Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures
Welcome to Episode 26
Towards the end of Episode 25 we had said goodbye to our friend Loren from Yap who had spent time onboard and then re-visited the Southern
Islands to use the rest of our 10 day Rock Islands
and permit. From there we returned to Jellyfish Lake to our mooring in time for ANZAC
Day. Malakal Harbour
For Non Australians and New Zealanders, ANZAC Day is our remembrance day for the fallen soldiers who have fought over the many wars of the last century but it centres on our advance on Gallipoli in Turkey during World War One. In
Australia the day is a National Holiday.
In Gallipoli over 7500 Australian Soldiers and 2500 from NZ were killed in the fierce 8 month battle of 1915.
2014 marks the 99th Anniversary of Gallipoli.
For Palauns, 2014 also marks the 70th Anniversary of the battle of Peleliu.
This battle along with Operation Galvanic in
Tarawa, Kiribati (see Episode 15 of our blog) and Iwo Jima, were 3 of the fiercest battles in the Pacific
during World War 2.
Battle on Bloody Nose Ridge in Peleliu was the most
difficult battle the
faced in the entire war and they also suffered the highest percentage of
casualties by any marine unit in the Pacific. US
Australian Soldiers were also involved in the fighting at Peleliu and 8 were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour (5 Posthumously).
Day was hosted by Australian Naval Commander Alan Wilmore and his family and
staff at the Australian Compound in Koror. Palau
The service was conducted at Noon rather than at Dawn so many of the Palaun Officials could attend.
Just as the service commenced it started to pour with rain and continued until 5 minutes after the serviced finished. It hadn’t rained all morning and didn’t rain again that day…
Alan made a great speech on the history of both Gallipoli and Peleliu.
In the afternoon we stayed at the compound, had a great lunch and watched the ANZAC Day Collingwood vs. Essendon AFL Match on the TV. We had a great arvo with many of the Aussies and Kiwis who are working in Palau.
A Week at Malakal Harbour
There comes a time in the care free sailing life when we have to stop and address issues back at home.
Our week back in Malakal Harbour turned into one of those weeks - paperwork, tenants moving out, new ones moving in, emails, online ordering, etc….
But it wasn’t all bad. Aside from the paperwork and tenant issues we managed to source some much needed parts and spares for Lorelei, a new camera for Lisa (more on that later..), do some maintenance, some research on our travels, dive sites for the next 12 months and still have some time to explore town, reprovision and go Wakeboarding.
Every arvo Pete from Downtime and Maya his visiting friend would come and pick us up in Pete’s RIB (which has a 60hp motor) and go Wakeboarding.
We would go up into Nikko Bay which is a maze of small channels and rock islands that always had flat glassy water.
Whilst the wake from the RIB was not huge for big air, it was a lot of fun.
Pete having fun
On the weekend Sam (owner of Sam’s Tour’s) heard about our daily sorties and decided he wanted to join in so we loaded up “Angel Shark”, one of his smaller dive boats with Pete and Maya, Sam’s son Memo & us and off we went. It was a much bigger boat with a 115hp motor and a great wake for some bigger jumps.
Paul doing back rolls
Above and below - Memo having a blast on Paul’s board
Paul’s jump sequence on Memo’s board
The big surprise for us was Sam who is a very confident wakeboarder.
Sam and his wife went to Wakeboard School in Florida as they love it so much. It just proves older guys can still ride hard…
Some of the stacks were very funny including a few brain rattling face plants.
Paul not quite making a flip
Pete with a funny face plant – which he did twice….
One day on the way home we went past Sea Passions Resort and saw this guy riding a “Fly Board” which essentially is a board with a tube attached to the bottom which is connected to a powerful Jet Ski.
For the resort/tourist model, the person on the ski controls the engine throttle which forces water through the pipe and out the bottom of the board giving the board rider lift – and a lot of it.
Other models available let the board rider control the thrust allowing for some wild manoeuvres and flips.
It was awesome and Paul is just dying to have a go!
One afternoon Paul paddled around the Orion – The National Geographic Vessel that had arrived in Palau with 80 tourists for 3 days.
He got some funny looks and friendly waves from the guests and some very dirty looks and no acknowledgement from the crew, a typical white boat crew response…..
