LAX, Terminal 7May 27, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C
Waiting to board our flight. First stop/layover - Honolulu.
Waiting to board our flight. First stop/layover - Honolulu.
Short stay before the next flight to Guam.
After a quick stop in Guam, we arrived in Palau around 9 PM to 86 degree weather. Brittany's hair immediately doubled in volume, due to the drastic increase in humidity. We arrived at our hotel about an hour after landing, thanks to the small airport and our prompt hotel shuttle. After preparing our dive gear, we quickly feel asleep and got some much needed rest for the first day of diving.Read more
Sorry for the delay in posting updates. It turns out that Palau has the worst wifi connectivity in the northern hemisphere. We repeatedly tried downloading an app to transfer photos but never got beyond 12%. Alas we're crossing the Pacific back towards the US and have some time and connectivity to catch up.
We were pleasantly surprised upon waking the first day to find that our garden view looked out into a bay with the lush limestone islands that make up Palau. After a quick breakfast, we were picked up by Sam's Tours and driven a short distance to the dive shop. We could have walked.
We got our gear set up on the dive boat and headed to an area called Ulong. The first dive was Sandy Paradise. We were lucky and saw two octopus, Brittany's favorite, one of which was moving about and showing off his tentacles. Nico spotted a white tip shark taking it easy under some coral.
After our first dive, the captain took us to Ulong Island to enjoy our bento box lunches. This island is apparently where two seasons of Survivor had been filmed. It was very isolated and incredibly beautiful.
The second dive was Ulong Channel. It was a drift dive. At first glance, it looked like there were hundreds of rocks lining the bottom of the channel, but after a closer look, they were actually Groupers gathering in time for spawning around the new moon. Many of them were very playful, darting around after each other. There was also a large lettuce coral that many fish swam in and out of.
At night, we ate dinner at the hotel. The food was decent but overpriced. We got to hear the most obnoxious sneeze known to man. It was an early bed time this night.Read more
We headed to Ngemelis Island for the second day of diving. We joined dive guide Sergi and several new people including Ron and Brigitte (from Guam) and Jim from SF.
The first dive was German Channel, a passageway dredged when Palau was under German rule. We saw a scared octopus, white in color, being chased by a fish. Brittany also spotted a mantis shrimp and a leaf fish. The visibility was relatively poor and unfortunately we didn't get to see any manta rays at the cleaning stations.
During the break between dives, we were joined by a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping just in front of the boat.
The next dive was at Dexter's Wall. This was a very relaxed dive and provided lots of great photo opportunities. Brittany got pictures of sparkly shrimp in anemone, and we saw several turtles.
For dinner, we headed to the nearby Carp restaurant, specializing in local, Filipino and Japanese cuisine, per recommendation from our Tasmanian friends, Marguerite and Peter. In fact, we unexpectedly met said friends at the restaurant and they joined us for dinner. We exchanged some fun stories and learned about their sailing journey halfway around the world.Read more
In a pretty wild coincidence, we were joined on the boat by Nico's coworker Craig who was spending a few days in Palau on his dad's, a pilot, layover.
The first dive was Siaes Tunnel which started with a decent to nearly 100 ft into a hole with lots of beautiful coral along the wall. Upon leaving the tunnel, we swam along a spectacular wall falling off into the deep blue, along which we saw lots of small stuff, a feeding turtle, and a large pufferfish. This was definitely one of the best dives to date.
The second dive was a repeat of Ulong channel, this time the other way. Unfortunately we didn't take any pictures because we anticipated strong current, but the dive was great. Tons of grouper, several sharks, and many other creatures.
The third dive was on Siaes Corner, picking up where Siaes tunnel left off. Again, tons of color, big sea fans, and just overall great diving. We even got to try out the reef hooks, connecting us to the floor to watch the marine life in the current.
For dinner, we stopped at the nearby Drop Off Bar for tasty fish tacos (by recommendation) and Poke. The view overlooked one of the many bays and offered a pleasant atmosphere while we dined.Read more
The fourth day of diving took us back to Ngemelis Island for a mellow dive as well as Palau's quintessential dive site Blue Corner. On the boat, we were joined by a boisterous couple from South Africa. Jonathan was a physician turned travel guide, G(iovanna) was a former dive master at Sam's, and together they own Apex Expeditions. Hearing about their travels made us look like home bodies. Despite Jonathan meeting the adrenaline junky cliche, we enjoyed talking to someone so passionate about exploring the world's marine and wildlife.
The first dive was Fairyland. With no current and great viz, this dive made for spectacular macro shots. For those of you not familiar, underwater macro photography focuses on the little things: anemone, nudibranches, small reef fish, soft coral formations, etc. This really illustrates the staggering amount of marine bio diversity present in the Indo-Pacific coral triangle. The new camera setup worked great with macro mode and the strobe light, and we got some pointers on fish ID from G and Sergi. More pictures to come once we filter through our collection. Lunch was spent in the boat moored near an idyllic beach with perfect weather.
Relaxation was not the theme of the second dive, our first experience at Blue Corner. We were briefed on using reef hooks which are used to attach yourself to rocks / dead coral in the strong currents. Upon entering, we inched down the mooring line and then had to vigorously kick against the current to reach the area protected by the wall. After drifting along the wall, we hooked in to watch massive schools of jacks swim by, joined by many great reef and white tip sharks coming close and then fading off into the blue. There were also several turtles, barracudas, bumphead parrotfish, and an octopus.
