After 4pm on Sunday, we welcomed on board 18 guests, all currently living in the US. We started with a quick introduction to their cabins. Then on the dive deck, everyone set up their dive gear. We sat down to dinner and after we covered the safety briefing and vessel orientation and watched a documentary on Palau.
Early Monday morning we moved the big boat into Malakal Harbor. After breakfast we covered the general dive briefing and our first dive was at the Helmet Wreck. We entered the water did our weight check and descended down to the wreck. We checked out all three cargo holds, seeing the WWII helmets and depth charges. On the bow we found the banded messmate pipe fish and signal gobies. Back at the stern we spent some time looking over the WWII artifacts that have been collected from the wreck and placed by the bow gun. During our surface interval the big boat moved over to the other side of Malakal Harbor and our second dive was at the Chuyo Maru. We descended down the mooring line and to the stern of the wreck. We circled around the stern gun and by the smoke stack. We found two lion fish herding small glassy eyed sweepers with their fins out trying to feed. We then traveled along the deck to the bow of the boat to the front king posts. At the top we several red anemones with tomato anemone fish. We passed by the wheel house and up the mooring line to start our safety stop. During lunch the big boat moved to Ulong and before our next dive we covered the Reef Hook Briefing. Our third dive was at Siaes Corner. We drifted along with the wall on the right to the hook in area. We hooked in and enjoyed the show. There were several sharks and even the small eagle ray made an appearance. We then unhooked and headed up the coral garden and the current switched so we turned around. In the coral garden we spotted a couple of turtles. For dive four we headed out to Ulong Coral Garden. The current was still a light out going current and we started from the furthest mooring from the mouth. We explored the coral garden seeing sharks, turtles, barracuda and a giant clam. The current switched to a light incoming and to end the dive we drifted into the channel. Dinner was soon ready when we arrived at the big boat, after we watched a fish ID presentation on the most common fish we see here in Palau.
On Tuesday morning we started our day with Ulong Channel. We had a nice incoming current. We started the dive from one of the moorings close to the mouth and did our entries. We drifted along the wall at hooked in at the mouth. There were several sharks cruising in front of us in the current. We then unhooked and drifted into the channel by the lettuce coral and end the dive at the giant clams. For dive two we headed out to Sandy Paradise. We entered the water and stopped at the cleaning station and let the cleaner wrasse clean our hands for a while. Then we checked out a patch of coral with hundreds of glassy sweeper around it, and found the four leaf scorpion fish hidden in the coral. We saw a school of barracuda and jacks and all the photographers liked how the big eyed crescent tail posed for photos. During lunch the big boat moved over to the German Channel area. Once we arrived, dive three was at Turtle Cove. The swells were breaking on top the reef at the entrance of the skylight so we just descended along the mooring line and checked out the cavern along the wall. We then continued along the wall to the corner and saw all the schools of fish around the corner. Big Drop Off was our fourth dive of the day. All the guests enjoyed the drift along the wall; we saw a lot of macro life, nudis and a couple of turtles. For dive four we went to the After dinner, for the night dive, we went back to Big Drop Off. We found several shrimp, nudis, a small scorpion fish and some other macro life.
Wednesday morning we started the day with Blue Corner. It was slack tide. We started on the incoming side of the corner and did not hook in. We spent the whole dive exploring the plateau. The napoleon wrasses were with us the whole time. For dive two we went to the famous German Channel. We started the dive from the Peleliu side of the mouth. We sat down in the sand and waited at the Peleliu side cleaning station but no mantas. We then crossed the mouth of the channel to the Koror side cleaning station. We had one manta come in to get cleaned. It did a couple of circles around all the guests then took off. At the end of the dive the current slacked off and we ended our dive on the Koror side of the channel. After lunch dive three was at New Drop Off. The current was moving and outgoing. We entered the water and hooked in around the cut on the outgoing side. We saw some sharks before we hooked in but they left as we hooked in. The school of yellow tail barracuda was in front of the group the whole time. We unhooked and hooked in again around the small cut as a couple of sharks were there. We then unhooked at explored the plateau before ascending to start our safety stop. For the fourth dive we went out to Barnums Wall. We started along the wall at the side of the dive site and found a beautiful anemone balled up. When the wall turned into the beautiful coral garden we found two crocodile fish and saw a couple of white tips swimming around. During dinner the weather got worse, the large swells were coming straight into the channel, and the wind was blowing strong and raining off and on, so we called off the night dive. After dinner we were invited over to the Aggressor for a presentation from one of the Masters of Photography, Ernie Brooks was on the Aggressor for the week and some of our guests went over to hear him speak.
