Sunday, May 22, 2011

Diving in Palau May 8, 2011

Ripping currents, loads of fish including manta rays, turtles, sharks, Napoleon wrasse, tuna, barracudas, jacks and other large fish, provided continuous entertainment on most of the 25 dives that we did that week, aboard the Palau Aggressor.  The topside islands, true to their reputation, are one of the most beautiful sites on earth.  They look like someone dropped dark green dumplings in a perfectly clear and still blue ocean.  We saw literally hundreds of small-uninhabited picture perfect islands that pock mark the Philippine Sea. 

Gwen and I spent the week of May 8th doing up to 5 dives per day, on a very well run live-a-board.  The Palau Aggressor is a catamaran that is very stable as well as spacious.  The crew was top notch and ran the boat without any hitches.  The chef was from NYC and did an excellent job in continuing to surprise us with amazing food at each meal. 

The diving was very good, maybe not the very best that I have done, but very good nonetheless.  The most exciting dives of the week were usually the channel dives where there was a ripping current that attracted the large pelagics.  We would typically swim as a group to the staging area where we would hook into the reef with the supplied reef hooks and wait for the action to start.  A few times we got skunked, but more often than not, we had a great show!  Due to the ever changing currents and the fact that we were typically drift diving, the entire boat usually dived as one large group or two smaller groups.  If I had any one complaint, it would be that diving as a large 16-person group can get a little tedious, however the advantage of diving from a live-a-board far outweighs the problems with a crowd.  Although most of the sites would have been easily accessible from one of the numerous day boats that ply their trade in the area, the advantage of the live-a-board is that you don’t spend long trips on small boats all day long. 

Blue Corner, Big Drop Off, Peleliu Corner, and German Channel were some of the best sites of the week, with the most action! 

We also did a 3-hour land tour in Peleliu, which was fascinating!  We saw lots of WWII relics including a Japanese and American tank, as well as Japanese gun placements.  We saw Orange Beach where 3000 US servicemen lost their lives trying to make their way to shore.  The Japanese were entrenched in over 600 caves on the island, and what was supposed to be a quick 3-day process to secure the island, ended up taking 78 days and was one of the bloodiest battles of the war.  A very sobering site and one that I will not forget soon! 

Gwen and I shared the boat with 14 other divers who were all Russians from Moscow.  This was an experience in and of itself!  The Russian divers were a hardy bunch, but also in typical Russian fashion spent much of each night drinking vodka and Jack Daniels and smoking cigars!  Probably not an ideal combination for diving, but they seemed to have amazing stamina! 

Diving in Palau is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  Unique and beautiful scenery both above and below the water!