We later found out David Doubilet was on board. He is by far the world’s best and most published underwater photographer. His articles in National Geographic have incredible photos.
Paul would have given his right arm to meet him.
Check out the amount of RIB’s on the back upper deck.
Black ones sitting exposed in the hot Pacific sun– smart!!!
One day we had a tour of the new Aquaculture Facility set up by a Gold Coast Aussie, Tom and his family.
We went in Anthony’s (from Liquid Desire) car and Pete from Downtime came as well. The farm turned out to be over 40 minutes drive north of Malakal.
Tom has managed to successfully breed Bump Headed Parrot Fish and Rabbit Fish which is a world first.
He also had some great display tanks with the juveniles and some rare things like Seahorses and unusual Gobies.
We thought the set-up was fantastic.
On the way home we stopped at an old WW2 Japanese HQ which was badly bombed during the US invasion. There were a load of Anti-Aircraft Guns and Tanks around the battered complex.
We also passed the US Embassy.
What a massive overkill that place is.
It’s huge, high on a hill, brand new, massive amounts of razor wire fences, guard tower, security force, scores of cameras and lots of
“No Photography” signs.
We would expect this sort of set up in the Middle East but not in Palau!
Monday 5th May was Senior Citizens Day and was a Public Holiday.
Why Senior Citz need a public holiday as most are retired we still cannot comprehend – but anyway…
We had a BBQ that arvo with the Aussies at Mark and Shelley’s House which was great. There were over a dozen of us.
During the week, the heat was unbearable and the hottest conditions we have experienced.
It was usually around 36-38 degrees inside the boat and zero wind.
Paul was just a constant sweaty mess and had to sleep and sit on a towel.
We had 4-6 showers a day!
All the other yachties were the same and everyone was complaining.
At night the Mossies nearly carried you away if you didn’t have the boat completely screened in by 5pm. That also didn’t help the night time ventilation.
The flotilla of Cruising yachts had started to finally arrive into Palau.
Most left 2 weeks after us in Pohnpei and arrived in the general area 9 weeks after us and they didn’t go to Yap!
For the 2200nm journey they had virtually no wind.
Most cruising yachts carry fuel for 600-1200nm of motoring so not nearly enough for the entire trip if you had to motor.
They were stuck in the outer islands for ages waiting for wind to continue on. Whilst they had a good time they were all running very low (and some had even run out) of food, fuel and Propane (LPG) all of which is not available at any of the Micronesian outer islands.
Many of the yachts already here were very concerned for them but fortunately they finally stated to trickle in with only a few knots of wind and boat speed.
We really felt for them.
We had Carina (who did do Yap with us), Westward 2 and Kokomo all over for drinks the night Steve and Selina on Westward 2 arrived.
L-R – Lisa, Selina & Steve (Westward 2), Leslie & Philip (Carina),
Peter & Donna (Kokomo)
After 9 days in Malakal Harbour we couldn’t wait to get out of there.
It certainly had been a crazy week.
The next morning we left– finally…!!!
Exploring the 11 Islands Area
We went straight down to the 11 Islands which is where Downtime and Liquid Desire were.
The 70 Islands in the foreground are a protected no-entry nature reserve.
Our anchorage in the 11 Islands is marked by the Red Arrow.
Blue Corner is to the Left and marked by the Blue Arrow.
That evening Amy, Anthony and his Dad Bob (who was visiting from his home in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria) came over for drinks and to say hello.
The next morning we woke to a great sunrise looking over the 70 Islands.
We were all set for a full days diving and loaded up our RIB and while Anthony and Bob went in Pete’s RIB (nicknamed Super Dink). Pete’s girlfriend Daria had returned from Russia so we had 5 divers with Bob as the boat driver and diver pick up – perfect.
The first Dive was the Virgin Blue Hole located ½ way between Blue Corner and German Channel.
It is a vertical shaft that starts on top of the reef in only 1m/3ft of water. At 32m/106ft there is a long horizontal corridor that leads out to the reef wall.
It was a quirky but fun dive.
Paul had some new models – Daria and some soft corals.
Anthony on the left
For our lunch stop we went over the reef top, though a narrow pass to a beautiful sand spit with a picnic area.
The arvo dive was Blue Corner South.
It was the new moon meaning the day for many fish species to spawn and they had congregated in the area. It was just incredible and by far the best dive so far in Palau.
