Monday, February 27, 2012

Palau At Its Best

Aaaaand there's more. Because that's just how Palau is. In addition to its world class dive sites, Palau is also home to a unique species of jellyfish that live in a lake closed off to other sea life by the surrounding rock islands. Over the years, these jellies in famed Jellyfish Lake have lost their need and ability to sting. Which means, you can swim with them and even touch them. During our 20-minute stay in the lake, we learned that there are about 9 million of these jellyfish in this one lake, which is pretty unbelievable. Every day these jellyfish move from one side of the lake to the other, following the sun, making it the largest daily migration of any animal on earth.

Our first dive on our third day was my favorite of the 11 we did over the four days of diving. We started off at a dive site called Fairyland, named for its fanciful and vibrant corals that make you question if you have managed to dive straight out of reality. The water was so crystal clear, and there was so much to see! I think we saw a turtle in the first 60 seconds under water. Here are some of the things we saw:

Fairyland ended when a huge cliff emerged. We watched a couple of spotted eagle rays flutter around for a few minutes. Then the current picked up and took us on a crazy ride to a dive site called New Drop Off, which was our first experience on one of the many shark highways we witnessed. Sharks must constantly be moving forward for their entire lives in order to filter water through their gills and breathe. If they stop moving, they suffocate. The sharks have figured out that if they hang out in these high current areas, they can circle from one quick current back around to the next all day and conserve a ton of energy. At night they leave the convenience of the current rings and go out into the deep to hunt. But because Palau has these unique dropoffs that crash together at various points, it creates pockets where you are guaranteed to see a bunch of sharks. I had to choose between about 8 shark photos from this one dive. Oh, and there were a ton of fish. We could have hung out there forever!

Butterfly fish confetti

After an awesome day of diving, we got back to the dock at the dive shop and... went diving! We'd heard rumors that there was a surprising amount of things to see diving just below the pier where all the dive boats were moored. We strapped our tanks back on and jumped in to find this:

Absolutely gorgeous mandarin fish... it's mating season, so these things, which are usually hard to find hiding behind cracks in the rock, were all over the place.

A pipe fish... from the same family as the seahorse

With all we had seen and done so far, it was pretty incredible that our last day of diving was the most spectacular. That morning we set off on a very different kind of dive... to Chandelier Cave. 

 This was my first legit cave dive and it was pretty spectacular... there were four caverns to surface in. I'm not sure which had more amazing views... under water or above it.

 We swam out with our dive lights turned off, so we could see how giant the cave was... over 300m long swim and around 100 ft. deep in places. Pretty awesome experience!

 Our next dive was our first glimpse at Palau's most famous dive, Blue Corner, which I described a bit in my first Palau post. We actually did this dive twice from two different directions of the corner. Here are a couple more pictures:
On our last day, we approached Blue Corner from the Blue Holes, a series of four caverns 100+ ft deep
Found a disco clam on the walls of the Blue Holes
 Then onto Blue Corner, where, once again, it was fish and sharks everywhere!
 Oriental sweet lips
This Napoleon Wrasse was massive... and surprisingly very friendly. He hung out with our group for a while, just checking everyone out. Such a funny face. I can just imagine him saying, "Hey, guys..."

Much as we may have liked to, we couldn't stay in Palau diving forever. There had to be a last dive. For us, it was German Channel, another famous spot, known for the possibility of seeing the giant manta rays. We weren't guaranteed to, though, so I didn't get my hopes up. In fact, I was pretty content after we got to sneak up on this spotted eagle ray in the first 5 minutes of our dive.

So you can imagine our excitement when a few minutes later, a couple of manta made their way toward us! Yessss!
 We got to follow one of them down to what's called a "cleaning station," where other fish approach and eat the debris off the manta's underside. The manta circles around for a few minutes like a plane in a holding pattern. We were about 20 ft. away from this guy. Such an awesome beast to watch!
Under water shower
 The rest of the dive was great too... a fantastic current pulling us through the channel, plus lots of fish and plenty more sharks. Oh, and more manta. We ended up seeing EIGHT of them on our dive! We had to hand it to our awesome dive guide for setting us up for success on our last dive. He knew the tides and the currents and conditions that would be just right for spotting them. And he was spot on. If you ever head to Palau, head to Sam's Tours and ask for Kostas to be your guide. You will not be disappointed!

 Due to the dive rule that you cannot fly within 24 hours of diving, we spent our last day in Palau kayaking through the rock islands.
 We got to snorkel some of the clearest water I have ever seen. Check this out:
So clear!! Snorkeling here reminded me of when I got Lasik and could see everything perfectly all of a sudden :)
One last underwater creature shot... electric blue clam. 

And that's it! An incredible trip to Palau... memories that will last a lifetime... a honeymoon and vacation at its best. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and stories as much as I enjoyed sharing them. And if you ever get a chance to pass through this little paradise, don't think twice about it. There's nowhere quite like it anywhere else on earth. Lucky us to get to experience it together!


  1. You pretty much hit all the awesome spots, they sure are amazing! I'd say German Channel was probably the coolest given the mantas who swim so stinkin' close to you. Their sheer size is flat out amazing. I feel like I got to relive my trip through your photos! Oh and btw, happy birthday!!

  2. First of all- you guys like so cute! Second, I LOVE living vicariously through your posts. I am kicking myself for not going to Palau while living out there but am going to take your advice to come back out :) Also, your clam pictures are amazing. I love all of the beauty you captured!

  3. Hey guys! great pictures! takes me back to Palau and how awesome it was! Hope Guam is treating you well. Keep in touch!

    1. Yay!! I am so glad you found us Lily! I will find you when I get back on Facebook next month. SUCH an awesome place!

    2. God knew you were to be a pisces!!! SMTC xoxo


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