The drawing card of Blue Corner is its “charismatic megafauna”. Packs of sharks and schools of large reef fishes, as well as turtles, which engage in behavior seldom seen elsewhere in Palau. Divers often see predatory , and it has been a with underwater film makers for that reason. Blue Corner is also adjacent to Blue Holes, caverns in the reef face with many species normally found in much deeper water. The reef complex that includes these and other spectacular dive sites is called Ngemelis, and is subject of debate regarding the suitable qualification level of divers and boats for a reef, and what sorts of activities (fishing, boating) are acceptable near or on it.
In 2009, Palau became the world’s first shark sanctuary. In 2012, the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site; while in 2015, this Pacific nation was the world’s largest marine sanctuary (500 000 sq km/ 193 000 sq miles) which had the eyes of the world shift focus towards this incredible archipelago. As divers, we all already know Palau for hiding under its pristine waters one of the best dive sites in the world: Blue Corner, a reef plateau running out to sea dropping off in the deep waters.
A privileged position
Palau is surrounded by a long barrier reef that creates a lagoon all around Palau. There are only a few channels that allow the flow of water in and out of the lagoon during the tidal changes, regenerating the sediments and cleaning the lagoon. Blue Corner is located in a very privileged location: just where the currents hit the reef wall and flowing up and over the plateau, which brings in abundant plankton. In turn, this plankton attracts a wide variety of marine life and with that come bigger pelagic fish. Guests of Palau Siren are often treated to unusual hunting. Sharks gather from miles away to hunt the huge Moorish idol spawning aggregation. The strong currents also bring rare pelagic species close to the reef in this area, such as whale sharks, eagle rays, and great hammerhead sharks.
The main desired attraction in Palau is to hook in the current and watch numerous reef and tip reef sharks swim against the current, as well as large schools of fearless jacks and black snappers. On a good day, you are likely to see around 50 sharks whilst on a “bad day”, around 20. If you stay still, sharks will even come to you! So just inflate your BCD and enjoy the show! Once you unhook, the show on the plateau: tunas, giant trevallies, large school of jacks, snappers, barracudas, turtles, Napoleon wrasses and bumphead parrotfish.
Every dive is different
Depending on the tide and the moon phases, the underwater action can be totally different every time! So, you have to dive Blue Corner several times to really get a full image! However, many local dive guides never get enough of Blue Corner!
Did you know?
Blue Corner was discovered by a local dive guide just by chance. One day, after a dive in Blue Holes, instead of turning right, he turned left and voila! He discovered this incredible new dive site and couldn’t help himself to spread the word once outside!
The diversity of dive sites in Palau will wow divers of all levels, whether it is the strong currents found at Blue Corner, the beautiful hard coral gardens of Big Drop-Off, the mysterious WWII wrecks or the visually stunning cave of Blue Holes. With critters ranging from mantas and sharks all the way down to mandarin fish and nudibranchs, in Palau there is always something to look at.
Ask most divers what brings them to Palau and they will reel off a long list of enticements. Topping that list is likely to be the schools of grey reef and white tip reef sharks that typically congregate in the currents at Blue Corner or Ulong Channel. There is also a sheer amount of fish such as schools of snappers, jacks, and barracudas as well as Napoleon wrasses and turtles at sites such as Dexter’s Wall, Sandbar or New Drop Off. And last but not least: you will likely spot manta rays while they are feeding, getting cleaned, or are just leisurely cruising the German Channel. If you are lucky , whale sharks, bull sharks, hammerheads and guitar sharks can also be seen cruising by.
For macro are many odd-shaped species to keep a look out for. A few examples are: frog fish, crocodile fish, cleaning shrimps, nudibranchs, dart fish and the mandarin fish
In the mood for an otherworldly experience? Dive Palau’s caves. While Chandelier Cave’s stunning stalactites pierce the clear water surface, mirroring into the darkness, rays of sunlight shine through Blue Holes openings. Both offer great opportunities for underwater photographers to play with reflections and lights.
Underwater, Palau hides some of the most incredible, and almost unknown, WWII Japanese shipwrecks! Only six weeks after the more famous attack on Truk Lagoon, the American Navy launched ‘Operation Desecrate One’ on Palau. The aim was to destroy as much as possible of the remaining Japanese fleet that had managed to escape from Truk. Over 2 days, more than 36 Japanese vessels, as well as sundry aircraft, were sent to the watery depths of the lagoon.
5. Unexpected events
Palau has the perfect underwater conditions for the propagation of underwater species, with lakes and lagoons that provide places for juveniles to safely mature far away from the bigger predators. This is why many species come in large numbers to Palau to breed and spawn.
Manta mating season from December to March which means divers are more likely to encounter mantas at German Channel.
Grey reef shark mating season happens usually around December so expect to see more sharks!
Huge schools of Moorish idols spawning season from February to March around half moon and expect to see some incredible shark hunting action as well!
Coral spawning in Palau happens 4 times a year: in May, August, September and February. Taking place 6 or 7 days after the full moon, this remarkable event also attracts thousands of fish anticipating a feast like no other since the spawning creates plankton rich waters. Mantas can also be spotted and if you are lucky enough, even a whale shark!!!
Turtles mate and lay eggs from April to July. After their nesting season, they return to feeding areas to stock up their energy levels for the next reproductive season. Divers can then encounter the larger individuals after July!
From September to November, many dive sites in Palau such as Short Drop Off are chosen by grey reef sharks as baby nurseries. Schools of juvenile sharks can often be seen accompanied by an adult female.