Above and below - Midnight Snapper
The Trevally (Jacks) were so thick!
It was the largest school we have ever seen.
The Soft Corals on the wall were amazing, huge and plentiful.
We decided to dive it again later just to explore the deeper corals as we were torn between the schools of fish above and the soft corals below.
Towards the end of the dive one of the resident Maori Wrasse took a liking to Pete and Paul got some good shots of them together.
That afternoon Liquid Desire went back to Malakal so we spent the rest of the time hanging out with Pete and Daria.
That night we had dinner on Downtime and enjoyed a great sunset.
With the flooding tide and fish congregating we decided to dive German Channel the next morning.
It was a bit of a mission transiting over the shallow reef to get to the Channel.
The dive is incredible with loads of corals both hard and soft, 2 Manta Cleaning Stations and loads of shark and fish action.
German Channel from the Air
The Dive Site and 2 Cleaning Stations are marked with the red arrows
Down deeper at 30m/100ft we found a large school of fish being hunted by some very large Golden Trevally & loads of Grey Reef Sharks. Awesome!
In the arvo we went around to New Drop Off for another great dive.
Towards the end we found a friendly turtle
Pete doing his best turtle impersonation
With the brilliant weather still about we did a third day’s diving.
It was the weekend and for most dive liveaboards and day boat operators it is turn around day for the big dive groups back at Malakal so there wasn’t a single boat at Blue Corner. Perfect!!
The first dive was The Blue Holes – with a twist…
Blue Holes is a series of 4 Vertical Shafts up on the top of the reef that descend to 30m/100ft. They all join together at about 15m/50ft.
At the bottom of the last shaft there is a small hole which leads into a cave system called Temple of Doom. The dive operators will not take anyone in there unless they are deep and cave diving certified which effectively rules out 99.9% of the dive tourists (and dive guides…).
Three Japanese Divers died in there a while back too.
We just had to check it out.
Descending one of the shafts
Pete coming into the cave system through the small opening
To say the cave system is enormous and extensive is an understatement!
We went from chamber to chamber for 20 minutes and it still didn’t stop.
Inside was pitch black but with crystal clear viz.
It’s a little unnerving being in a chamber so large that you can shine a 1200 lumen torch in any direction and not see any walls, floor or roof.
We had heard reports of 2 Turtle skeletons being inside somewhere.
Paul finally managed to find one sitting on a ledge.
After 30 minutes we decided to get out. It still kept going but to explore further safely we would need to come back with our twin tanks, caving lines, some line markers and redundant systems.
Coming back up through the holes we found lots of fish, a Moray Eel and very friendly Turtle that just swam round and round us.
After such a deep dive, we had a lengthy surface interval and decided explore a lots of the smaller beaches and islands in the area.
This time we had a look at the stunning Soft Corals down deeper.
The plan was to come up over the top of the wall onto the reef top and enjoy the immense fish schools on the way back to the boat.
However when we hit the reef top the current was blowing off the wall at a rate of knots. It was scary and we simply couldn’t feel it at all down on the wall.
With the reef top starting at 18m we couldn’t return along the wall without going into serious deco and running out of air so we had no option but to get out the reef hooks and crawl across the reef top and get to some shallower water. It was very hard work.
Paul managed to snap the 2 photos below before turning the camera off and folding the strobes in to minimise the drag.
We managed to find a trench to get out of the current and do our deco before crawling to the boat. We lost Pete and Daria but fortunately we all made it back to the line without getting blown off and needing a pickup.
Pete had done the dive many times before and had never seen current like that for the time of the tide.
Having said all that – the fish life on top was incredible.
It was 5pm, not a soul in sight and trying to crawl and concentrate while these amazing fish schools were all around was a bit hard.
An Adult Rock Mover Wrasse – one of our favourite fish to watch
Note the Barracuda behind the Trevally
On the way home there was an amazing sunset.
A Day Trip to Peleliu
After 3 days of magnificent diving (and being a little rattled by the last one) we decided to have a day off and do a day trip down to Peleliu.
We loaded up Super Dink and the trip south took an hour.
Once there we linked up with tour guide Frank who we hired for the whole day.
The first stop on the tour was the Peleliu Museum.
It was the old Japanese Ammunitions Storage Bunker that has been converted.
