Bluewater Travel's Palau Siren raffle winner

Bluewater Travel's Palau Siren raffle winner

DIVE TRIP ON THE PALAU SIREN

by Bluewater Travel's raffle winner

Katy Galli

 

The big, bright blue waters of the Pacific have always been on the forefront of my mind of places I have always wanted to go, but never in a million years thought I would have the opportunity to see. Then, like magic, I signed up for a newsletter with Blue Water Travel and my dreams finally became a reality. So I've decided to start this trip blog on my first journey to Pacific waters, at the echelon of diving—Palau, with the ending, first: it was my most memorable, jaw-dropping, magical, unequivocally spectacular, challenging dive trip to date. Not much else can compare to epic Palau, and never before have I seen such a vast amount of beauty in one place.

 

 

Growing up in Florida, I have been lucky enough to maintain most of my diving in tropical waters, easy going and warm, seeing mostly groupers and turtles. Nothing could have prepared me for an underwater storm of mating fish, walls that were seemingly endless with an unmatched bounty of pristine coral growth, sharks and more sharks…Palau is certifiably insane. I would never have had the opportunity to travel here if it wasn't for dumb luck and the amazing people at Blue Water Travel; I won their newsletter raffle for a seven day trip aboard the Palau Siren!! Although, try not to hate on me too much, like I said, seeing Palau was something I never thought would happen in my lifetime. And while I was at it, I signed up for the bumped parrotfish spawning with Unique Dive Expeditions, not really understanding what all that would entail, (which I'll talk about later).

 

 

After three looooong flights totaling 23 hours, (not including layovers, which amounted to about 10 hours total), we finally arrived over rock islands and the gorgeous bright blue waters of my dreams-beautiful Palau. On board the Siren, we were immediately greeted with a tropical drink and happy-shiny people all around. Although I'll admit, even with the luxurious interiors of the boat and the comfy wood cabins, and the FOOD which was seriously spectacular, (we were blessed with an Indian chef well versed in the art of curry), I was more than ready to get in the water.



The first day was a blur, it still hadn't hit me that this was actually happening, I was finally here. We hit German Channel that morning, and it was my first time seeing GARDEN EELS!! A little back story, from 2011-2013 I worked as the photo editor for Scuba Diving magazine, and while there I studied hundreds of images of fish from locations I'd never been, clocking my favorite ones and hoping someday I would be witness to these species first hand. I can think of more than 20 times this happened on this trip, the words 'wowohwowohwowIcan'tbelievethisishappening' on a loop in my mind. So as you can imagine, seeing 50 of these guys on my first dive was mind blowing. Jaques Cousteau's favorite wall dive, big drop off, that night was also no exception, tons and tons of bright beautiful coral, minuscule critters everywhere: nudi's, boxer shrimp, crabs, the list goes on.



After the first day, every dive competed with the last for first place in my log of 'best dives ever'. Some of the most memorable dives were also the most challenging. As I mentioned, easy going shallow reefs were my jam, little to no current and little action was what I was accustomed to. On day two, Paul Collins, (the unbelievable badass BBC videographer and part owner of Unique Dive Expeditions), took us to a site aptly named 'The Express' to witness the sailfin snapper spawning aggregation, a dive I personally was not prepared for. After we dropped in, I was immediately blown back by the most ripping current I've ever experienced, and with a 5D MKIII in an Aquatica housing with duel Inon strobes-it was like a sail pushing me into oblivion. I surfaced unharmed, but with a new respect for what the dive guides and Paul go through on a regular basis, (imagine toting a red epic in currents like that, something Paul has done many, many times). After a second go at it, Paul was unbelievably gracious enough to carry my camera for me to where the snapper were hanging out, and WOW, a literal waterfall of fish by the thousands were there in front of me, a wall of fish, more fish than I've ever seen in my LIFE, it was absolutely incredible.



Next came my first blackwater dive, which was exactly what I would imagine being in space would be like, freaky. Paul mentioned they're finding new species all the time, and the things we saw were unlike anything I could begin to describe-weird deep-sea macro life, with glowing bodies and translucent faces, something out of a Stephen King novel. Blue corner was insane, and unfortunately one of the only times I didn't bring my housing, due to my worries about the current, (which, figures, was almost non-existent). Sometimes it's good to leave your camera behind though, because you have full awareness of what's going on in front of you, which was the case for me here. To the front of us, schooling blacktip sharks everywhere, to the side a bait ball of barracuda, and behind was a lone manta cruising the reef. Insane.


Komodo 2016 Bluewater Trip


BUT the craziest dive of all was the BUMPHEAD PARROTFISH SPAWNING SPECTACULAR. Paul is one of the leading scientists on this subject and he's pinpointed the time and date in which they spawn, he had us there within 10 minutes of the spawning action, crazy impressive! We popped in the water and hundreds of 5 foot long bump head's start going at it. And by 'it' I mean fish sex. Fish sex everywhere. The female would shoot towards the surface and a hoard of males would follow soon there-after, releasing both sperm and eggs into the water column, there was SO much, you could barely see your hand in front of your face by the end-it was EPIC. Also, the jokes practically wrote themselves, (i.e.: oh, excuse me while I clean out my ears, don't want a baby bumphead growing in there…). It was the grossest, most amazing experience and I would recommend everyone do this at some point in their life.

 

Komodo 2016 Bluewater Trip


Something else that happened that was very cool, our dive guide Chris gave us the opportunity for an extra last-night dive at a shallow site near the boat, and since it was an area the guides have never dove before they gave us a chance to name it, which we did, 'The Three Little Gingers' on account that the only people on the dive were three redheads, (myself included), my husband Pat, and an Italian dive guide Enrico. Enrico, (who we were calling 'macro man' at the end), found all kinds of super-cute stuff, including a bob-tail squid, (!!!!!!) another critter I could mark off my bucket list. At the end of our dive, we took a few minutes and swam in an ocean of florescence, watching the stars, talking about our time in Palau.



On the last diving day was the famous jellyfish lake, which unfortunately is experiencing the full effects of El Nino this year. We were actually fortunate enough to be there at the perfect time, because there were still some jellyfish left. Apparently the water is so warm during these times, the jellyfish tend to die off and/or hibernate and then come back the following year. I talked with Chris about doing some in water jellyfish glamour shots for me, and he came up with the great idea to do bubble rings around the jelly's, which was so badass.



I loved Palau, I would move there in 20 minutes if I could; the locals were all really cool down-to-earth people, and I could have spent six weeks longer just diving the same sites over and over. I would like to say thank you so, so much to Blue Water travel, Unique Dive Expeditions, and the Palau Siren, you have all given me an experience I will remember until my dying day, (and did I forget to mention the incredible FOOD??? Thank you Chef Aribe :). I hope I can come back someday and see even more of stunning, unforgettable Palau.

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