Palau Aggressor II
Oct 25 – Nov 1, 2015
Water and Air temperature: 82°F/86°F
Crew: Zach, Dan, Ronnie, Joe, Hector, Ernan and Herence
Sunday afternoon the transfer bus pulled up in front of the Palau Aggressor II and sixteen passengers from the US and Germany boarded the vessel. We broke up into small groups and gave a room orientation to the guests before helping them set up their equipment. Once all gear was set up and the guests were comfortable that their equipment was in working order we met on the bridge deck for our vessel orientation and safety briefing with Captain Zach. The guests were also informed of the weather and our tentative diving schedule during this time and then were treated to a welcome aboard dinner from Chef Ronnie.
Monday morning and we heard the engines crank up at 0600. We pulled lines and were underway shortly their after, slowly passing the commercial dock on our way to our anchorage site. After breakfast was served the First Officer Dan gave the guests a dive deck briefing which consist of standard operating procedures from our skiff as well as safety information. Immediately following this briefing we were on our way to Jakes Seaplane for our checkout dive. This site sits in the shallow, warm waters just outside of Malakal Harbor. Once in the water we did our weight checks and descended down to the broken up plane. A few small critters were spotted and the highlight of the dive was a massive Pleurobranch that was moving slowly across the coral heads. Dive two was on the Hafa Adai wreck. This is an old communications boat that sunk mid harbor. The wreck itself is covered in soft and hard corals with numerous juvenile marine life swarming its hull. The highlight was a pair of juvenile box fish. These little guy looks like dice as they swim around in a small corner of the shipwreck. During lunch time the Captain started moving the big boat towards the German Channel. We arrived on site in German Channel just in time for the third dive of the day. We loaded up the skiff and made our way to Big Drop Off. This was to be our first dive on the outer reef. We dropped in and made our way down the reef with the gentle current. This site is covered in soft corals that gently sway in the current. The last dive of the day was in German Channel. A quick moving current carried us to the cleaning station where we watched the big schools of Black Lip Snappers swarm about. A few Grey Reef Sharks were spotted slipping in and out of the group. After spending a bit of time at the cleaning station we moved down the channel with the current exploring the coral heads for small critters. To our delight we were able to spot two Manta Rays feeding near the surface. We spent as much time as we could before tiring and letting the current carry us a bit further down the channel before surfacing.
Tuesday morning Captain Zach fired up the engines and moved the big boat through German Channel to Turtle Cove where we would moor up for the day. Our first dive was on Blue Corner this morning. We dropped in and moved slowly down towards the corner via the outgoing current. We counted 12 sharks swimming off the wall as we moved towards the corner. As we approached the hook in site we moved up towards the lip of the wall and found a good spot to hook in. Once settled into our hook in spot we sat back and watched the action off the wall. After spending about 25 minutes hooked in we moved further down the plateau and explored for the remainder of the dive. We spotted big schools of Chevron Barracuda, Jacks and a few White Tip Reef sharks sleeping in the sand. Our resident Napoleon showed up towards the end of the dive to pose for a few pictures. Around the 45 minute mark we ascended to our safety stop depth and were delighted to see a Devil Ray float right past us. Dive two was on the Blue Holes. We dropped in and made our way into the cavern. The lead Divemaster Dan signaled a few guests to come over and showed them a Disco Clam tucked into the wall. After this he took the group down a bit deeper to a sea fan that lies just outside the cavern. This particular sea fan is home to a Denis Pygmy Seahorse. This is a rare and beautiful sight to see. The seahorse itself is only about the size of your pinky nail. The group continued exploring for a while before surfacing and being shuttled back to the boat for Taco Tuesday! The afternoon dives today were New Drop Off and Turtle Cove. Surprisingly New Drop Off had 5 turtles hanging out on its plateau! Not only were the Turtles spotted but they sat motionless as diver after diver approached to within feet to take photos and admire the tranquil nature of these sea creatures. Turtle Cove itself is one of the best soft coral dives in Palau. Covered from the plateau down to about 100 feet the soft corals sway in the gentle current as the divers move by searching the wall for Nudibranchs and flat worms. As this is one of the best soft coral dives here we decided to do this site again for the night dive. A full moon was shining bright as we dropped into the water and descended down the wall. The soft corals have now come out and are feeding in the moonlight. As our flashlights hit the corals the colors pop in the most brilliant fashion. We explored the wall and the plateau for a full 45 minutes before ascending into a beautifully clear sky.
