Palau Aggressor Charter Apr 12-19, 2015
Water Temp: 79-84 deg F
Air Temp: 78-86 deg F
Crew: Zach, Christy, Dan, Sadie, Ernan, Joe and Ripon
Sunday at about 1630 our 18 guests for the week showed up and were helped aboard the Palau Aggressor 2. After a quick room briefing the crew helped set up the guests gear and then the group was escorted up stairs to the salon for a safety briefing from the Captain. Information was disseminated and questions answered just in time as dinner was finishing up. Our guests warmly welcomed the Thai inspired menu that Dan and Christy prepared for this evenings dinner. Once everyone had their fill we all turned in as Monday morning would begin our first day of diving.
On Monday we got off the dock at approximately 0600 and headed for our anchorage just inside from the ‘Pinchers’. Dan presented the Dive Deck Briefing to the guests and then we headed downstairs to analyze our tanks and load up the skiff. Our check out dive for the trip was to be on the Teshio Maru. The Teshio lies in an average depth of 60 ft and is located about 10 minutes away from our anchorage. The guests adjusted their weights and descended onto the wreck. Our resident Mantis shrimp was pointed out by Ernan as well as a few small crabs. Soft Corals and clams cover the wreck and make for a good residence for the macro life. Our second dive today was at the Chuyo Maru. The Chuyo is completely covered in hard, soft and whip corals. A few Sea Anemones wave back and forth in the gentle current while schools of Barracuda and Jacks cruise by. There are a few holds in this wreck that can be penetrated making for a more adventurous dive. After an hour on the bottom the guests returned to the skiff and made a short run to catch up with the big boat that was moving south. Our afternoon dives for today were along the south side of Ngemelis Island. Ferns Wall and Big Drop Off brought plenty of current for our first dives outside the lagoon. About 35 minutes into Ferns Wall the lead guide, Zach, noticed a shark that looked just a bit different than the others we had been seeing. It swam a bit closer and then a bit closer and finally we realized it was a Leopard Shark! At about 6 ft in length she was a real beauty. Slowly moving with feet of our dive group and slowly swimming against the current we floated down the wall in awe. After just a minute she turned around almost nose to nose with a diver in our group and slowly floated along with us for a bit before heading out into the blue. What an amazing sight! Multiple reef sharks were buzzing about on Big Drop Off. We took our time and searched the wall which led to the discovery of a dozen nudibranchs. A lone flatworm, all black with yellow spots, was spotted up in the shallows to end our dive. The guests were treated to a delicious Mahi Mahi dinner this evening and then were presented with the reef hook briefing in preparation for tomorrow.
First thing is first and here on Ngemelis Island that means Blue Corner! The group was up bright and early on this Tuesday morning and anxious to get into the water. We made our way to Blue Corner and once on site we noticed that quite the outgoing current was present. Our guests were informed and ready to go. Entering the water we quickly realized the current was only getting stronger and we were swept down to the hook in area in a matter of minutes. Once hooked in the current really started running and was so strong it even ran away with one of our diver’s fins!!! This is what Blue Corner is about. Multiple reef sharks were seen out in the blue but even they were having a hard time. Our resident Napoleon Wrasses made a visit as well. Dive two today was at Blue Holes. We descended down through the top of the reef and into the big cavern below. The weather in Palau at the moment is spectacularly calm and clear allowing for the sunlight to come beaming through the holes atop the reef. We moved along the wall inside and came across a Disco Clam. Flashing a bright blue line every half second he wasn’t too hard to find. We moved a bit deeper and just outside of the exit we spotted not one but two Denise Pygmy Seahorses!! What a delightful sight. The pair are about as big as half of your pinky nail and blends in very well with the fan. Venturing further down the reef we spotted 3 Green Turtles and a few more sharks before we made our way up the wall and back onto the skiff. Our afternoon dives were on Barnum’s Wall and German Channel. The beautiful weather continued today as we made our way over to the wall. Upon entering the water we descended down and it seemed as if you could see forever. We moved along nice and easy taking a look in and out of the crevices of the wall. About half way into the dive Ripon, one of our divemasters, waved over a couple of guests and point out and Ornate Ghost Pipefish. Not a bad find! German Channel was a very calm dive this afternoon. We jumped in at slack tide and slowly moved along the bottom. Nice thing about these afternoon dives is there is usually no one else on the site. We got to about 70 feet and slowly moved along the sloping wall. A few juvenile White Tip Reef sharks were in the sand having a snooze. They allowed us to get nice and close making for some good photos. A bit further down the reef we saw two Green Turtles sitting motionless amongst some broken coral. Just past the pair of them Zach, our lead guide, waved over and motioned for one of the divers to move slowly and drop down in depth just a little bit. He had spotted an octopus with half its body out of the hole it was hiding in. The octopus sat there and allowed us to get some great videos of him. The night dive this evening had us returning to German Channel and exploring the coral garden just adjacent to it. A cloud less sky helped light up our path underwater as we slowly explored. All the Parrotfish were tucked in nice and tight as were a few other little guys. One critter, to our delight, decided to stay up late and swim around a bit. A Cuttlefish, always great to see! This sizeable Cuttlefish moved around nice and slowly, switching colors and textures as it moved over different coral heads.
