Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Palau Day 9 - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today we went out diving with Mandy in search of the wreck of the Japanese Zero. We managed to find a boat captain that knew where the wreck was located. He had just been out to it within the last year, so we had him show us where it was located. Eric and I went down looking for the plane with Fabio, one of the instructors with Neco. Unfortunately, there was an extremely strong current and the visibility was horrible. We spent all of our time just trying to swim against the strong current and never could locate the plane.

Needless to say, by the time we surfaced and the boat picked us up we were exhausted. We definitely burned a few calories on that dive. After that we went and had lunch on Lee Marvin beach, which was the location for the 1968 film Hell in the Pacific staring Lee Marvin. We walked around on the beach and took a few pictures. It was very pretty.

After lunch we got back on the boat and headed to a salt water lake in the rock islands to do some snorkeling. We saw a baby cuttlefish and two or three little pipefish, but nothing really spectacular.

We then got back on the boat and headed to a spot called the Sand Pit to dive. Again, the visibility was really bad and we ended up not seeing anything. According to Mandy, she often finds many kinds of rays there as it is a nice sandy “bowl,” which is the perfect environment for them. Unfortunately, it just was not a good day for diving the east side.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Palau Day 8 - Monday, November 29, 2010

Today we were supposed to go out diving with Mandy but when we woke up it was pouring down rain and had been pouring most of the night too. So we ended up going out again with our dive group. We did three dives again—Ulong Channel, Sandy Paradise, and Siaes Corner.

Ulong Channel was nice again. There was not a huge amount of current, but just enough to push us along gently. It is a nice dive with lots of stuff to see, like the giant clam and the world's largest formation of lettuce leaf coral. We also saw a flat worm swimming. There were also a lot of trigger fish around.

The second dive was at Sandy Paradise or Coral Paradise—whatever the dive master decides to call it. We saw a giant school of bigeyes, a banded coral shrimp cleaning an eel, and a trigger fish trying to guard its nest.

On the third dive at Siaes Corner we saw a school of barracuda, an eel, and the usual tons of other fish and white tip and gray reef sharks. We are still waiting for the sharks to come in closer, though, for Eric to get a really good shark photo.

Tomorrow we are going to try going out diving with Mandy again. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and be nice and sunny.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Palau Day 7 - Sunday, November 28, 2010

I am beginning to sound like a broken record here. We had yet another great day of diving. We did three dives again today. First we did Virgin Blue Hole which is a hole that you drop down into and then swim out through a tunnel to the wall. This was great for silhouette shots.

The second dive was Blue Corner. This was kind of unplanned but because of the current and the lack of boats at that site our dive master decided it would be a good opportunity. There were not a lot of sharks (or at least as many as we had hoped for) and the current was not super strong, but this gave us an opportunity to kind of explore the entire Blue Corner area.

For our third dive we did New Drop Off. The current was going pretty good here and we saw a few sharks and the usual schools of tons of fish. It is just amazing the numbers of fish here. It is so unlike the Caribbean.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Palau Day 6 - Saturday, November 27, 2010

What can I say. Today was another amazing day of diving. We did three dives again today. First we did German Channel again. We saw an amazing all pink anemone. Then we saw a feather-tail ray. We did not think we were going to see any Mantas as there did not seem to be much activity. However, as we were swimming along we saw a very large grouper sitting on the sand at about 100 feet. We decided to go down and investigate. Shortly thereafter we saw a giant manta ray swimming towards us right behind the grouper. It was an amazing experience. It was just the five of us at about 100 feet in relatively clear water and the manta swam right towards us and glided gracefully over the top of us.

Our second dive was at Turtle Wall. We did see a turtle and it was a nice dive but we did not see anything truly out of the ordinary. There were still lots of fish, though, and I did get some footage of a giant puffer fish being cleaned.

On the boat ride over to our third dive site today, Blue Corner, we saw a pod of dolphins and our boat driver Ray took us right up to them. The current was going pretty good here again today and we cruised along the wall and then sat at the edge for a while waiting for the sharks to come in closer. A few sharks came a little closer today, but still not close enough to suit us. After we left the edge of the wall we saw a baby spotted eagle ray and a large school of barracuda. We ended up going from the outgoing side to the incoming side of Blue Corner in one dive, which is pretty amazing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Palau Day 5 - Friday, November 26, 2010

Today we only did two dives. We only had six people on the boat, so it was a nice small group. We dove Ulong Channel and Coral Paradise again. We had told our dive master that we wanted to do Coral Paradise again when it was sunny since the first time we dove there it was cloudy and rainy. We started out our day today again with heavy rains and dark clouds. We did our first dive at Ulong channel and then did our 1 hour 20 minute surface interval and waited to see what the weather was going to do next. It was partly sunny so we decided to go ahead and dive at Coral Paradise. Part way through the dive the sun decided to come out and by the time we were done diving it was gorgeous at the surface to.