Wednesday morning we moved the big boat down to Peleliu Island and into Camp Beck. Our first dive on the island was at Orange Beach. This site was where the 7th Marines invaded in the initials days to take the island. Underwater you can still find numerous artifacts from this invasion. Sitting in the shallow at about 33ft is an anchor from one of the old ships. It is approximately 10ft long and the guests love swimming between the flukes for a picture. Further down you can stumble across ammo boxes of .50 caliber rounds, mortar shells and even the thousand pound bombs. If you have a keen eye you can even spot a few old Coca-Cola bottles. Around 0915 we shuttled the guests into shore and they were picked up by a local here in Peleliu to do a land tour. This tour included stops at some of the old battle grounds such as Orange Beach and Bloody Nose Ridge. We also saw a few old tanks, anti-aircraft guns and made a visit to the museum. There is tons of history here and we crammed as much as we could into our 3 hour tour. Returning to the boat we opened up the windows along the wet bar and enjoyed a meal outside in the cool breeze. After letting our food settle we went to West Wall for our next dive. A strong current was present which pushed us down the wall quickly in some portions and made us kick against a couple of eddies in another. The highlight of this dive was by far the numerous turtles that were floating along the wall. Both Green and Hawksbill turtles were gliding effortlessly next to us as we explored all the site had to offer. Our final dive on Peleliu was at Barracks Point. This is a great dive that has both a sheer wall and a sloping plateau. The plateau itself is full of sea fans, hard corals and is littered with Giant Clams. These clams shine with an iridescent blue and green and each clam can way upwards of 500 pounds! During this dive the big boat made its way back up to the German Channel area for our night dive. We slowly made our way out to the site enjoying the beautiful clear sky and full moon that was above us. Upon descending we made our way to a nice sandy spot and turned off our lights. The guests started waving their hands back and forth in the warm water. You could hear the laughter as the bioluminescence would light up a trail as we did karate chops and waves. We moved further down the site and saw a massive Bumphead Parrotfish and a big Moray Eel out on a late night hunt.
We woke up this morning to a beautiful orange glow as the sun was slowing rising in the distance. We decided to try our luck on Blue Corner again this morning. We were one of the first on the site and eagerly jumped in to see what all was swimming about. There was a very light current so we were able to take our time and explore on the wall and plateau alike. A few schools of Jacks and Barracuda were out but the highlight had to be our resident Napoleon Wrasse. This massive Wrasse is a gentle giant and slowly swims around our guests as they take photos and pose. Our second dive of the day was on a site called the Canyons. The Canyons is a great dive that combines a sheer wall with plateaus and small inlets that you can weave your way in and out of. We moved along the wall at a slow pace in search of the many Nudibranchs that Palau is famous for. Dive three was at Barnum’s Wall. As soon as we dropped in we spotted a Manta Ray slowly swimming by. Shortly after we moved down the wall and found a few big Nudibranchs. They are an olive and dark green color, commonly known as the ‘Norse God’. After taking a few photos we continued down the wall and stumbled upon three turtles resting on a small plateau. One of the simplest features of this dive that all enjoyed were the Sea Pearls. These are small bubble like objects that adhere to the coral. Usually covered in a bit of algae these Sea Pearl are the planets largest single celled organism! Our last dive of the day was in German Channel. We decided to try our luck at seeing a few Manta Rays and it definitely paid off. Within 30 seconds or arriving at the cleaning station we saw one massive Manta Ray running feeding patterns up near the surface. As we ascended there was a moderate incoming current so we had to work to stay in place but it was more than worth it. There ended up being three Manta Rays. Slowly swimming back and forth feeding and between the divers. There was also a huge school of Black Lip Snappers that were near the surface having an afternoon snack. After spending about 30 minutes watching the Mantas we drifted down the channel, relaxing as the current gently swept us over this extremely healthy coral garden. The night dive for the evening was in Alice’s Coral Garden. Very similar to the German Channel area as it is located one site over. This is more of a sloping wall that is dotted with coral heads and Sea Anemones.
