Exploring Palau – Trip Report June 2019

This June, Jay went to Palau to do some scouting for our upcoming Ninja New Years Palau Trip. Sharks, mantas, wrecks, macro, & so much more! Here’s his trip report! And make sure to scroll down to the bottom for a special secret surprise announcement for Ninja New Years Palau! 

Just the mention of Palau brings a smile to even the most seasoned divers. Look up any list of ‘Top dive sites in the world’ and you are sure to find Palau listed in it multiple times, with at least one of its world famous dive sites consistently ranked in the top 5 dives in the world. It’s a land famed for creating the first shark sanctuary on earth. But this isn’t just a shark diving mecca. The diversity of these tiny islands is remarkable. Hook in to a reef wall while schools of sharks dance in the current, or drift through gorgeous coral covered channels, or drop into one of the numerous blue holes reminiscent of ocean cenotes, snorkel amongst thousands of jellyfish who have evolved to not sting in one of the most unique dives on earth, explore historic World War II wrecks encrusted in hard corals, and even get out your torch and search coral filled gardens for incredible macro life. I was recently invited to go scout this little piece of heaven aboard the Siren liveaboard, and it did not disappoint! Here’s my trip report. And spoiler alert – I’m already counting down the days until we return for New Years in December!

Scuba Diving in Palau with Dive Ninja Expeditions on the Palau Siren liveaboard - June 2019
Scuba diving in Palau's Rock Islands

Palau is an island nation made up of over 500 tiny islands located in the Micronesia area of the Pacific Ocean. Above water it is an exotic paradise filled with mushroom shaped limestone islands covered in dense jungle that look like they are floating on neon turquoise waters. These uninhabited islands are collectively known as the Rock Islands. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to cruise through them on our way from the Siren to the dive sites every dive. It made me feel like I was in some exotic version of Indiana Jones searching for lost jewels and forgotten civilizations. The skiff rides were always packed with surprises – we saw pods of dolphins, different species of sharks, turtles, and we hadn’t even gotten into the water yet. 

Underwater has to have some of the most diverse variety of diving I’ve seen in any location. I could honestly write a 20 part article series just on the different dive sites we visited every day. There are incredible point dives, such as Blue Corner, where you just hook in and watch numerous grey reef and white tip sharks ride the currents around you. And of course we can’t forget the famous (and huge!) photobombing Napoleon Wrasse that also call these areas home. With names like Al and Sausage you can imagine the fun they are to dive with. They hop from one diver to the next to say hello…or just purposely photobombing your shark pics. 

Mantas & Sharks at German Channel

Then there are the channel dives. Imagine dropping onto a wall and cruising along it as the current begins to pick up drawing you into a beautiful coral filled canyon. Sharks and colorful reef fish wiz by. Giant clams almost the size of a human make for an awesome quick stop before continuing down these hard coral covered channels before dropping you off into a shallow coral garden teeming with color and life. These channels are ancient remnants of rivers and lakes that have been filled by the rising ocean. One of the most famous channels here is German Channel. This man made channel isn’t really dived like a traditional channel, but instead we hang out at its entry where we have 2 cleaning stations. These cleaning stations are famous for manta and shark visits. We seen numerous mantas as they came in like underwater airplanes taking turns to hover over the cleaning station. Then once the mantas would leave the sharks would join in. They would turn somewhat vertical in the water and hover with their mouth wide open allowing the reefs dentists to do their work.  

 

Scuba Diving in Palau with Dive Ninja Expeditions on the Palau Siren liveaboard - June 2019
A shark nursery with hundreds of pups in Palau

Coral Walls & A Shark Nursery!

The wall dives are gorgeous and completely covered in hard and soft coral. They make it difficult for a photo lover like me because you have a wealth of both macro and wide angle to shoot. Before every dive I was in a constant loop of ‘hmm do I shoot wide angle or switch to my macro lens…’ and I’m pretty sure the cruise director, Sebastian, was ready to strangle me by the end of the week from asking him so many questions! But he was always extremely helpful and filled with insight.  On the walls we spotted lots of turtles, white tip sharks, schools of barracuda & jacks, bumphead parrotfish, grey reef sharks and so much more. But my favorite highlight of the week was when we found a grey reef shark nursery. Cruising below us over the white sand were over a hundred tiny shark pups with one large adult keeping watch. 

Another highlight came on a dive at one of the most southern points in the itinerary – the Express. As you can probably guess, this site gets its name from the high speed currents that run through it. It’s an area known for big pelagics as well as bull sharks and more. But this day we hit the Express and it was in warp drive! The dive guides made the wise decision that it was unsafe to hook in and called the dive (we blew across the entire site in about 7 minutes). But as we made our way up into the blue to safety stop depth we were greeted by 2 incredible encounters – first a huge sailfish circling our group and then followed by a big oceanic black tip coming to see what all the commotion was about. Even ending a dive short in Palau was incredible! 

Magnificent Blue Holes 

Another one of my favorite highlights of the trip were diving in the beautiful blue holes found around the islands. These reminded me of the famed cenotes you find in Mexico but with a cooler twist. We’d drop in to shallow water and make our way down into the big holes mesmerized by the light rays bouncing off the cave walls. But then as you approach the bottom it begins to get dark until your eyes adjust and you see a giant blue window leading out. As you cross through these huge windows the floor drops from below you displaying a gorgeous wall covered in corals and life. Back inside the blue hole, you can find all sorts of awesome little macro critters like nudibranchs, shrimps, and electric clams as well as schools of jacks. 

 

 

diving the blue hole in Palau onboard the Palau Siren Liveaboard with Dive Ninja Expeditions
wreck diving in Palau onboard the Palau Siren with Dive Ninja Expeditions