Both dives were really nice. There was not much current on the first dive, which was actually quite nice. We drifted Ulong Channel and were able to enjoy all sorts of fish and critters and were able to see the world's largest formation of lettuce leaf coral. It was unbelievable and of course filled with fish. Coral Paradise was nice again as well. Lots and lots of fish, a school of barracudas and indescribable amounts of coral.

When we surfaced from our dive at Coral Paradise the weather had cleared nicely and we started our journey back. The water color there was just amazing. As we were headed back Eric went up to the bow of the boat to take some video footage and as we were going along we spotted and eagle ray in the water in front of the boat, so our boat captain turned the boat around and we followed the eagle ray for quite a while and Eric got some cool footage.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Palau Day 4 - Thursday, November 25, 2010

We did three dives again today. We actually got an early start and headed out to German Channel to see if we could hit the tide right in order to see the mantas. Our dive master gave it a 10% chance, but we hit pay dirt and saw at least four or five mantas. The current was really ripping there, though. When I got in the water I was swimming as hard as I could and I was not going anywhere, but I finally made it down to the bottom. It was well worth the swim against the strong current.

Our second dive was at New Drop Off. There was also a pretty good current here and we saw lots of sharks and tons of fish. It is like swimming in an aquarium. We ended that dive by swimming out into open water to where there just happened to be a large school of barracuda.

Our last dive was at the famous Blue Corner. Again, there was a ripping current here also. At New Drop Off and at Blue Corner we used our reef hooks to hook ourselves into the reef and then you float above the wall like a balloon while watching the sharks and fish swim all around you. It is unbelievable how strong the current is there. It is so strong you can barely stay in one place if you swim as hard as you can. Because of the strong current there, though, there are millions of fish of all different types, sharks, schools of barracuda, schools of jacks, schools of just about everything you could imagine. It is just amazing.

Eric got some really good photos today. Unfortunately, we did not realize until we got back to our room today that all the video I shot today was somewhat zoomed in—which basically causes it to have a blurry halo around the entire shot. In other words, all of my amazing video today was pretty much trash. This is the first trip with this new housing for my camera and it requires about five different steps to get everything ready and white balance it before I can begin shooting footage. Unfortunately, I forgot to unzoom after I had white balanced. So I guess I probably won't do that again (hopefully). Luckily we have quite a few days left of diving, so I am hopeful I will get some more good manta and shark video.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Palau Day 3 - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today the weather was much nicer. We had a heavy rain at about 8 a.m., just before we left for the day and then the rest of the day was perfect weather. We did three dives again and all three were awesome. We saw turtles galore today. Our dive master said that is the most turtles he has ever seen in one day. Every dive site we went to we saw at least two turtles. Again, I got some really good footage of all different kinds of fish and of course the turtles. The coral here is just amazing. The colors are unbelievable.

Tomorrow we are heading out a little earlier than normal to try and catch the current/tide at the right time at German channel to try and see the mantas feeding. The moon/tide/current all have to be right to catch them in action. So hopefully we will get lucky.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Palau Day 2 - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today we did three dives. The first dive was at the Tunnel. The second one was at an unmarked dive site discovered by Mandy that one of our dive masters claimed has the nicest coral within about a 2-hour radius of Palau and he was right. The coral there was amazing. The colors of the soft and hard corals here are unbelievable. There are many more fish here than what we are used to seeing in the Caribbean and sharks everywhere you look.

Our third dive today was at Ulong Channel near Ulong Island (where Survivor Palau was filmed). The current has to be going just right to dive this site and it happened to be working in our favor today. The visibility was absolutely amazing. You could sit on the side of the boat and look over and see all the way to the bottom. We saw many sharks on this dive and I got some good video of one that swam right in front of me. They are so graceful—it is amazing.

The weather here has been kind of strange (supposedly because of the full moon). It is off and on rainy and then sunny. Today we had rain much of the day while we were out on the boat, but it does not really matter when you are already wet. It actually felt nice, though, to get into the water to get warmed up. Dive-wise it was an amazing first day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Palau Day 1 - Monday, November 22, 2010

Today was our first full day in Palau. We arrived late Sunday night after our approximately 20 hour trip to get here. We decided not to dive today in an attempt to recovery from our long trek to get here. However, Mandy invited us to go out snorkeling with her this afternoon and of course we jumped at the chance to get in the water. It was truly amazing. We saw at least eight big manta rays and three or four gray reef sharks and more fish that we have probably seen in all of the caribbean. It was wonderful way to spend the afternoon.