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Palau Trip Report, March 2017

Palau Trip Report, March 2017
For our 2017 trip on Palau Siren we were joined by divers from the UK, US and Norway. During our 10 night trip we would dive all of Palau’s best sites including Blue Corner, German Channel, The Cut at Peleliu, Ulong Channel and Siaes Corner as well as WWII wrecks in the Malakal area and some spectacular caverns!

During our dives at Blue Corner, The Cut at Peleliu and Siaes Corner we witnessed schooling Grey Reef Sharks, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Blacktip Reef Sharks, Eagle Rays, Blue Trevally, Bluefin Trevally, Bigeye Trevally and multiple types of Barracuda, Spanish Mackerel, Wahoo, Dogtooth Tuna, Goliath Grouper, Napoleon Wrasse, Black Snapper, Rainbow Runner, Banded Sea Snakes and lots of Turtles! On some dives there were so many turtles it felt like they were falling from the sky! At The Cut at Peleliu we saw a school of hundreds of Giant Trevally. Normally these large pelagic fish are only seen in ones and twos so to see them in such a large school is a very special experience. Also at Peleliu we had a rollercoaster ride on The Express dive site where we encountered a large Lemon Shark as well as many Grey Reef Sharks. At Ulong Channel we had a special dive with a large school of Bigeye that allowed us to become part of their group presumably thinking we would provide them with protection against the Grey Reef and Whitetip Reef Sharks that were eyeing them up. We couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the Bigeye once we left!

Palau's Rock Islands (Ben Jackson)

At German Channel we had an amazing dive close to the surface where the Mantas feed on the incoming plankton late in the afternoon along with huge numbers of Black Snapper, Humpback Unicornfish and Fusiliers. We also had morning dives at German Channel down on the seabed where Grey Reef Sharks and Mantas hang around the cleaning stations. Seeing the Grey Reef Sharks go almost vertical in the water as they are cleaned is fascinating to watch. On these dives we also saw lots of Barracuda, Trevally and Long-Jawed Mackerel.

Away from the reefs we dived a number of Japanese WWII wrecks, sunk during US ‘Operation Desecrete’ the same operation that sunk the famous wrecks of Truk Lagoon. WWII wrecks dived on our trip included the Iro Maru, the Helmet wreck and the Chuyo Maru. On the outside of the wrecks we could find the large guns still attached and encrusted in coral and on the Helmet wreck there are also lots of depth charges and sake bottles. By penetrating the wrecks we could find out way into the engine rooms, bathroom still complete with toilet and bathtub and the holds where on the Helmet wreck we found a zero fighter engine.

During our trip we also did some wonderful night dives on reefs, the Haf Adai wreck and Black Water dives. The Black Water night dives took place under the Siren when she was moored in deep water. With lights lowered into the water creatures began to appear from the deep in their various larval stages, including Squid, Octopus and Mantis Shrimp as well as many Jellyfish.

Ngardmau Waterfall (Ben Jackson)

Some of the most interesting dives in Palau are the caverns and there are lots of these. The caverns with lots of light penetrating into them are Blue Holes, Virgin Blue Hole and Siaes Tunnel, all of which are located in open ocean. At Blue Holes there is a sea fan with Denise Pygmy Seahorses and Siaes Tunnel is home to a big school of Trevally! Once you’ve finished exploring these caverns and their fantastic light displays you can swim out and go along the reef wall to reach Blue Corner or Siaes Corner for some exciting shark action!

The most unique cavern dive in Palau though has to be Chandelier Cave. You enter this cave system through a shallow opening in Malakal Bay and then make your way through a series of chambers each with a breathable air pocket at the top. Each chamber is filled with fascinating limestone rock formations and stalactites. Chandelier Cave is surely one of Palau’s ultimate treasures and as the last dive of our trip was a spectacular way to end a wonderful dive trip in Palau.

During our trip in Palau we also did a skiff ride around the Rock Islands to see some of the Japanese WWII fortifications, spectacular bird life and the most amazing scenery including Palau’s famous limestone arch. As you move around the Rock Islands and through German Channel the fabulous light blue colour of the water contrasting against the shallow reefs is really a sight to behold. It is also worth keeping your eyes peeled as we encountered Dolphins in our skiffs wake, Mantas swimming on the surface both in the day time near our skiff and a couple of times at night around the Palau Siren. One night we even got in the water with the Manta who was happily doing laps around the Siren. Another night we had a visit to a beautiful beach for drinks and snacks! Some of the guests on our trip also took the chance to do a WWII land tour on Peleliu where a brutal battle was fought during WWII. To complete our Palau adventure we took a trek to the Ngardmau Waterfall. This waterfall is deep into Palau’s spectacular tropical jungle and the sight when you reach the waterfall makes all the hard work worth it!