Koror, Palau, Micronesia – 6th to 18th June 2017
The Republic of Palau is Micronesia’s western most archipelago in the Caroline Islands chain. The tightly clustered Palau archipelago, consists of eight principal islands and more than 250 smaller ones covering an area of 459 square kilometres. Palau is the home to one of the world’s unique phenomena, the Rock Islands. The Rock Islands are Palau’s crowning glory. More than 200 of these jungle-topped knobs of limestone dot the waters for a 20 mile (35km) stretch south of Koror. Their bases, having been worn away by tidal action and grazing sea creatures, are narrower than their tops, causing them to look like emerald-hued mushrooms rising from the turquoise sea. Palau has three ocean currents converging in its waters to bring in some of the most varied and dazzling marine life in the world. Palau is also blessed with a rich diversity of plants & birdlife. Soft sand beaches, tropical rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and hidden lakes offer a splendid backdrop to Palau’s fascinating geological formations, significant archaeological sites and world renown underwater wonders. Many visitors to Palau arrive on United Airlines by way of daily scheduled flights from Guam (the gateway to Micronesia). United airlines also have connections from Manila, via Guam to Palau.
Something we had opted into prior to arriving was the famous ‘Blue Corner Specialty Course’. Today was our day for this training to occur. Our instructor Daniel led us through the details and special ecosystem that has been created by the water flow here, and the specifics of diving here safely to our best enjoyment. We then conducted two reef hooking dives on Blue Corner under his supervision. Two fantastic dives in great conditions, and we completed the requirements for our new, very special certification – Blue Corner Diver! While hooked and spent time relaxing against the pull of the current, watching sharks come in much closer for a look of us while we were not in forward motion.
Our last day underwater started off with a return to German Channel, with no current and clear water. Some of the most amazing ‘fields’ of amazingly health, unbroken branching coral that seemed to stretch forever, interspersed with massive coral heads. German Channel was originally created during the German occupation of Palau, while Guano mining was mined in the southern islands. To bring it to town they blasted a channel through the reef. Many moons later the channel is packed with life. Rays on the sand and a cruising mantaray!
Our last boat dive, New Drop-Off is where two reef walls meet, and this one was a wild ride. Jeremy did warn us there was likely to be a section with water pouring off the reef, creating a down-current while we were drifting along in the current on the wall. We spotted this occurrence ahead of us, and despite our natural instinct, we followed Jeremys instructions and came out the other side of the swirling ‘washing machine’ with our feathers ruffled, but unscathed. A few shocked expressions behind masks though!! We spent a long time in the shallows at the end of this dive, knowing our boat dives were coming to a close this day, hanging out with very chilled turtles, moral eels and anthias.
Our last dive was in Chandelier Cave. A much anticipated dive, it was also our ‘ dress-up dive’ with Lynn choosing the theme of this trip – Tutu divers! A few divers hadn’t bought along a costume, but were keen to join in, so the previous night I had been searching the shops on Koro strip to find anything. Success came with some kiddie halloween options, finding a couple of tutu’s (that needed slight adjustment ???? and insect wings! Chandelier Cave entrance is quite close to Sams, chambers are air filled spaces, with stalagmites and stalagtites showing evidence of being a dry cave when the sea level was much lower. The dive involves repeated ascents and descents, so to take care of equalising, it is usually done at the end of a trip. Its quite hard to describe exactly how awesome this dive is. Moving through 5 chambers, the water gets gradually more chilly and more fresh, plus the last chamber is 100 % darkness, where the others do have some light coming from the blue entrance. It is not a tight wiggle scary cave. Large and roomy enough for or group of 7 easily. It is well worth the dive.
Kayaking Long Lake
While David headed off to another day of diving, the rest of us took up paddles for a day Kayaking and snorkelling with our Guide Fonzie and Skipper Damien. We had all of the kayaks loaded onto the boat and headed out to start our kayak through the lake with mangroves and rainforest to explore. I think Fonzie was a bit surprised at our efforts to help pick up any items of plastic we found… We went quite far afield if we spotted something… Fonzie was excellent with explanations about the history of the area, creatures and critters, along with many bird calls and sightings. The most exciting moment was snorkelling through Einsteins Coral Gardens (a mass of brain corals in the outwash from a limestone tunnel) up to the Entrance to the ‘Tunnels of Doom’. we also stopped by Secret lake – the tide was low enough that we didn’t need to to duck dive though the entrance – simply snorkelling straight in. Brightly coloured coral species, mushroom Corals and juvenile fish ring the outside edge, with the centre dropping down to slightly cooler temperatures. Up in the far reaches, forest closes overhead – in the shade the shrimp-gobie relationship is spotted everywhere, only 60cm from your mask in the shallow sands. Upon our return journey, we stopped late in the afternoon at ‘The Milky Way’. Due to the time of day and it being the quiet season, we didn’t need to jockey for position, indeed only another 2 boats were in the area. We slathered on the white whiffy mud that apparently has amazing rejuvenating properties. I think with sunburn it doesn’t work the best!!
Time to depart for home and I raced around getting a framed picture of one of my turtle shots made and signed by the team to present to Jeremy, mainly for his amusing reaction to our ‘TURTLE!’ habits. Lunch at the Bottom Time Grill and a farewell cider, hugs to the Sams Tours team, and the last logbook stamps, along with some shirts & souvenirs. Palasia organised our transit to the airport where we began our journey home. This time around, there was a short time between flights, that in fact due to a storm delaying our first flight, had us trotting through the terminal with a China Air staff member to our connection… to find out that connection had also been delayed by the same storm!! All aboard and we caught some sleep, reliving our amazing escapades as we flew home to Brisbane.
Thanks again to all who came along, and all the Sams Tours & Palasia who helped make it such a great trip.
Erin, Izzy & James
Our awesome team at Sams:
Jeremy, Sharon, Daniel & Damien & Fonzie!
The fantastic drivers who were so patient with us diving the wall every afternoon/night, and waiting for us to finish before driving us back to the Palasia – Edwin, Swell & John
Of course all the crew behind the scenes who make it possible!