Trip Report Palau trip report late May/early June 2022

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cozcharlie

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Not a great trip report (may edit later ), but didn’t want to delay longer


Lodging:
Rock Islands Aggressor. This is my 6th trip on one of the two sister Aggressor boats in Palau. I loved it and the people I was with loved it. Boats are a little older but the interior is well designed and comfortable. Crew was great. Food was the best out of my six trips.

Palau Central Hotel. Not waterfront , which didn’t matter since we dove every day. We didn’t even go into the pool so lack of waterfront irrelevant. Recently refurbished hotel with great staff. King beds actually two twins mattresses pushed together was only complaint. Probably doesn’t even matter for a couple that sleeps on opposite sides of the bed. Good breakfast, in house restaurant good and convenient.

Restaurants:

Elilai. Newer waterfront restaurant. Awesome food. Sunset picture (that isn’t through a cabin window ) in attached portfolio is from there. Really solid menu for any city in the world , much less a country of 20,000 people. I go to a lot of really nice restaurants—this is a really nice restaurant. Not cheap, but not out of line with what you would expect for food of this quality.

Kramer’s. Expat mainstay. My first time there was more than 20 years ago. Solid menu and service. We really enjoyed our meal. US Navy was docked there and officers were eating there day after day

Canoe House. In house restaurant for Palau Central Hotel. Essentially a bar with food but it was good bar food. Really rocks on weekends/paydays I gather but we were already asleep

The drop-off. Another long time favorite bar/restaurant. Had fish/poke specials on Sunday as I recall. Another bar with good food. Spicy poke was good (as was everything else)

Diving :

Aggressor: Awesome diving and staff. Been diving with them since 2001. Local staff and US based reservation staff a pleasure to deal with.

Sam’s Tours: A little further from the dive sites (land based op ) but good staff and similar diving to the aggressor with longer (45-60 minute) boat rides. DMs and reservation staff a pleasure to deal with. They picked us up at hotel every dive day. Pretty well organized. They mentioned a big increase in forward bookings a month or two from now so I would inquire sooner rather than later.

Pics :

Going to be lazy and post a smugmug folder. I just signed up to this service so let me know if I am doing something wrong. I normally post individual pics here but this was a lot of pics and scubaboard knocks down the resolution to save cost (which I fully understand). There are 200 pictures in the album below I think— I have already culled many photos , but will probably cull a few more eventually

LINK TO PHOTO ALBUM:
[Palau - CozCharlie]
 

drrich2

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Very nice. One of your photos looked like a hunk of tree root; I opened it and now think it's some sort of conch. Another looks like a long, dark fish of some size with an elongated snout...don't know what that (or many of the other things) is (are).

Palau is known for reef hook diving; about how many dives did you do this trip, and how many (if any) involved reef hook use?
Rock Islands Aggressor. This is my 6th trip on one of the two sister Aggressor boats in Palau. I loved it and the people I was with loved it.
So you've been to Palau 6 times? Per your profile you've dove Cozumel (a lot), Belize, Aruba, Great Barrier Reef, Palau, Yap, Truk, Phillippines, Guam and Hawaii (Oahu, Maui, Big Island).

What is it about Palau that draws you back so strongly, as opposed to venturing out to try Raja Ampat, Komodo, Sulawasi, etc...? Repeat business is the most sincere form of destination flattery, but there are a range of highly rated dive destinations in the larger area. You did make it to the Philippines at some point.

Richard.
 

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Thanks for sharing. Pics look great and worth the extra cost. I am booked on the Palau Agressor at the end of September for my first visit to Palau and appreciate your tips. Did you go to Peleliu?
 
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cozcharlie

cozcharlie

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Very nice. One of your photos looked like a hunk of tree root; I opened it and now think it's some sort of conch. Another looks like a long, dark fish of some size with an elongated snout...don't know what that (or many of the other things) is (are).

Palau is known for reef hook diving; about how many dives did you do this trip, and how many (if any) involved reef hook use?

So you've been to Palau 6 times? Per your profile you've dove Cozumel (a lot), Belize, Aruba, Great Barrier Reef, Palau, Yap, Truk, Phillippines, Guam and Hawaii (Oahu, Maui, Big Island).

What is it about Palau that draws you back so strongly, as opposed to venturing out to try Raja Ampat, Komodo, Sulawasi, etc...? Repeat business is the most sincere form of destination flattery, but there are a range of highly rated dive destinations in the larger area. You did make it to the Philippines at some point.

Richard.
I always screw up the quote function but here are the answers to your questions
1). I did about 32 dives total over a 13 day stretch plus Jellyfish lake snorkel. My guess is we used the reef hook 5 or 6 times.