Starting up the engines at 0400 this morning Captain Zach started making his way down to Peleliu Island. We arrived in Camp Beck and were anchored just as the sun was creeping over the trees. First dive this morning was Peleliu Express. The dive site sure did feel like an expressway. We dropped in just off the wall and were immediately swept up by the current. Kicking down towards the blue we arrived at our hook in site within one minute. All the guests quickly made their way to the lip of the wall and found a secure place to get hooked in. As soon as we hooked in we were able to look up and see about 20 Grey Reef sharks sitting just off the wall in the blue. The sharks slowly shifted a fin here and there moving up and down in the current with minimal effort. This was not the same for us sitting atop the reef. The current picked up a bit and the regulators started to purge. The smaller fish moved just off the hard pan to fight the current a bit easier. The few whip corals that dot the reef top were bent over completely and shaking back and forth like a leaf in the wind. After spending about 30 minutes hooked in we released from the wall and drifted quickly along with the current. The second dive of the day was on West Wall. Dropping in on the wall we were greeted by a bit more of a gentle current. We slowly moved down the wall spotting nudibranchs and small schools Fusiliers. Our divemaster Joe made a signal to look out into the blue. We were surprised and excited to see two Devil Rays gliding by. Those who choose to do the land tour this week missed the second dive of the day but were able to walk through history. Visiting such battle grounds as Orange Beach and Bloody Nose Ridge the terrain and numerous war relics sets the tone of how grim the battle actually was. Orange Beach and Barracks Point would round out our dives on Peleliu Island. Both sites were full of life this afternoon. We first swam over to look at an old anchor and noticed something sitting atop a coral head that just wasn’t right. It was a massive octopus! The best part about it was he sat motionless for about 2 full minutes. Just past him we saw 4 turtles. Both Green and Hawksbill turtles were seen during this dive. All of which were very friendly as well. We were able grab a few great shots on this dive. Of course we visited the deeper region of the site and were able to see a host of ammunition and pieces of LVT’s. Barracks Point was good as per usual. The highlights of this dive had to be the massive Giant Clams whose colors shimmer in the afternoon light. It is quite amazing to see these clams. A few turtles were spotted having a bite to eat and a school of Jacks went rushing by. The night dive this evening was at Turtle Cove. We swam on top of the reef and then descended through the chimney down to about 50 ft. Moving along the reef we came across a Slipper Lobster tucked away in the wall. Just a bit further down from him we saw 2 Pleurobranch. One was a cream color with blue patches while the other was a reddish pink color. Both of these Pleurobranch were about the size of a dinner plate! We continued down the wall and slowly started to ascend. Just before we approached the lip of the wall a juvenile White Tip Reef shark came screaming across the top and down the wall past us. A bit startled we followed him with our flashlights for as long as we could until our eyes caught a Moray Eel free swimming in search of a late night snack.
Thursday morning we decided to go back to Blue Corner. A mild incoming current allowed us to slowly swim along the wall and the plateau with ease. We took our time and moved across the hard pan and enjoyed the view as schools of fish slowly moved by. Barracudas, Jacks and Black Lip Snappers were floating by in front of a beautiful back drop. Our friends the Napoleon Wrasse went swimming by and without fail posed for a few pictures. New Drop Off was our second dive today. A strong current was seen from the surface and all were excited to get in and drift along. We dropped down the wall and were swiftly picked up by the current. We approached the first cut in the wall and saw a school of about 50 juvenile Black Tip Reef sharks swimming in a circle. Moving just passed them we approached the top of the lip and hooked in. The whip coral was lying flat on the reef top from the heavy current. A few other sharks approached and dropped in on us as if they were fighter planes. A massive Hawksbill turtle went swimming by against the current. After he passed us we unhooked and drifted along the plateau. The Triggerfish were out and about and it was quite the sight to see them chasing off the other fish. Returning to German Channel this afternoon we drifted along with a gentle incoming current. A Napoleon Wrasse was spotted on the cleaning station and a few Grey Reef sharks were darting around out in the blue. The coral garden that lines the channel here is one of the best in Palau. Coral heads and Lettuce Coral dot both sides and you float effortlessly down the shallow waterway. After a hearty meal five of our guests decided to go on the night dive this evening. Big Drop Off was the site of our dive this evening. A beautiful wall dive with plenty of critters makes this one of our favorite night dive locations. A few Grouper were spotted moving quite stealthily along the wall in search of a late night snack. As we drifted along our flashlights would catch the eyes of the shrimp that were hiding in the little cracks. It seemed that every 10 feet we would see another small group of red eyes that would just pop out when our light hit them. After 45 peaceful minutes we surfaced and returned to the big boat just in time for some hot chocolate.
