Friday, June 18, 2010

All in all about Palau!

Palau diving was divine, but I would not recommend the place to any other people, except maybe avid snorkelers. 

Here are my videos, amateurish but with love!

I must thank the Fish'n'Fins people, Tova for the great food, Jonathan and Loreen for a great time and everybody else for making our trip so smooth!

Also the Carp Island crew:  Please keep up the enthusiasm and dedication!  Ian for safe dives, Saki and Suzuki for fun times and all the others for a very pleasant stay.

I must say that this is not my last visit to Palau.

But my next dive trip will be to the Red Sea, I think...


Day five part two: Ulong Channel and Chandelier Cave

These two divesites deserve their own page.  Why?  You'll see...

Ulong Channel

THE best and most fun dive for ever!  21 meters and 74 minutes, maybe 4-5 kilometers, a huge drift dive!
We had a nice lunch at Ulong Island picnic place, then parked on top of the plateau.  Went down and hooked ourselves in a strongest current so far!  I lost my camera, the shoulder strap was undone in the current!  And here the sharks came very close indeed - me without the camera...  I told our DM Jonathan about my loss, he went away for a while and handsigned me later that he reported to the captain my loss.  I was devastated because of the pics inside...  Well, this is life. 

So I concentrated on the sights, beautiful.  But the fun part was still to come:  We let loose of our "moorings" with reef hooks and started drifting at high speed along the plateau.  Jonathan had told us how to control the direction with turning ourselves facing this way and that, but at the beginning I was in a separate current from the others and had to swim a lot to join the group!

When we reached the actual sand-bottomed channel, we could just let our hair down and enjoy!  And try to avoid big triggerfish attacking and groupers...  The biggest cabbage coral wall I've ever seen...  Passed in a hurry.  Then we ended up in a sandy area with lots of scads, trevallies and other fish schooling.  I wanted to have a closer look and grabbed a rock, and after I lost the sight of anyone else...

A flash of yellow fins in the distance, a lot of swimming to catch them up and I had caught 2 of our group!
What was the best:  The captain had found my camera bobbing on the surface...  These guys really know their currents!

Chandelier Cave

The most bizarre dive of my life!  Max 18 meters, bottom time around 1 hour.  Difficult to say, as this dive on the computer is like 5 separate dives!  We had rented torches (flashlights) from the dive shop and I was glad again, as the caves were really dark.  We had to be very careful not to stir the silt on the bottom and worsen the visibility.

There are four airfilled chambers with stalactites and stalagmites, you really have to look where you dive as these hanging rocks were everywhere!  Once up in the air, we could remove the regu and breathe normally.

Everybody was excited and we just babbled!  The last chamber was the smallest so Jonathan took us there ladies first and then the guys.  While exiting the cave, my torch stopped working...  Oh no!  It was really eerie and difficult, trying to follow the divers in front in total darkness and avoid hitting your head on the hanging rocks...  This photo was taken with a flash, so you can see how poor the viz is!

After we exited the cave and the adrenaline levels were back to normal, we then started a hunt.  For a very small and elusive creature!

The Mandarinfish!  Size 3-6 cm depending on the sex, this is a very colourful and beautiful fish.  People come from all over the world to take photos!  I was very patient so I got some very nice pics.  No use turning coral rubble over, just take a comfortable position over some corals and wait...

Palau divesites day 5: Siaes Tunnel + Siaes Corner

Four dives in a day, the most I've done so far!  And what a day...  The best diving I've ever had!  Not to mention snorkelling...  Great spots in between dives.  I was looking at Siaes corner from the surface while we had to wait for our turn:  Black and silver trevallies in the thralls of love, sharks, napoleons, barracudas...  Viz very good!

Siaes Tunnel

35 meters, 65 minutes.  Nice cave, bottom in about 50 meters.  Entrance 27 meters and consequently the roof of the cave in 26-27 meters.  Beautiful soft corals on the walls and roof of the cave.  Somebody at the bottom filming a small fish that lives there...
After the cave a very nice wall with nudibranches and lots of corals.  Big napoleons and sharks in addition to the smaller fry ever present.  Lots and lots of different fishes, butterflies to angels!