2). Was the fish with the long snout a crocodile fish ? I have a couple of shots of one on the bottom

3). In terms of why Palau 6 times—it is really good diving that while far away is somewhat simple to get to from Houston since the primary air carrier for Micronesia was Continental and is now United (Continental was based in Houston and it is still a major United Hub post merger). They maintain a minor hub in Guam that serves Micronesia. Back in the Continental days it was Continental flight 1 all the way to Guam (IAH-HNL-GUM) with an additional flight to Palau (ROR). I have status on Continental/United so I don’t have to worry about bag costs or anything. I literally used to go to Palau for a week while only using 4 vacation days if it was Memorial Day or something . Sometimes I go through Honolulu, sometime Tokyo Narita on way to Guam. Once I get to Palau (2 hour flight from Guam) It is roughly 20-30 minutes car ride from the Palau airport to the hotel or Aggressor in Palau—basically 24 hours from takeoff in Houston to my room in Palau. Almost impossible to do when going to Philippines or especially Raja Ampat. I am actually going to Raja Ampat this fall. With layovers, ferries, boat shuttles etc I think it is 72 hours travel time to the land based resort and 48 hours back if nothing goes wrong. United airlines isn’t that great but it looks like the Indonesian airlines are a real mess. Due to the travel time getting there and back I will spend quite a bit of time in Rama Ampat (some land plus some live aboard ). I don’t have to worry about vacation days anymore 😀

4). Not certain which photo looks like tree root. There is one (maybe 2 ) photos of a dark brown leaf fish that is kind of facing away (couldn’t shoot from the front since it was facing a wall). Also a photo of small scorpionfish where you can see the eye on the left. Not really a great photo. I can’t remember if it is a juvenile or some species of Scorpionfish that just doesn’t get very big. Took on the bottom of a cavern where the group was already leaving so didn’t have much time
 
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cozcharlie

cozcharlie

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Thanks for sharing. Pics look great and worth the extra cost. I am booked on the Palau Agressor at the end of September for my first visit to Palau and appreciate your tips. Did you go to Peleliu?
Yes we got to Peleliu. I have taken the land tour a few times so I skipped it this trip and just caught up on some sleep and photos on the Aggressor while most of the group went. Definitely recommend it if you haven’t done it before.

In terms of the diving we did the Peleliu express. I have had good dives there before but this really wasn’t one of them. One of the divers got a little too close to the reef and got caught in the currents pushing him across the reef (it is near the corner so ocean on both sides of reef ). DM called the dive and we went up after about 30 minutes. While true everywhere , definitely follow the DM in Palau. They sometimes take the group away from the wall out into the blue to avoid currents that will try to push you across the reef. If the DM is in the blue while you are right near the wall and 10 feet above the DM you might get caught in some currents you can’t swim against. The usually flag the dives when they say the may need to get further off the wall to avoid currents, just know they mean what they say and you can save yourself a lot of hard swimming if you stick with them.
 

drrich2

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Thanks for the added details. Very helpful.

So you guys used reef hooks about 20% of the time. Reef hook diving is a distinctive feature of Palau based on trip reports, and it's easy to make the false (I take it from your account) assumption that's what most of the diving is.

Yes, it's a crocodile fish. The 'tree root' looking thing is in 2 photos sandwiched between some nudibranch photos and a lion fish. A little before a photo of some sort of wreck.

The transportation time and simplicity in getting there impacting your trip choice is a great add on. Many of us U.S.-based divers who've never been to that region of the world see glowing reports of Coral Triangle destinations, Micronesia destinations, Fiji, etc..., and try to make sense of how someone new discriminates between the options. Knowing why you zigged instead of zagged is a big deal.
 
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cozcharlie

cozcharlie

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Thanks for the added details. Very helpful.

So you guys used reef hooks about 20% of the time. Reef hook diving is a distinctive feature of Palau based on trip reports, and it's easy to make the false (I take it from your account) assumption that's what most of the diving is.

Yes, it's a crocodile fish. The 'tree root' looking thing is in 2 photos sandwiched between some nudibranch photos and a lion fish. A little before a photo of some sort of wreck.

The transportation time and simplicity in getting there impacting your trip choice is a great add on. Many of us U.S.-based divers who've never been to that region of the world see glowing reports of Coral Triangle destinations, Micronesia destinations, Fiji, etc..., and try to make sense of how someone new discriminates between the options. Knowing why you zigged instead of zagged is a big deal.
My guess is the reef hooks average about 20-30% of the dives across all my dives there. Sometimes you take them on a dive and don't use them because the currents are hard to predict. Most of the currents in Palau are tide-driven, even though they know the tide tables etc the current is probably different than they expect 1/3rd of the time. Our captain on the Aggressor (Ike) has been diving Palau for at least 25 years, if he can't predict the currents I can only imagine how difficult it is for a newer person. He was actually a divemaster on my first Palau trip back in 2001.

Yes the following photo (tree trunk) was some sort of conch. Difficult to see on scubaboard but in high rez you can see the eyes. I am back at my laptop (as opposed to phone) so could post photos here for clarification

1655572684165.jpeg


This was the crocodile fish we were talking about

1655572786782.jpeg
 
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cozcharlie

cozcharlie

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I didn't see an option for editing my original post (maybe too old), but upon re-reading I realized I kind of sold the Palau Central Hotel a little short. They really did a nice job with their recent refurbishment. I think they must have gutted and re-furbished right before the pandemic. Everything is very well done (TVs/furniture/floors/ etc). I paid $30-$40 extra for a rock islands view room, that even had a claw footed tub. As I noted in original post the staff was excellent. The included breakfast was good also. Still not on the water, which is clearly important for many tourists, but I look out on the water every day I wake up in Cozumel so not really a big deal for me. The do have a decent view of some of the islands from the upper floors, but no water access.
 

poseident

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Not a great trip report (may edit later ), but didn’t want to delay longer

Great write-up Charlie,

How were the corals looking, generally speaking? My last trip to Palau was a couple of years after your first, and was during a warming cycle, so there was a lot of bleaching at the time, particularly at the wall at Peleliu. I've heard they've recovered pretty well over the past couple of warming cycles, but curious what someone who's been going since the early 2000s thinks.

I'm dying to get back out there!
 
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