Starting up the engines at about 0345 Captain Zach began the journey towards Ulong Island. On the 3 days leading up to the new moon the Bumphead Parrotfish gather in mass numbers to spawn on a site known as Sandy Paradise. The guests were briefed on this the night before and decided it to be well worth it to get up a bit earlier and get in the water to see such a spectacle. We arrived at Ulong Island around 0530 in the morning and immediatley loaded the skiff and headed out to the dive site. We jumped in and started to swim along the reef wall. One of the divemasters, Dan, grabbed the groups attention and pointed out just in front of him. Off in the distance you could see a Manta Ray swimming along the reef as we were. We tried to keep up but he was moving a bit to fast for us. Almost instantly after the Manta Ray siting we started to see the Bumphead Parrotfish. At first there were only 2 then 5 then 100 and more keep arriving. We ended up in the shallows at about 30 feet and were lying in the sand. There had to have been a thousand bumpheads swarming around the shallows. They didnt seemed bothered by our presence in the slightest and kept vyying for their chance to breed. You could even hear the cracking of heads off in the distance as the males would go out and run head on into each other in a display of dominance. Our second dive took us out to Shark City. About a 20 minute skiff ride brought us out to the farthest corner west off of Ulong Island. The plateau sits at about 74 feet and is scattered with coral and sea whips. Just off the plateau and a bit deeper we could see a massive school of Yellow Tail Snappers. There were hundreds upon hundreds of them all circling in the cool water just below us. Every now and again a Dog Tooth Tuna would jet in as silently as possible and try to snatch one of them up. This was an epic sighting indeed. Our final dives of the day took place on Siaes Corner and in Ulong Channel. There was next to no current on the corner so the guests were able to take their time and really explore the plateau. One of the guest was looking over a sea fan and found a Pygmy Seahorse. He called over a few other to people to have a look and all were in awe. Before heading off he turned is light on and instantly found 3 more Pygmy Seahorses, one of which was pregnant! Now that is very rare. The group moved further down the wall and Joe, the lead guide, pointed out into the blue. There just happen to be a Silvertip shark swimming by a bit below the group. All in all Siaes Corner turned out to be a wonderful dive. Ulong Channel rounded out the day for us. A mild current was present which helped to carry the guest down the channel with ease. This is probably the most beautiful channel in Palau. The coral here is pristine. There are also tons of Groupers, Jacks, Fusiliers and Grey Reef sharks to keep all entertained. A massive patch of Lettuce Coral lies towards the middle of the channel and is dotted with Sea Anemones. Just beyond this the guests were able to see 2 more Giant Clams before beginning their safety stop.
Saturday morning and we are on our way to Malakal. At approximatley 0715 we dropped the skiff and the guests were off to Jellyfish Lake. There are only a few of these lakes in the world and Palau is known to have the very best one. A million jellyfish fill the lake barley moving along as you swim through them. A spectacular sight that takes you away. Upon finshing up in the lake the guests were taken on a rock island tour. There are approximately 300 islands in Palau so those guests were treated to this unique location with a slow tour weaving their way in and out of the limestone islands. Upon returning to the boat the few guests who were not flying out this evening went over and dove Chandelier Caves. After returning from this closely located dive all were treated to a final lunch before heading out for an afternoon shopping in town or at the spa relaxing with a massage. Our cocktail party kicked off at 1730 this evening and we started the festivities with Ernan’s slideshow. After a few drinks and some story swapping the guests made their way to a local restaurant for dinner. At approximately 2200 this evening the shuttle arrived at our vessel and was ready to be loaded up. The crew helped the guests load their gear and said their final goodbyes. This week was a real pleasure. We had great weather, strong currents and plenty of laughs. Thanks again to our Colorado group. We will see you next time.