Siaes Corner

20 meters, 65 minutes.  Very pleasant dive, a nice wall!  Lots of things to see from small fishes to big ones, like pyramid butterflies, sergeant majors, yellowtail fusiliers, local square antheas and different angelfish.  Nice plateau at 12 m with sharks chasing trevallies at the edge, lots of colourful juveniles among the beautiful corals and of course, turtles. 

Palau divesites day 4: Blue Hole + Blue Corner + Helmet Wreck

This day was promising to be wonderful:  Fish'n'Fins staff Jonathan and Loreen picked us up in the morning, after two nice nights on Carp Island.  Bye Carp - I'll be back...

Blue Holes

25 meters and 70 minutes, came up with 500 psi  (700 psi = 50 bar).  Back to Nitrox, yippee!  I had small headaches after every air dive.  This time I was first down the rope to 8 meters, spent some time taking photos and waiting for the people to come down.  Luckily looked up after 10 minutes as I saw everybody disappearing over the reef edge near the surface!  Well, just followed them.

Blue Holes is very interesting dive:  Entrance to the cave from the top of a reef through a hole.  The bottom of the actual cave is in about 20-22 meters.  When you look up, you can see one big and one smaller hole, very blue in colour.  The cave itself was not so special, rubble in the bottom, most exciting part of it is the temple of doom:  A smaller, deeper cave with turtle skeletons, but we did not go there.  The wall dive after exiting was very nice indeed!  Lots of different sweetlips, sharks patrolling, bumpheads.  In about 10-12 meters a nice plateau with turtles and lots of different reef fish.

Video: Patagroup in Blue Hole, Palau

Blue Corner - again!

My favourite divesite, this time with different current and from another angle.  20 meters and 55 minutes.
We followed the wall just under the lip because of a very strong current, that in Jonathans words could have swept us to the Philippines if we got too high...  In blue water for a while accompanied with sharks and trevallies.
Then we quickly rose to the plateau at 12 meters and hooked ourselves in a very strong current!  The regu in my mouth was wobbling and so was the mask...  I felt like a balloon on a string, with the current pulling me this way and that...  But we got a nice show again, in front row seats!  Exhilarating!

Video:  Huge marbled groupers in Blue Corner, Palau

Helmet Wreck

26 meters, 67 minutes.  This divesite is very near Koror Marina in a silty lagoon, so the viz is not good.  But for muck divers and critter lovers, excellent spot!  I was first down and last up again, saw things others did not see...
Small wreck covered in soft and hard corals, don't spend too much time there but search the surrounding coral areas.  Lots of worms and smaller fish.  Tiny cleaner shrimps on anemones.  I even photographed a mystery wrasse here;  A new species?

Palau divesites day 3: Peleliu Dbed + Ngedebos Wall + Blue Corner

Still from Carp Island with Palau Divers we did these three dives:  In between I did a lot of snorkelling, sometimes the captain parked the boat over a nice wall just for us snorkelers.  Great service and very thoughtful!  Saw a ghost pipefish and many different stingrays while snorkelling, also sharks.  While transiting from one place to another, a school of about 30-40 dolphins followed us and swam + jumped in the bow wake - excellent!

Peleliu Dbed

26 meters max and 50 minutes.  Very nice wall with beautiful fans and whips, and then a valley with sharks sleeping on brain corals.  Eagle ray!  School of big bumphead parrots, a huge green turtle and several smaller green + hawksbill turtles.  A big cuttlefish lying on some corals with a nice blue nudibranch under it, an octopus. 

Ngedebos Wall

22 meters and 57 minutes.  LOVELY!  Beautiful place, could have stayed in one spot just checking the wall.  Big morays, many different nudibranches, small crabs all over.  Also sharks and turtles galore.  All kinds of fish!  Huge napoleons!

Blue Corner

22 meters and 48 minutes...  WOW!  A huge wow!  Drop down 1000 meters from the plain, huge everything!  Groupers, sharks, tunas, turtles...  Current 4-5 knots, so we had to use the hooks again.  A nice show!  So far my favourite place!  The sharks came really close, and so did the big groupers with nasty teeth...  When I say BIG groupers I mean over a meter...  No wonder this seems to be one of the best dive sites...  And it all depends from where you approach, the scenery changes a lot.  BEST DIVE EVER!!!!