Thursday morning we woke and the wind was still blowing from the west and was producing some large swell on the outer reef. We were not able to go to Peleliu this week. We started the day with Ngemelis Wall. We found the long nose hawk fish in the big black coral bushes and lots of other macro life. For dive to we went back to German Channel. This time we started the dive from the Koror side of the mouth and first stopped at the red anemone. After the photographers took their images, as we were moving to the Koror side cleaning station a large manta did a slow swim by and took off. At the cleaning station we sat down in the sand and waited no mantas. We then crossed the mouth of the channel to the Peleliu side cleaning station and one manta put on a show for 15 minutes. All the guests were very happy. After the manta left we found a big octopus on the side of the cleaning station. As we were taking its photo the manta came back over top of us heading towards the center of the mouth. We followed it and it went up to start feeding on the plankton being funneled into the channel. There was also the school of black snapper and fusiliers. We ended the dive by drifting into the channel. After lunch we headed out to German Drop Off. We started the dive from the mooring and headed to Ngemelis Wall. We spotted a couple of sharks in the blue, turtles along the wall and a couple of anemones. After the dive we decided to move the big boat into Wonder Channel. The swells were getting large and we wanted to be able to offer a night dive. Dive three was at Wonder Channel. It was a light outgoing current and we let the current push us through the channel. We found a lot of banded messmate pipefish and several different nudis. After dinner the night dive was at Clam City. During the dive we saw all three groups of giant clams and many nudis.
On Friday morning our first excursion was Jelly Fish Lake. We tied the skiff up on the outside and started our hike over the hill to the lake. We entered the water and after a short swim into the middle of the lake we were surrounded by millions of jelly fish. With all the rain the last couple of days the top layer of the lake was chilly, but from your chest down the lake was really warm. Everyone enjoyed this time in the lake, posing for photos, diving down through the jelly fish. With an estimated 13 million jelly fish, everyone was completely surrounded. During the snorkel at the lake, the big boat moved closer to Ngerchong. We caught up by skiff and the big boat dropped anchor close to the channel near Ngerchong. With the strong wind from the west, this side of Palau was protected. Dive two was at Ngerchong Outside. The diving on this side of Palau is all in the Pacific Ocean. We started the dive from the mooring and headed towards the channel entering the inner lagoon. The corals in this area are not the best due to a typhoon a year ago but the marine life is still here. There were sharks in the blue, turtles on the reef and we were very lucky to encounter two devil rays swimming in formation above the group. Back at the big boat everyone finished lunch pretty quick; we decided to take the skiff on an excursion to the Milky Way. We dropped anchor in the milky way and brought up a bucket of the white mud and all the guests rubbed it all over their body. They took photos and jumped in the water to wash it all off. With our skin looking beautiful, we stopped at a beach for a quick stroll, and a short snorkel at the Japanese Zero that crashed in the shallows. Once we arrived back at the big boat we went out for dive three at Dexters Corner. We started a short distance from the corner, with the large swells it stirred up the visibility. We did see a leopard shark resting on the bottom. After the dive we decided to move the big boat back into Wonder Channel and the fourth dive was at Fantasy Reef. We had a nice relaxing dive checking out all the hard corals and we found some of the pipe cleaner nudis. Once we arrived back to the big boat everyone got showered off and met upstairs for cocktails. Soon we sat down to chef Camerons final supper of turkey, ham, stuffing and beats. After desert we gathered around the TV and watched Jons video of the charter. All the guests enjoyed the look back at the charter.
We woke up Saturday morning and the big boat headed up the east side of Palau and into Malakal harbor. We dropped the skiff and did our first dive at Light House Channel. The current was outgoing and we started from the inside mooring and drifted out. At the bottom of the channel we stopped at the wreck and found more of the pipe cleaner nudis. We continued along the slopping wall finding other types of nudis and some turtles. We ended the dive on the next mooring out of the channel. Chandelier Cave was our last dive of the charter. We surfaced in all four air chambers to take photos of the stalactites and outside the cave we found the mandarin fish. Back at the big boat the crew assisted the guests in washing and rinsing their gear and hung it up to dry. During free time some of the guests went for massages but most started packing or simply just hung out on the boat. 6pm everyone came up to the salon for the cocktail party and watched our photo slideshow of the week. Soon after all the guests headed off into town for dinner. At 10pm we said our goodbyes as five guests boarded the bus to the airport for their early Sunday morning flight.
Sunday morning the remaining guests woke up to continental breakfast and at 8am we said our goodbyes as they headed off to their hotels. We would like to thank all of our guests for joining us this week aboard the Tropic Dancer, hope to see you all again soon…
-Tropic Dancer Crew