Dive Log: Palau 2012

Posted: Jun 21, 2012

We had always wanted to go on one of Maui Dreams' famous dive trips. This May, the stars finally aligned, and we were able to join the group on their recent trip to Palau. We didn't know much about Palau beforehand, other than the fact that it's one of the "must do's" for divers, and that a couple of seasons of Survivor were filmed there.

Scott and Christine in Palau

Note from Maui Dreams: This blog is the first in a series of articles submitted by fellow travelers from this year's Yap and Palau trip. We appreciate the submissions and points of view shared and hope you'll take a moment to leave a comment at the end of the blog. Enjoy!

We are very happy to report that Palau did not disappoint.

The natural beauty of Palau is breath-taking, and to call the diving unbelievably amazing is an understatement. But what we remember most about the trip is how much we grew as divers.

Jellyfish Lake Palau

Within the first few minutes of our first dive in Palau we experienced a bad air situation which led to an emergency recall. We thought we tasted something strange as the dive began, but somehow we had convinced ourselves that there must've been something in our mouthpieces. Rachel and Don realized there was something wrong with the air and headed back to the boat. Since we were such a large group, most of us didn't notice their absence. But before we knew it, we heard a boat above us revving its engine. At that point we realized we were being recalled, and we all surfaced. Turned out all of the air on the boat was bad, so there was no more diving to be done that day. But we managed to turn our lemons into lemonade: since we couldn't do any more diving that day, we went to Palau's famous Jellyfish Lake and enjoyed an afternoon of fantastic snorkeling.

The next morning, armed with fresh clean air, we set off for a second day of diving. This time it was to the world famous Blue Holes and Blue Corner. For the first dive, we dropped into Blue Holes then drifted to Blue Corner. During our briefing,our guides specifically said there was no need to bring our dive hooks because this was purely a drift dive, and we wouldn't be hooking in. So off we went. Well, at one point half our group became separated from the other half, and our guide asked those of us towards the front of the group to deploy our reef hooks and wait so that the rest of the groups could catch up. Umm…excuse me?!? You told us not to bring our hooks! So we ended up literally clinging to the reef with our bare hands, hanging on for dear life against a ripping current, running low on air and praying the rest of the group would catch up soon. (By the way, we have since been told never to dive in Palau without hooks.)

Hooked In Palau

Sadly, the second dive was no better. We were supposed to go right to Blue Corner, and this time we knew to bring our hooks. Unfortunately, we never got the chance. For some reason our guide brought us to a spot down current from Blue Corner, and we burned through all our air swimming against the current. By the time we got to the drop off at Blue Corner we all had to surface, exhausted and frustrated. Epic fail #2 for the day. Thankfully our guides made it up to us by taking us to New Drop Off where we finally got to use our reef hooks. We saw countless sharks, more fish than we've ever seen before, and unbelievable underwater scenery. It's amazing how one great dive can wipe away the memories of two not-so-great dives.

The third day of diving continued the string of great dives. The first dive was to a wreck called the Iro, a fleet oiler for the Japanese Navy sunk by the Americans during WWII. We actually swam through the torpedo hole! Dives 2 and 3 for the day were hands down everyone's favorites. Ulong Channel, baby! This site literally had it all. Sharks, sharks, and more sharks, great currents for hooking in and even better for drifting, groupers galore, hawksbill and green sea turtles, lionfish, a stingray, and more gorgeous scenery. This dive was so nice we did it twice! And yes, it was just as spectacular the 2nd time around.

Palauan Shark

Day 4 began with the usual boat trip through Palau's picturesque Rock Islands. Our guides informed us that we would be diving Peleliu Express. That name sounded familiar to us, but we weren't sure why. Suddenly we had a flashback to a conversation we overheard the night before. One of the folks in our group was talking about a dive site that was so dangerous that more divers were lost at this site than anywhere else in Palau. Holy cow! She was talking about Peleliu Express! We soon confirmed that Peleliu Express' reputation is well earned. The currents were fast. But the most challenging part was the down current. For those of you who are down current virgins (like we were) it is no joke. The scary part about the down current is that it's got you before you even know it. We had it easy. It only took us from 53 ft to 84 ft in the blink of an eye. One of our dive buddies actually got pulled down to more than 110 ft. We're pretty sure he could see Davy Jones' locker from there. Thankfully, we all came back in one piece, and we had some great stories to share. The second dive of the day was another awesome site called Yellow Wall where we saw sharks, sharks, and more sharks, and still more beautiful scenery. And did we mention the sharks?

tons of fish in PalauAs the week drew to a close, Palau still had some great experiences to share with us. The last day of diving had us going back to Blue Corner where we bid a fond farewell to the sharks. The second dive was at German Channel where we dove with mantas and bait balls. The last dive of the trip was to Chandelier Cave with its surreal stalactites and stalagmites. And lastly, we capped off the day by spending time with the elusive yet beautiful Mandarinfish near the mouth of Chandelier Cave.

Lost in PalauSo, is Palau all it's cracked up to be? In a word: yes. Is it one of the most beautiful places in the world? Absolutely. Was it the most challenging diving we've ever done? You better believe it. Would we do it all over again? Heck yes! In that one phenomenal week we got to spend time with great friends, make some new ones, and feast our eyes on natural beauty the likes of which we'd never seen before. But most of all, we experienced tremendous growth as divers. 5 days, 12 dives, bad air, emergency recall, ripping current, reef hooks, dozens of sharks, beautiful walls, wrecks, down currents, and one of the greatest experiences ever!

Aloha, Christine and Scott Hartley

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June 28, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

"Great Palau recap! I love your comment about "I bet they could see Davy Jones' locker from there.” Palau is such an amazing destination. It's got it all: beauty, excitement and really nice people. You are lucky to be five hours closer to it than we are here on the mainland! Here's my 'lil Palau recap video. wish I could be there again right now. * sigh * <a href=""Great Palau recap! I love your comment about "I bet they could see Davy Jones' locker from there.” Palau is such an amazing destination. It's got it all: beauty, excitement and really nice people. You are lucky to be five hours closer to it than we are here on the mainland! Here's my 'lil Palau recap video. wish I could be there again right now. * sigh * <a href="" target="_blank">Palau Trip video</a>

Rachel Domingo
June 22, 2012 @ 12:04 am

Scott & Christine, you know how thrilled we were when the moon and the stars finally aligned :-). thanks for sharing your experiences. Aloha, Rachel

Teri Leonard
June 21, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

Aloha Christine & Scott, Your story is terrific! These fabulous dive trips bring us not only great diving, but the adventures and friendship experiences surrounding the dives are what makes them oh so memorable:) Teri