Rock Islands Aggressor
Republic of Palau, Micronesia
Charter Report Jan 14th - Jan 21st, 2018
Weather: Winds from East/North East, Windy/Sunny/Overcast/Rain
Water Temp: 80/85 degrees
Monday: Morning Nico Bay, Afternoon Mandarin Fish Lake
Tuesday: Morning Soft Coral Arch & Cemetery Reef, Afternoon Ulong Channel, Ulong Beach & Stone Money
Wednesday: Morning Siaes Reef, Sandy Paradise & Ulong Beach, Afternoon Big Drop Off & German Channel
Thursday: Morning German False Channel and Turtle Cove, Afternoon Big Drop Off and German Channel, Night Rose Garden
Friday: Morning Japanese Zero, Milky Way and Wonder Island, Afternoon Neco Channel, Clam City and Ngarmeaus Beach
Saturday: Morning Fantasea Reef, Cemetery Reef, Japanese Gas Station
Sunday afternoon we welcomed onboard 17 guests. This week we have 16 guests from the US and one from Australia. This week is the start of two weeks of snorkeling charters. Most of the guests this week are staying for both weeks. We started off with a introduction to their cabins and everyone was quick to pick a spot on the dive deck and get out their snorkeling gear and get checked in. We headed upstairs, covered the vessel orientation and safety briefing then sat down to a great dinner prepared by our chef. After dinner everyone was informed with our plan for tomorrow and headed to bed.
Monday morning we started with breakfast and right after we covered the snorkeling briefing and headed down stairs to get ready for our first excursion. Around 8 am we loaded up the skiff and headed out into Nico Bay for our morning snorkeling excursion. We did two different spots inside Nico Bay and saw the types of hard corals that are on the inner reef of Palau. At the second area we saw a bunch of tropical fish including butterfly fish, angel fish, damsels and more. In the shallow area with the sea grass, we spotted a small school of razor fish and even the “cookies and cream” nudibranch, well that’s what we call him, and his actual name is the Jorunna Funebris. A very special encounter was with a baby crocodile fish. Our snorkel guide was only able to spot it when a nudibranch was crawling towards it and it moved to get out of the way of the nudibranch that was twice its size. The crocodile fish was only just over an inch in size. We ended the snorkel and headed back to the big boat. Lunch was soon ready and after a little rest we headed out for our afternoon excursion. For the whole afternoon we snorkeled in Mandarin Fish Lake. After a ten minute skiff ride we tied up the skiff outside the marine lake, entered the water and swam through the channel into the lake. We saw mandarin fish, cardinal fish, crocodile fish and all sorts of tropical fish. It was a nice afternoon in the secluded lake surrounded by the rock islands. We then swam back out the channel and jumped back on the skiff and headed back to the big boat. After dinner most of the guests were downloading photos and searching the reef fish book to ID everything they saw for the day.
Tuesday morning, after breakfast, we started up the big boat and motored out of Malakal Harbor. We lowered the skiff and went exploring. We stopped by the Japanese WWII machine gun bunkers and large gun emplacement and into a sheltered area to see the banded sea snakes. There were two sleeping on the rocky shore. We then headed south and stopped for photos at Palau’s natural limestone archway in the rock islands. Then it was time to get in the water, we went over the Soft Coral Archway and entered the water. This site has a hole cut through the rock island creating a archway and in the water it’s lined with beautiful soft corals. We spent some time there as the water flowed through one direction and then pulled you back through to the other side. Hanging from the side of the rock islands we found the carnivorous pitcher plant and in the water we spotted a bunch of juvenile fish and nice coral formations. Back on the skiff we moved to Cemetery Reef. The story here is during the Japanese occupation of Palau, they were testing what type of structures they could get coral to grow on. They put down several concrete blocks that the coral grew on and created a beautiful hard coral reef. Concrete blocks, “headstones” made cemetery reef. We tied up the skiff and swam around the reef seeing all sorts of tropical fish, napoleon wrasse, tomato anemone fish, and so much more. We even found a small banded sea snake searching the reef for something to eat. We got back on the skiff and traveled to where the big boat had moved to during our morning snorkels. Lunch was soon ready we the big boat continued on to the Ulong Area. After a nice rest we headed out to snorkel Ulong Channel. The current was incoming and we started on the south side and snorkeled in. The hard coral formations on the side of the channel were breath taking. We saw schools of fish, even giant clams. At the back of the channel we jumped back on the skiff and dropped in the water again, this time on the north side and drifted in. We saw more fish, all different types of butterfly’s, angel fish, file fish, puffers and more. We even were able to see the large patch of lettuce coral in the middle of the channel. At the end of the channel we got back on the skiff and headed back to the big boat to grab our shoes and back out to Ulong Beach. This was