakfast and our trip back to Malakal. After getting back on the dock the guests were well rested and ready for Chandelier Caves. A quick skiff ride brought us to the entrance of the caves and our final dive of the trip. Upon entering the water we quickly moved into the opening in the wall and up into our first air pocket. The guests were quite amazed, as most are, of the stalactite formations that hang down from the ceiling. Moving into the further air chambers led to the same excitement and picture taking that the first did. We spent about 20 minutes inside looking around and then moved back out into the shallows for a look around. After patiently waiting for about 5 minutes 2 Mandarin fish popped out of their hiding area and slowly circle about. Beautifully colored these little guys always make the guests smile. We moved back to the big boat and were presented with a nice buffet lunch. After lunch the guests were welcome to kick back and relax until the evenings festivities. The cocktail started at about 1800. We chatted a bit about the dives this past week and then Ernan put on his slideshow. He was quite excited about a few of the sights and included approximately 900 photos from throughout the week!! After the slideshow was finished and awards were passed out we were invited by the guests to share dinner with them at a local Chinese restaurant.
Sunday morning we helped the guests load up their luggage into the bus and said our final goodbyes. We had a brilliant time with this group and we are looking forward to diving with them again soon! Safe journey to those going back home and to Mr. Don continuing his holiday down in Africa. Shi Shi!