The guests awoke to a beautiful sunrise this morning just off of Ulong Island. We were extremely excited for our last full day of diving and all of the guests were geared up and ready to go before the dive bell sounded. Our first dive was on Siaes Corner. Our skiff Captain Joe, who knows these waters like the back of his hand, took a short cut and got us there within 5 minutes. We got set and dropped in just off the wall. As we approached the corner we could see numerous Grey Reef Sharks off in the distance. A bit closer to us were 4 massive Tunas. It’s rare to see Tuna stick around longer than a few seconds but this lot decided to hang out for a few minutes and we were able to get some photos. The current was slack as we arrived atop the plateau so we unhooked and explored for a while. A school of Chevron Barracuda hovered just above us and a few Clown Triggerfish were spotted darting around the coral heads. Dive two today was on Siaes Tunnel. The guests descended into the tunnel and were shown the Disco Clams that lie in the far end. After spending just a few minutes inside we exited the tunnel and moved down the wall. A baby Eagle Ray way spotted gliding effortlessly a bit higher in the water column than us. The afternoon dives started off with a bang. We went to Sandy Paradise first. This site is covered in hard corals and makes for a terrific maze like dive site. Our dive guide Dan brought us to one coral head in particular. This specific site is home to 4 Leaf Scorpion Fish. They are a yellowish green color and slowly rock back and forth in the gentle current, mimicking a leaf. We also spotted a Moray Eel poking his head out of his secret spot to get a glimpse of the passing divers. Our final dive today was on the famous Ulong Channel. The current was running at a very good pace so we decided to drop in off the wall and slowly make our way into the hook in site at the mouth of the channel. Once we hooked in the sharks came in droves. On the far Northwest side of the channel one guest was lucky enough have a front row seat to 6 Grey Reef and White Tip sharks gliding back and forth in the current. After spending 25 minutes or so we decided to unhook and gently float down the channel. There was no need to kick as the current was moving us along steadily. This gave us the chance to really sit back and just observe the beauty of this coral filled channel. Approximately three quarters of the way down the channel we approached a massive patch of Lettuce Leaf Coral. It juts up from the seafloor at a 45 degree angle and stands about 25 feet tall. Dotted with Sea Anemones this is one of the highlights in the channel. Just past this section we crossed over the coral ridges and found ourselves in a nice sand filled gully that was protected from the current. Inside this small oasis were two Giant Clams! Sparkling in the fading sunlight all the guests were in awe of not only the size but the iridescent colors that were coming off of the clam’s mantle. We made sure to get a few photos here and then moved down the channel, slowly ascending to our safety stop depth. Later that evening after our dinner was finished the guests gathered in the salon to watch the video of the week put together by our Video Pro Dan. Full of great shots and some comic relief the video was a hit and enjoyed by guests a crew alike.
Saturday morning and we are on our last day of diving. Ulong Channel provided such a good experience that our guests opted to do it once again before heading to Jellyfish Lake. Of course the incoming current and rising sun provided for a great dive once again and all of our divers returned with a great big smile across their face. Shortly after returning from the dive we hauled anchor and made our way towards Koror. Around 0930 we briefed our guests and dropped the skiff to shuttle them to Jellyfish Lake. The lake was quite busy but we made our way from the floating dock out into the middle where there were millions of the stingless jellyfish floating around. The guests were in awe of how many of these creatures could be in such a concentrated area. After spending an hour or so swimming about we boarded the skiff once again and were treated to a Rock Island tour courtesy of Joe. He took us through some of the narrow channels and past the famous rock arch before bringing us back to the dock in Malakal. Chef Ronnie treated us to a delicious buffet style lunch before we settled bills. After a few hours of free time the guests and crew met in the salon for our Cocktail Party. It was nice to sit down with our guests and talk about the different experiences we had during the week and what all we saw on different dives. The guests this week were extremely pleased with their experience onboard this week and each told a small story about the diving and their take on our operation. The crew this week was just as impressed with the guests and their demeanor. It was great to have such an amazing group on who made our jobs that much more fun! After passing out a few awards that were earned throughout the week we all went out for a dinner in town.
With a heavy heart we said goodbye to our guests this morning. Some were flying out immediately and some were spending a day on island to explore. We wish the best of luck to all and a safe travel back home. We will see you again.