We then visited the Japanese HQ and Generator Building.
Both were a mess with major bomb holes and craters all around.
We then went to the Airstrip, had a look at some Jap Tanks, a Zero Fighter and some Bunkers.
We then went down to Orange Beach which is where the US landed to start the invasion.
The beautiful Orange Beach but the sight of such a huge loss of life
This was Orange Beach on Sept 6th, 1944.
Off the coast was the US fleet. Aircraft Carriers, 5 Battleships, 14 Destroyers and 8 Cruisers bombarded the Island for 10 days.
The 28 000 US Troops had no idea how set-up the Japs were.
They were well dug in, had loads of fire power & ammo, food, supplies, water and back-up. They knew the area well too.
We then went onto a US Memorial which was in dense bushland.
The B&W photo below Paul took while in the Museum and it was only that night when we looked at the photos that we realised it was the same Memorial and one of the cross’s still standing.
The flag pole and church are also still there.
The flag pole and church are also still there.
Note the US memorial in the centre in front of the church.
It’s a sobering photo and just a stark realisation to how the Japanese transformed the Island during the war.
Not a large tree left in sight….
Before lunch we decided to hike up a trail to Bloody Nose Ridge (one of the main battle areas) and the islands Summit.
Read the last Paragraph – crazy huh??
When Frank gave us strict instructions not to go off the trail we just thought he was over reacting. Well after being up there and having a look around he was right on the money. It was scary what we found just lying alongside the trails. You name it – we saw it!!
Note the little white/red markers marking the trail every few meters.
Paul with a pile of Mortar Shells
Lisa with a large piece of ordinance in a cave.
We explored many caves and found a lot of stuff.
We even found Human remains in 2 caves.
The Summit with Bloody Nose Ridge just to the right.
All along the trail we just were in awe of how the troops fought in the area. The jungle was dense with scores of caves, rock walls and deep pits.
In our 1 hour walk we were stuffed and covered in sweat. How they managed in full combat dress and carrying all their rations and weapons is just incredible. The balmy nights with the bugs must have been hideous.
And that’s all before having contact with the enemy….
For lunch we stopped at a great little picnic spot with a small but deep water hole. It was a very refreshing swim.
Above and below: Boys will be boys….. Pete and Paul in action.
After lunch we had a look at a load of US LVT Landing vehicles and the Japanese Memorial Gardens.
A large Jap Gun we saw in a cave
To get away from the War relics, Frank took us to the other side of the Island to see some more recent devastation.
This beach was the nicest beach in Peleliu and one of the best in all of Palau until Super Typhoon Haiyan hit here. The beach had some great BBQ spots and weekender huts along the tree lined area behind the sand but they were all destroyed along with most of the trees.
All the fine beach sand was either washed away or deposited about 200m inland. Sadly now it is a coarse coral wasteland with a lot of uprooted trees.
For our last stop we had a look in the 1000 man cave which was built by the Japanese and doubled as a safety bunker and hospital.
The Japanese Machine Gun Post next to the cave entrance
Before we left Frank went and searched around the bush and we cut down 2 huge bunches of Bananas for us to take home with us.
All in all it was a fantastic day although a little disturbing.
For any war history Buff, Peleliu is a must visit location.
We can thoroughly recommend Frank for a tour of his Island.
For him and his modern air-conditioned van the cost was just $90 for all 4 of us for the whole day.
Frank is a local man and is semi-retired with a background as a Radio Announcer and Musician/Entertainer.
Franks tours are a fraction of the cost of a pre-booked Tour and can be customised for any length of time or specific locations.
His local number is 779 6436.
Give him a few days’ notice and he’ll have the ripe Bananas already picked out…..
After 5 magical days at the 11 Islands we decided to move up to the Ulong Channel area. We decided to leave at 9am with Downtime so we got up at 6:30am and went for a paddle around the 11 Islands before we left.
As we paddled along one beach we spotted a school of Black Tip Reef Sharks and GT’s smashing into a school of bait fish on the water’s edge.
The sharks were launching right up onto the dry sand, snatching a floundering fish and wiggling back down the sand into the water.
