In March we boarded Aggressor’s Tropic Dancer  for ten days of wonderful and diverse diving.  Palau has it all!  Under the expert direction of Captain Ike and his fantastic Tropic Dancer crew, we saw it all!

Mike & Mike’s Jim Church School of Underwater Photography put together a comprehensive ten day dive trip to Palau – located on the western edge of Micronesia. The incredible variety of dive sites range from seeing WW II wrecks, large sharks and mantas, coral walls and reefs, macro critters, outstanding fish diversity, and drift dives.

It was exciting to dive all the well-known dive sites such as Blue Corner, Blue Holes, Jellyfish Lake, Ulong Channel, and German Channel.  I had never used a reef hook before, but hooking in at Blue Corner felt like I was parasailing.  With just a slight inflation of the BC, you could just watch and photograph some of the big critters such as sharks, tuna, mantas, and large barracudas cruising back and forth in the deep current filled channels.  Once you unhook after watching the show, you can move on to the plateau area and visit with the very friendly resident napoleon wrasses.  These napoleon wrasses were huge, very photogenic, and not at all shy.

From the concealed and elusive to the downright bizarre and weird, you can find the colorful mandarinfish as well as the spiny devilfish on a dusk/night dive outside Chandelier Caves,  mandarinfish and spiny devilfish Mandarinfish have one of the most unique and beautiful coloration patterns of all ocean reef fish.  They are extremely shy and emerge from their coral rubble just before sunset to display courtship behavior. Mandarinfish only grow to a length of one to two inches.  On the other hand, the spiny devilfish comes out at night to feed.  It literally crawls along the sandy bottom with “legs” – a most unusual fish!

During the months of February and March, huge schools of Moorish idols engage in spawning aggregations of schooling Moorish idols. We saw this huge school as we emerged from the Blue Hole.  On just about every dive, very active and healthy sea turtles roamed and swam freely in the Palauan waters along with schools of jacks, snappers, butterfly fish, and angelfish.  Huge tridacna giant clams were abundant as well as tiny critters for macro hunting,  such as gobies on whip coral And cleaning stations were everywhere.

Drift diving along the Ulong Channel was a treat.  We had the chance to dive both directions during the trip. It was a very easy and fun drift dive. Along the channel are beautiful coral formations, an abundance and variety of fish life, turtles, and a massive formation of lettuce coral.

Throughout the many dive sites in Palau, colorful anemones with a variety of vibrant anemonefish dotted the reefs.  Many of the anemone fish were guarding recently laid eggs. Anemonefish live with their host anemone in a very close symbiotic relationship and will guard and protect the anemone that they call home.

A trip to Palau would not be complete if you miss snorkeling Jellyfish Lake.   Located off Koror, this lake is a saltwater lake and only snorkeling is permitted.  The lake is filled with millions of golden jellyfish that probably became trapped there thousands of years ago.  They have lost their ability to sting, but at first entry into the lake, it is a bit overwhelming to snorkel among these golden jellyfish.

Palau has significant World War II history and sights. Some of the underwater dives include the Aichi E 13A (Jake Sea Plane).  It was a long range Japanese reconnaissance plane that flew from 1941 – 1945.  2 pics of Jake E The “Helmet Wreck”, Iro Maru, and the Teshio Maru have many WW II artifacts and interesting structures.  The island of Peleliu was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific Theater.  It is well worth the time to take a land tour and see some of the sobering sights that took place on and around Orange and White Beach – 12,000 American and Japanese lives were lost at Peleliu.

Check out more descriptions and details of the dive sites in Palau on the Aggressor website. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every site and appreciated the variety and diversity of all of the dives.  Just about every dive site gives the opportunity for both wide-angle as well as macro photography.  While you are on Aggressor’s website, go to “special and unique charters”  and look at the great trips that Mike Haber and Mike Mesgleski offer – you will not be disappointed in what you will learn and accomplish in their photography and video instruction.


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