The day's final dive was near the dive shop at Chandelier Cave. After dropping off several divers, we took a 30 sec boat ride to the opening. We saw four different chambers where we surfaced and "hung out" for a bit, chatting with Sergi. The first one was the biggest and it had a large Stalactite that looked like a Chandelier, giving the cave its name. Of course, since it was a cave, it was dark, so we closely followed Sergi to each chamber so we wouldn't get lost. However, on the way out, we turned off our torches and swam towards the light blue opening of the cave.Read more
Our final day of diving put us on the same boat with many of the same divers we dove with earlier in the week. Sergi asked Nico where he wanted to go and he quickly said "Blue, anything blue." We hadn't done the Blue Hole yet so it was our first stop and our final dive would be the Blue Corner.
The Blue Hole was similar to the Siaes Tunnel but had larger openings in the ceiling and provided more light. Sergi showed us disco clams (they have hair(?) that lights up blue) and nudibranches that called the overhang their home.
Once we were out of the hole, we continued along a steep wall that had so much action you didn't know where to look. There was an amazing amount of large schools of fish swimming just away from the wall, little fish that swam closer to the coral, and sharks that would appear and then fade out into the blue, reappearing moments later. It was incredible. At this point, our companion Jim ran low on air so he ascended with the second guide leaving us with just Sergi.
As we drifted along, we recognized the area as the Blue Corner where we had previously hooked in. That day's current was much calmer, allowing us to swim idly into it to stay in place so we could watch the underwater world at work. We saw schools of jacks / tuna so dense you couldn't see the blue behind. Sharks approached within arm's reach on multiple sides. We continued to drift along as we came upon two turtles and two huge schools of barracudas. The show of marine life in the blue simply didn't stop.
Once we reached the other side of the Blue Corner, Sergi instructed us to kick against the current. It was a bit tiring, but we eventually made it across the plateau where we could drift along again. Luckily, we checked our computers and noticed that we were close to going into deco (our computers are very conservative) and needed to start shallowing up. It was a long dive, almost 70 minutes with max depth of 90 feet, and easily the best dive of the trip and quite possibly ever. Sergi agreed that this was Blue Corner at its finest.
We took a quick lunch break and were right back at Blue Corner. This time the current was strong, really strong. We pulled ourselves down the mooring line and then kicked like hell to get past the wall. Brittany, diving with the big camera, kept getting stuck because of the reef hook and had to ascend to recollect herself before taking another path to the hook point. It was a battle to kick against the current and trying to find a safe place to grab onto. Midway through the struggle, dive guide Earle hooked her in, continuing on after much needed rest. They finally hooked in a few feet away. And boy, we were hooked in. Bubbles were drifting away horizontal and looking sideways would rip the goggles off your head. The fish, who were enjoying holding against the current, were out in full force with loads more sharks, barracuda, jacks, and more.
After unhooking, we were once again alone with Sergi. We drifted over the sand bottom plateau. I (Brittany) noticed Sergi being chased by an aggressive Titan triggerfish when accidentally swimming over its nest - a bit funny at first; the fish ended up biting his fins several times. Nico was right behind but was looking towards me, so he didn't see the triggerfish coming right for his head, twice, one of which he took out a dime-sized chunk. Nico turned to kick away, and a small cloud of blood, which looked green underwater, trailed after him. He was fine to keep diving, and the pressure appeared to stop the bleeding. We finished the dive, seeing an eel, Dori fish, and a turtle along the way. (Luckily no sharks were spotted for the remainder of the dive...)
Upon exiting, the other divers were already discussing the "real" Blue Corner - apparently it was a tough dive for all. Once they discovered that Nico had been assaulted by the triggerfish, they each had to take a picture of the wound.
Once back at the dive shop, Rico, the manager, took a look at the injury and asked Sergi to take us to the hospital. He needed stitches.
The hospital was quiet but it still ended up taking a long time. We were moved from (empty) waiting room to (empty) waiting room. He was finally called and questioned. We thought triggerfish injuries would have been a common thing they dealt with considering how aggressive they are but the nurses and doctors were all surprised/amused that a fish had done it.
2 stitches, a fancy haircut, new headwear (bandages), and $190 later, we were released. Sergi dropped us off at our hotel and we took the rest of the night easy.Read more
The trigger fish attack, although rather annoying, happened at the best possible time during the trip. With no more diving ahead of us, we welcomed the dry day to relax and spend some time out of the water.
We enjoyed lunch at a spot closer to town specializing in Italian food. The restaurant offered free pick up and drop off which was very convenient. Afterwards, we had the driver drop us off in town so we could look into a few shops and walk around.
We stopped to get massages at a place recommended by Lureen and Peggy. It had to be a good spot - Peggy got daily massages. We're not sure how they found it because you had to go between some buildings, up some stairs, then down some stairs to find the door.
The shop was nothing glamorous, but at $20 for an hour body massage, no complaints were made. Our hotel's "special" was $135 for the same. Granted it would be a little fancier, but probably not better.
After looking in a few shops (we rarely buy souvenirs) we walked back to the hotel, because no trip of ours would be complete without a long walk through the city we're visiting. It was hot. And sweaty. We had to buy ice cream midway to cool down.
We rounded out the afternoon by the beach and pool, reading our books.
Almost every person that we encountered and talked to mentioned the Taj. The Taj is an Indian restaurant in town - it also offers free pick up and drop off! Wouldn't it be nice to have that option back home? You wouldn't have to worry about parking and everyone could drink! Anyway, we heard the same thing from everyone, "Great food, kind of pricey." We figured since everyone mentioned it, we should at least give it a try and add it turns out, we'd say the same - great food, kind of pricey!Read more