It was incredible to watch and we certainly have never seen a shark beach itself like that before. The photos are not so good but you get the idea…
The Pitcher Plants which are all over the vertical rock faces
Ulong Channel and Swiftlet’s Inlet
The entrance into Swiftlet’s Inlet at the Ulong Islands was stunning but so shallow.
We had barely 20cm of water between Lorelei’s Keel and the Coral Heads below.
The stunning view on the way in
The shallow entrance
Passing Downtime once inside the Inlet
That arvo we went out and dived a Coral Wall just south of Ulong Channel.
In stark contrast to German Channel, the wall was all Hard Corals.
The viz was OK but the fish life was excellent.
Barramundi Cod are so hard to photograph because they are so shy.
This large one darted from under a table coral. Paul panned with it and took the shot. The result is an in focus fish with a blurred background.
Daria going up the mooring line
Netted Sweetlips being cleaned. Note the open mouth & cleaner fish
That night we consulted the tide chart and realised the best times to dive the Channel would be 6am or 6pm. Too early and too late…
We really needed to leave it for diving the passes for about 3 days until the tides in the morning were later at around 9am.
So we decided to leave the Ulong and go to the Central Rock Islands and dive the wrecks of the area which can be done at any tide.
Central Rock Islands
Pete took us to a great anchorage in a very small but deep bay directly opposite Cemetery Reef. It had just enough room for the 2 boats to anchor. We had paddled around the bay with Loren when she was onboard (see the previous Episode 25).
It made an awesome location to relax, dive and explore.
The first wreck we dived was the Iro Maru.
This is one of the more popular Palaun wrecks and it was an Imperial Japanese Navy Fleet Tanker built in 1922.
It was 143m/472ft long and had a weight of 14,050 tons.
The wreck is completely overgrown with shellfish and black coral trees.
There is still oil leaking from the wreck and a lot of milky substances oozing out of the hatches and holds but it doesn’t appear to hinder the marine life. There are a lot of fish from bait fish to spiralling Trevally.
An elevator shaft in the forward hold. The hold was unusual as it has a series of levels rather than one big open area.
Trevally (Jacks) cruising all over the wreck
Note the white milky haze oozing out of the hatch
Lisa on one of the coral encrusted masts
On the way home we found a small sea cave and arch that was shallow but just had to be explored in Super Dink.
The next morning we had all planned to go and dive another wreck but there was no movement on either boat by the time to leave so we all had a lazy morning and decided to do a trip in Super Dink around to Milky Way for the arvo.
Milky Way is on the outer eastern side of the Central Rock Islands.
It is a series of protected bays that have a muddy clay bottom that is apparently very good for your skin. The tour companies take the Asian tourists there who proceed to cover themselves in the stuff.
The clay bottom gives the water a vivid aqua hue.
Lisa relaxing in the shallow bay
Paul and Daria covered in the clay
We decided to explore some of the other nearby bays which were also quite shallow but this time with coral on the bottom and not sand.
We found a small hole in a rock wall that look like it had a small lake on the other side. We took Super Dink through the hole and fitted with only a few cm’s to spare above the windshield. With a rising tide, we only stayed in there for 5 minutes and just got out.
Looking in towards the hole in the rock
Once inside it was shallow and small but very pretty
The other side was a bit deeper and glassy smooth
We only just made it back out….
On the way back we stopped to explore some other sea caves. Some were huge and we snorkelled in them to see if we could find an underwater cave system to dive.
This one didn’t look so big but once inside it was huge.
Paul snorkelling inside to try and find an undiscovered cave system
Back at the Ulong Islands
Once again we were supposed to do a deep wreck dive the next morning but we just couldn’t get motivated, which is very unusual for Paul who is a wreck diving nut.
Instead we motored back over to the Ulong Islands.
It was so glassy flat that we left our big shade canopy up which is certainly a first for us.
Challenger and Westward 2 seen looking through a hole in the rocks
We linked up with Steve and Selina and went around to the enclosed Marine Lake. It apparently had a small tunnel entrance that you were able to snorkel into.
Instead we found a flat rocky tunnel that was just above the waterline.
We had to slide in and it was too small to even crawl on hands and knees.
Steve elected not to go…
Once inside we were able to snorkel around the edge and we were hoping for a crocodile but there were none.
The small tunnel into the lake – it was only about 60cm high
Selina snorkelling in the trees….