Video:  Sharp teeth getting close   Blue corner shark encounter

Palau divesites day 2: Peleliu Camp + Turtle Cove + German Channel

Today we moved to beautiful Carp Island in the morning and still had time for 3 dives.  This time I had to dive with air, too, or 21% nitrox as I use in my computer settings when diving with air, or mixing air and nitrox dives in one day.  Safer, you can keep tabs on your nitrogen traces.  Should never change settings to air when diving Nitrox most of the time!

The Palau Divers with brit Ian and 2 japanese DMs Suzuki and Saki took very good care of the group.  Really nice people!  After gearing up we started another dream day in the Micronesian waters.

We had bought reef hooks as we heard there was going to be locations with strong currents.  I'm glad!  We were going to need those...

Peleliu Camp

Viz was good, about 30 meters:  Bottom time 36 minutes, max depth 30 meters.  Beautiful wall drift at first with lots of small fry and sharks patrolling the perimeter.  We rounded a corner and hooked ourselves in about 27 meters (current about 3-4 knots), then settled for the show.  Excellent!  Big snappers, grey and blacktip reefsharks, bluefin trevallies, school of great barracudas, school of big circular batfish, huge napoleons.  A nice small flatworm just next to my hook.  Remember to look around if you stop for a while!  :-)

Turtle Cove

Best dive so far!!!!  Only 20 meters and 56 minutes, but the amount of fish and corals was amazing!
Sharks, black&white snappers, yellow-striped snappers, black snappers, schooling scissor-tailed fusilier, lyretail groupers, endemic square spot antheas, drop-off surgeons, millions of pyramid butterflies and big harlequin sweetlips.  Also pearly soldierfish, bronze soldierfish and reef lizardfish.  A beautiful turtle sleeping among corals...  WOWEE!  For a fishthusiast, a dream come true!

German Channel

We tried our luck again, to see if we could find the Manta rays...  20 meters and 59 minutes.
This time many really big dogtooth tunas, plenty of sharks, schooling trevallies - especially big bluefins.  Other big fish included groupers, snappers and lots of big titan triggerfish.  Viz in parts only about 5 meters.  No mantas...

Palau's divesites day 1: Fairyland + German Channel + Jellyfish lake

These first two dives we did with Fish'n'Fins, excellent service.  The plus side for me was 15 l tank and Nitrox 32%.  More bottom time...  :-)  So I did negative entries every time, first in the water and last to come up.  I gained even 20 minutes more divetime this way compared to others diving with air.  I didn't have to worry about bottom time accumulation with EANX!
All the time bottom temperatures were 29-30 degrees Celcius, some were diving with only t-shirts and shorts, but I had my own 2,5 mm Mares Tropic shortie.

The first divesite was Fairyland; 
An easy dive with slight current only to 22 meters as the DM Jonathan wanted to see the standard of our group.  Divetime 59 minutes.
Beautiful place! Plenty soft corals, even green coral. Small fire dartfish, humphead parrotfish, huge groupers, hawksbill turtle, big spanish mackerel, many big titan triggerfishes, longnosed butterflyfish, yellow mask angelfish, ornate butterflyfish and bird wrasses - male and female.

Second divesite:  German Channel
Bit  more demanding with currents, depth 22 m and divetime 61 minutes.
Very exciting, I had heard so much of this place!  Manta cleaning stations...  But we did not see even a shdow of a manta, maybe May is not the best season.  In the middle of the channel mouth viz is not so good, some big dogtooth tunas and bigger sharks in the distance.  But on the sides we saw plenty white and blacktip reefsharks, green and hawksbill turtles, huge napoleon wrasses, big unicornfish and blond coral groupers, a large yellowtail boxfish, scribbled filefish, clown triggers and plenty scads.  Nice large anemones with pink anemonefish.  All in all a nice dive, while waiting for the absent mantas there were many smaller critters to observe.

Third dive was freedive in the Jellyfish lake:
Wow!  Trekking up a steep hill and down the other side, carrying snorkeling gear, we saw a lake in the middle of an island.  The biggest jellyfish concentration is in the middle so we had to swim a bit.  It was at first not so pleasant, all the jellies brushing against your skin...  But they did not sting at all.  An experience, anyway!