the site of the US television show Survivor, for the two times it was filmed in Palau. Now survivor it what Ulong Island is most know for in Palau, but just a short walking distance from the beach, is one of the oldest ancient villages. You can still see the rock wall that protected the village and if you take some time to look, can still see pottery shards or modified rock/tools. We got back on the skiff and went to the back side of the island to a sheltered beach where we saw Yapese stone money. A long time ago the Yapese sailed over to Palau by canoe and quarried large stone discs out of the limestone. This one broke while trying to lower it down to the beach and sits half in the water, half out, unmoved till today due to them not wanting it after it broke. We then returned to the big boat and dinner was soon ready. After, most guests headed straight to bed.
Wednesday morning we headed out for our first excursion in the Siaes area. We jumper in the water at the first mooring in Siaes and the current was strong. In some areas it pushed us along the top of the reef; in some areas the outgoing current pushed us off the wall into the blue. We got our morning exercise. We saw schools of pyramid butterfly fish, anthias and a bunch of napoleon wrasse. We decided to change locations, so we headed over to Sandy Paradise. With it still an outgoing current, we started in the shallows and drifted out. There were sandy areas, rock/coral formations, sharks and schools of fish. When the current final pushed us off the reef and into the blue, we got back on the skiff and headed for an area with less current. So we snorkeled at the coral garden off Ulong Beach. This area was covered with small coral formations and had a bunch of juvenile fish. The big boat was moored off the side of the beach so we started at the other end and headed towards the big boat. We arrived back at the big boat and during lunch we moved towards the German Channel area. Our afternoon trip started off at Big Drop Off. This site is a very popular snorkeling site; this wall is long and is broken up into three sites with big drop off in the middle. We started in the middle of Ngemelis wall and ended up snorkeling all the way through Big Drop Off. We spent a couple hours here along the top of the reef seeing hard corals, soft corals, sea fans and a variety of tropical fish. There were a bunch of anemones and sharks. We saw black tip reef sharks, white tip reef sharks and grey reef sharks. On the skiff we moved over to German Channel. It was new moon and with the incoming current, if there is good plankton funneling through the channel, the mantas feed. We had four mantas swimming all around us for hours. The bait ball action of fusiliers, black snapper and rudder fish were also a great site. Every now and then we saw the big predators, giant trevally, dog tooth tuna and sharks as well. We snorkeled right up to the time we had to leave because dinner was ready. It was a great afternoon. After dinner some guests stayed up doing fish ID and others played card games.
On Thursday we started the morning excursion at German False Channel. This area is at the end of the natural part of German Channel. It was a light incoming current and we started on one side and snorkeled in. There were beautiful large coral formations, tropical fish, sharks and turtles. Once we were towards the back of the channel we jumped back on the skiff to go to the other side of the channel. As the guests were getting on the skiff a large horned ray swam by the side of the skiff. We entered the water again on the other side and snorkeled in to the channel. This side of the channel has more sandy areas mixed in with the coral heads. Down below us in a large sandy area we saw a big spotted eagle ray eating whatever it found in the sand. It stayed there for awhile and let the snorkelers dive down close for photos. For the rest of the excursion we saw milk fish, tropical fish and even pipefish. Some of the guests even saw another spotted eagle ray. We headed back to the big boat and had a quick turn around and went out to Turtle Cove. This area is shallow on top and has a sheer drop off where the marine life gathers. We saw a bunch of the same tropical fish and some turtles. We spotted a crocodile fish and schools of anthias too. We headed back to the big boat for lunch and a rest period then headed out to do a repeat of yesterdays afternoon excursions. The guests really enjoyed Big Drop Off and German Channel so much. At Big Drop Off we started this time in the middle this time and snorkeled all the way into Fern’s Wall. Big Drop Off was the same marine life we enjoyed yesterday but as we were in the Fern’s Wall area we saw more soft coral, sea fans and sharks in the blue. We then headed back to German Channel, hoping the see the bait ball and mantas. The current was light and we entered the water with the bait ball. This time we only had one manta do a couple of passes under us and soon took off. It was still a great snorkel. During dinner the big boat moved into the Wonder Channel area. A small group of guests went out for a night snorkel at Rose Garden. We out looking for parrot fish sleeping in their mucus cocoons but didn’t see any. We still enjoyed seeing how some of the corals light up at night with the florescence lights.