Plan your trip during full or new moon and you will see much more underwater action due to the increased amount of plankton in the water and stronger currents! Most of us consider ourselves lucky to see a big school of barracudas, jacks or even bumphead parrot fish feeding on the reef. But what if you would witness a school of thousands of fish? And what if during this gathering they would display fascinating behaviour, such as colour changes or males banging their heads against each other in a final mating dance? Fascinating, right? Each species has its own spawning patterns and style and follows its own lunar phases. For example, red snappers spawn during full moon whilst bumphead parrotfish only spawn when it is new moon.
6. The beauty of nature – Jellyfish Lake, an unique marine life
A main draw for visiting Palau is the opportunity to snorkel through thousands of non-stinging jellyfish in “Jellyfish Lake”. This unique excursion can be described as a “once in a ” opportunity for most people. In 2015 and 2016, Palau’s Jellyfish Lake suffered a drastic decrease of the jellyfish population due to a severe drought. However 2 years after, after Palauan tour operators decided to stop offering this attraction in order to help the lake to recover, the jellyfish finally back. This is a clear evidence of how nature can recover when it is left undisturbed.
7. Idyllic islands
To top all these underwater treasures, Palau’s iconic mushroom-shaped limestone islands – Rock Islands – are even prettier in real life than they are in photos. The beaches with their beautiful white sand contrasting sharply with the azure blue of the sea and the lush green of the fauna will take your breath away. It is exactly this that makes these beaches so special. There are over 400 Rock Island, each one with its special hidden treasure of a perfect reef, a pristine beach, or in many cases, both.
Looking for an all in one destination? Then think no longer! Choose Palau Siren for your next liveaboard dive holiday! Palau never ceases to amaze with an amazing mix of pristine reefs, vertigo-inducing drop-offs, thrilling drift dives, abundant marine life and fascinating WWII shipwrecks!!!
Over 40 WWII Japanese vessels were sunk in Palau on March 30th-31st 1944 by the American attack called Operation Desecrate One. It is considered that this battle was lost by the Japanese from the beginning due to the characteristics of the Japanese Combined Fleet.
The Japanese troops were experiencing a difficult and desperate campaign at that time. The number of military vessels was so insufficient that commercial vessels had to be used for military purpose in the later part of the War. For example, the Chuyo Maru was originally built as a coastal freighter and then converted into an Army cargo ship or the Buoy # 6 wreck was a fishing boat converted into a submarine chaser. This led to the lack of efficiency of these vessels:
They were not well equipped for combat activities. Most of them had only one or two gun turrets to fight against enemy aircrafts. This lack of ammunition made battles more difficult to win.
They were slow speed vessels and so too slow to catch up with other members of the fleet such as battleships, cruisers and destroyers.
Many were already heavily damaged by the attack in Truk and hardly managed to escape with the other vessels of the fleet.
It is clear that the vessels left in Palau were abandoned as a “third wheel” of the Combined Fleet.
If you would like to dive the Palau wrecks, please contact us!
Symbiosis means “living together”. Symbiotic relationships are very common in the ocean, especially among animals living on coral reefs. There are several kinds of symbiosis: “mutualism” is a partnership in which both animals benefit; “parasitism” is a relationship in which one animal benefits at the expense of the other; “commensalism” is a term used to cover all other kinds of symbiosis – usually relationships where one partner benefits, while the other is neither helped nor harmed.
Today´s entry will be on the least exciting of the three, parasitism interactions…. Spoiler… it’s going to be a bit disgusting… but well, it’s Halloween time… so let’s go for it! 🙂
Diving with Parasites
Cymothoa exigua, or the tongue-eating louse, is a parasitic isopod. This parasite enters a fish through the gills, and then attaches itself to the fish’s tongue. The female louse attaches to the tongue and the male attaches on the gill arches beneath and behind the female. These parasites are born as males, and when they enter a fish, one turns female. This switch only occurs if there’s no female already installed in the host–otherwise, the males stay male. As this transformation takes place, the female’s body grows enormously. Its eyes shrink, since it no longer has to hunt for a home. Its legs stretch out, to help it anchor itself in the mouth.
The parasite severs the blood vessels in the fish’s tongue, causing the tongue to fall off. It then attaches itself to the stub of what was once its tongue and becomes the fish’s new tongue! The fish is able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue. It appears that the parasite does not cause much other damage to the host fish, however that infested fish with two or more of the parasites are usually underweight. Once the parasite replaces the tongue, some feed on the host’s blood and many others feed on fish mucus. This is the only known case of a parasite assumed to be functionally replacing a host organ.
After one of the males mates with the female, she gives birth to a brood of live male parasites. For their first few days, they search madly for another host (each species of parasite seems to only live in a single species of fish). They sniff for the scent of their host, and if a shadow passes overhead when the odor is strong, they shoot upwards through the water. They burn through a lot of energy in the process; if they fail to find a host in the first few days, they settle down and hope they can ambush a fish that happens to be swimming by. It’s a hard way to start your life, and it may explain why several males will huddle inside a fish with only a single female in the offing. Looking for another fish with a single female parasite might be a less promising strategy than competing with the males you’re with.
Have you ever seen/photographed such symbiosis? Or maybe you thought it was a baby instead of a parasite as one of our guests thought it was! This picture was taken in Komodo on board the Indo Siren. Why don’t you book your next liveaboard dive trip in Komodo to get the chance to witness such weird phenomena!