If you’re a diver, chances are you have heard of Palau. It is another one of those obscure places we like to travel, which when you tell your land loving friends where you’re going always follows with “where’s that?” But for a diver, Palau is one of those dream, bucket list destinations. With hundreds of people venturing into the beautiful blue water every day, once you have dived there it is easy to see what all the hype is about.
With amazing coral formations, reef corners with currents attracting dozens of reef sharks, rays and schooling fish. Tunnels, holes, caves, caverns, WWII wrecks, channels that bring currents, plankton and MANTAS! It truly is a world class dive destination.
For 16 lucky Abyss divers, this was our end destination when we boarded our flight to Taipei on the 16th May 2016. After a 10 hour flight, a day and half in Taipei and another 4 hour flight we finally made it to Palau airport where we were met by the Siren fleet staff to transfer us to the luxury sail boat which would be our home for the next 7 days. The first words said to us when we got on the boat were “take off your shoes and give them to us, you won’t need them”, we knew this was going to be good!!
After an early night and a bit of a sleep in we were all up and keen for our first dive! We were given our brief on the site, broken into our dive groups and within 10 minutes we were floating above the dive site itching to get in. Everyone eagerly jumped off the side of the boat and all I could hear were excited “whoops” from everyone as they stuck their face in the crystal clear, warm water and caught their first glimpse of the amazing underwater scenery. Even though the first dive site was an easy ‘check out’ dive everyone still emerged after an hour with massive smiles, laughter and eagerness to get back in.
So began our daily ritual (one that would be familiar to anyone who has ever done a live-aboard trip) of eat, dive, sleep, repeat… Each dive site offered something unique, we were able to dive all the popular spots that you may have heard of; Blue Corner, German Channel, New Drop Off, the Blue Hole, Peleliu, etc and being on a live-aboard also gave us access to other dive sites that the day trip divers are unable to visit.
I wish I could recount every dive for you but I don’t have enough space! I will replay some of the highlights of the trip that are probably going to be burned into my memory forever.
German Channel, which is one of the most popular sites in Palau. Known for strong currents and at the right time of day, Manta action. We were so lucky, diving off the Siren boat meant we could avoid the crowds and most of the time and have dive sites that are normally packed with 60+ divers, all to ourselves. This particular dive, our first one at this site, we descended down, there was a little current which we kicked against, slowly making our way to the area that was known to bring in plankton and the things which feed on them…. After about 10 minutes of the dive we made our way up into the blue waiting, hoping. Then we could all hear a frantic ‘tap, tap, tap’ as the guides crazily pointed out to something I wouldn’t yet see. As we swam over to where he was pointing, out of the blue came a massive dark figure that was unmistakably what we were there for, a MANTA!!
Anyone who has been in the water with Manta rays can attest to just how amazing it is. They are huge, graceful and sometimes actually seem curious and almost playful. This particular manta, also joined by a few friends, hung with us for our entire dive, which given some of us were diving in Sidemount was well over 90 minutes. Flipping, turning, swimming through bubbles and giving what seemed like all 16 divers their own private show. It is hard to find words to describe just how awesome it was. We certainly ended that dive feeling elated and lucky that we got to have such an amazing encounter.
Another unforgettable experience was diving Blue Corner. A dive site known for its strong currents, fish and shark action but also its crowds. We dived it three times, virtually alone. Hooking in on the corner, just hanging, watching the world drift by is an amazing feeling. We had loads of sharks, schooling barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, large dogtooth tuna, jacks, just to name a handful. This was my longest dive of the trip, over 100 minutes, I just couldn’t drag myself away…
To sum it up, the trip was incredible, everything I had hoped for and more. I was lucky to be travelling with an amazing group of people who I now have lifelong memories with and hope to travel with again soon, next stop Mexico!!