After breakfast Friday morning we headed out for our morning excursion. Our first stop was at the Japanese Zero plane that crashed in the shallows during WWII. It sits in only 5 feet of water so we had to go there during high tide. We snorkeled around the plane posing for photos and back on the skiff we headed over to Milky Way. As we were entering this sheltered area we saw three spotted eagle rays swimming formation. We then tied up the skiff and the guides dove down to the bottom to bring up handfuls of the white mud. On the skiff the guests smeared the mud all over themselves. Now there is no scientific proof but the chemicals found in the white mud are the same found in most cosmetics, it’s supposed to be good for the skin and besides, it’s fun. We jumped into the water to wash off then headed back to the big boat for a quick turnaround and back out to snorkel Wonder Island. We started on one side and ended up snorkeling almost all the way around. We saw beautiful hard corals and two octopus and all the tropical fish. We went back to the big boat, had lunch, a short rest and headed out for the afternoons trip. Our first stop was at Neco Channel. We saw pipefish, a turtle and some clams. Then headed over to Clam City to see the giant clams, in the shallows along the top of the reef there are about twenty Giant clams on the bottom. We enjoyed seeing this clams that are estimated to be around eighty years old. Again back to the big boat for a quick change over and back out to the coral Garden around Ngarmeaus Beach. We saw a bunch of little sharks and had a great encounter with an octopus. This one wasn’t scared to see us like the ones at Wonder Island and put on a display on top a coral head. It even let us dive down and take some close photos. Back at the big boat dinner was ready and we watched our video pros video of the charter.
Saturday morning our excursion started at Fantasea Reef. We started on the normal side of the island but with the strong incoming current it push us along pretty fast, we saw a beautiful hard coral garden and tropical fish. We ended up on the back side of the island and the current was not as strong. We found nudibranchs and another baby crocodile fish. This one was twice the size as the one at the beginning of the week but was still only three inches long. It was so cool looking. We headed back to the big boat for our last turn around and headed back out to Cemetery Reef. We again snorkeled along the shallow reef top seeing all the fish and beautiful red anemone with tomato anemone fish. We then took a ride through the rock islands stopping at the Japanese Gas Station to see where the Japanese used cave structures to hide stuff from aerial photography then back to the big boat. The guests removed their gear from the skiff and put it back on the big boat. Soon after, lunch was ready and then it was time to settle the bills. Next it was an afternoon of relaxation, shopping in town and whatever else the guests wanted to do. At 6pm we gathered in the salon for dinner because twelve of our seventeen guests our staying onboard for two weeks so it’s pretty much a two week charter. We also served a special desert for Sally who celebrated her birthday with us. During dinner all the images that our photo pro took during the week played as a slideshow on the TV and the guests were given copies of these pictures on their flash drives. After dinner the guests relaxed, played cards, or finished their fish ID.
Sunday morning the guests woke up to continental breakfast and before 8am we started loading the luggage from the five guests that were departing the boat on the skiff. We then dropped all the guests ashore to their hotel and will be picking up the twelve with five new guests later in the day. We would like to thank everyone for joining us this week and hope to see you all again soon.
-Rock Islands Aggressor Crew