Nearly 3 years ago I randomly showed up on Keawakapu beach for an “Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest” and first met the Maui Dreams gang. I never could have imagined that I would eventually go to a destination I had dreamed of since childhood with this amazing group of people! Palau was everything I hoped it would be and more, and doing it under the leadership of Don and Rachel Domingo made it even better.
Much of my travel history has involved me being in the leadership role for others. The opportunity to travel and dive as part a group was foreign territory for me. From day one, Don and Rachel had our backs! We dropped in for our first dive of the whole trip to be greeted with bad air! So instead of continuing our dive day,we went to do the thing that is most unique to Palau, Jellyfish Lake!
After making the most of our dive day-turned snorkel day, the group was dropped back at the resort while our concerned leaders continued on to the dive shop to ensure there would not be a repeat of the days diving woes. They made sure we had good air the rest of the trip and several of our 2-tank days turned in to 3-tank days to make up for lost bottom time.
The extra knowledge and experience that our leaders brought to the trip was also reflected in the safety and level of preparedness we had on our dives. Palau was more than I expected as far as drift diving was concerned. I never imagined the exact role of a reef hook until with my heart racing I deployed mine for the first time to be audience to the dozen or so reef sharks that did laps before my eyes!
The NECO Marine dive masters tried to convey much of the procedural information before the dive and helped to guide us as far as when to do what during it, but on more than one occasion our own leaders gave some of the best assistance and advice for the dives. For instance, anyone who is going to drift dive Palau should know about the existence of down-currents and what to do about them.
With onlyfive days of diving and over 250 islands making up the Republic of Palau, you better know which sites to make a priority. We were not steered wrong. We saw some of the most amazing places and things. If conditions were not quite right, our captain and leaders adjusted the plan. One of my favorite dives was the wreck of a Japanese ship named the Iro. The structures of this vessel, underwater for nearly 70 years, were covered in the most amazing life.
Of course, one of the boat favorites and my personal favorite, Ulong Channel was so much fun we did it twice! It put new meaning to the phrase “go with the flow!”
We also got to be part of the action while inside an amazing bait ball in German Channel.
To top it all off, I found my new favorite fish outside of Chandelier Cave. The promiscuous little Mandarin fish stole my heart! They practically had to drag me back onto the boat! I wanted to stay forever!
All in all, Palau was an amazing trip. Palau Pacific Resort was beautiful, the food was great even for a pescetarian like me, and NECO Marine took pretty good care of us. I hope to see it all again really soon. A huge Mahalo goes out to Rachel and Don for all they did to make it so much fun! The only word of advice that I would interject is WATCH OUT FOR THE SHARK ATTACKS!!! Once bitten twice shy!
September 26, 2012 @ 4:39 pm
OMG what an awesome post Jess. This has more info in it than the websites for the companies do. It also got me totally jazzed about going to Palau. Great post.
September 25, 2012 @ 2:18 pm
Jessica, thanks for the nice posting. (Should we mention that the Shark Attacks you speak of are those very dangerous cocktails??). When I read your blog, it really reminded me of some of the benefits of group dive travel beyond the obvious fun of hanging out with your fellow travelers. In most cases, your hosts are your travel advocates (bad air? let US deal with it - you just keep on having fun). They have often been there before and scoped it out, saving you the time of having to figure out how to spend your short time in a foreign place (yeah, we want to go to Ulong Channel again too!). That's not to say that I don't enjoy a looser form of travel as well where nothing is planned and everything is a surprise; it just depends on what my trip goals are. For a lot of the people we travel with (not mentioning any names, Ed), diving is a focus and they really appreciate having all those types of details worked out in advance so that they can just show up and DIVE! Aloha, Rachel