In the afternoon we all linked up and we went out to dive the Ulong Coral Gardens again. When we did it a few days ago, Lisa kept finding some really unusual Emperor Shrimp on the Sea Cucumbers but we had a wide angle set-up and were unable to get photos. So this time we went back with the Macro lens to try and get some photos.
It turned into a Shrimp dive and we found loads of different species.
This is 4 consecutive shots of the same Octopus. Note the colour and skin texture changes in just a few seconds
Challenger and Westward 2 left that arvo and Downtime turned up.
Back to the awesome foursome!!
The next day was the day before the full moon and a popular time for fish spawning in the area. Ulong Channel is a reserve as it has a huge population of Grouper and we were hoping that around the Full Moon they would all congregate in the Channel.
Our hunch was correct and the channel had literally thousands of them.
However when we got there at 7:30am the tide had just turned and the water was static. We were probably about 1 hour too late for all the mating action..
Still it was a fantastic dive with awesome viz.
The next morning we did it again but this time with a 5:30am start.
As before, we put Super Dink at one end of the Channel and our RIB at the other and drifted through the channel between the two RIBs.
Well we certainly scored it. It was ballistic.
Grouper everywhere! All fighting for their little patch, all competing for the right to mate and they were rising up off the bottom into mid water.
All the while the sharks and other larger fish cruised around looking for an easy meal. Just amazing!!!
Sunrise in Ulong Channel
Note the second Grouper above the head of the first
Paul managed to get a shot of the Grouper mating.
We saw it a few times but could rarely get close enough for a photo.
The Ulong Islands are also fantastic for Kayaking/SUP.
In the arvos we would go for a paddle and explore the area.
The next morning we went for the Ulong Channel hat-trick and dived it again…..
Lisa and Daria on the drop off just as the sun was coming up
An unusual bonus – A Clown Triggerfish
We tried for ages to get a shot of Lisa with the Cod.
After 30 minutes of trying this is the best we photo we could manage.
They just didn't like 2 divers approaching - one from either side.
They just didn't like 2 divers approaching - one from either side.
For all 3 dives the Coral Trout were there in numbers but very wary of us.
This is the closet we got in 3 dives!
A wide angle shot of the channel floor showing just how many Cod there were
More Mating antics….
For the first 2 dives Paul got left behind from the group and didn’t make it to the RIB before running out of air.
For this dive he finally made it all the way and got to see the amazing Soft Corals, Sea Whips and Lettuce Coral covered in Fish.
Now that’s a tangle of Sea Whips…
Paul took this shot with no strobes – just as he was hopping up into the RIB. It just gives you an idea of the quality and quantity of Coral in the shallows on the sides of the channel.
On Sunday arvo 18th May we lifted the anchor and returned to our mooring in Malakal. We only plan to stay in Malakal long enough to upload the blog, reprovision, fuel up, buy another 10 day pass, renew our Visas and get back out to The Southern Rock Islands.
The weather forecast is perfect for more diving….
So that’s it for a super jam packed Episode 26 of the Hog-Blog.
A HUGE thankyou goes out to our new Aussie friends Nathan and Amanda for the Aerial Photos of the Rock Islands area.
Amanda is an AVI volunteer and Nathan is a Dive Guide at Sam’s.
His knowledge of the dive sites, tides, etc… has also helped a bundle.
Nathans blog with many more aerial shots is
A Big thanks also goes to Pete from Downtime. We are having a blast with him! As this is his second season here in Palau, his knowledge of the area has been super helpful and given us some fantastic experiences.
Teaming up with the 2 RIB’s has also made diving a lot safer and allows as to do some great drift diving.
Palau is starting to grow on us… At first we thought it was pretty good but the longer we stay the more we are enjoying it providing we are only in Malakal for the minimum time required for reprovisioning, etc…
The new Visas will give us another (and final) 30 days.
The only issue with staying longer is the real possibility of a Typhoon as we are heading into Typhoon season and the added issue of dropping Easterly trade winds and more westerly winds setting in meaning
“on-the-nose” winds for the 550nm run to the Philippines.
We haven’t really had any trades anyway for weeks so who knows with the winds but that could increase the Typhoon chances.
Maybe!!! Guess we will just take what comes in this fickle area….
Or as Pete would say “It is what it is!”
Cheers for now.
Paul and Lisa Hogger