Surrounding Palau's lagoon and amazing Rock Islands is a blue so luminous and lovely that I found myself completely mesmerized as I stared into those calm waters along Gnemelis Island. Gently we pulled our skiff up to the mooring of a site called New Drop, and I marveled as the morning sun danced over the corals atop the wall that started in only three feet of water before plunging straight on down to the abyss. Within minutes I was geared up and fell over backwards into those crystalline waters of New Drop. Gazing downward, I was struck with awe as I watched the light spears shooting down through that blue water. Dropping to 20 feet, I made my way for the wall. Giant gold and red sea fans extended outward from the wall. Between the fans were red, purple and yellow soft coral trees. Hundreds of orange and pink anthias swarmed the soft corals and ledges along the drop-off. I spent quality time composing pictures of the colorful fans, fishes and corals as I made my way down and along the wall. The current was persistent and the entire wall was abloom. Within minutes my film was all used up and I wished that I had brought down a second camera for the dive. But instead we returned to the mother ship MV Big Blue Explorer. At 170 feet overall length, she was a roomy and stable hull that served my purposes well. My purposes in Palau were simple: dive and photograph marine life. I like to spread out my gear, cameras in particular: Nikonos, housed cameras, digital video systems and so on - piles of stuff. The live-aboard was roomy and I was pleased to find a large room adjacent to the dive deck that was dedicated to photo equipment. The huge dive deck also facilitated my approach to dive gear - more is better and backups are essential. There was space to spare for all my gear and the other 16 divers aboard. The big vessel suited me the way my baggy khakis did: roomy and comfortable. My stateroom, one of nine on the ship, was also comfortable and air-conditioned. After the night dives and a quick rinse under one of the dive deck showers, I would retire to my room for a hot shower and some rest watching movies in the salon or a hot soak in the Jacuzzi. The ship was my home away from home in Palau and this suited me just fine. The crew worked hard to ensure that our drift dives went smoothly at sites such as the Blue Hole, Blue Corner and Turtle Cove - all amazing sites. With a top cruising speed of 16 knots, we wasted little time moving from location to location. In between dives we had more than ample and tasty food to re-energize ourselves. In just a couple of days of intensive diving with the Explorer staff from their well-designed platform, I had bagged some truly amazing underwater images from Palau's reefs and shipwrecks. Those images live in my underwater photography and they live in my dreams, dreams of that unimaginably blue water that caresses the prolific reefs of Palau and her Rock Islands. For more information on the Big Blue Explorer, click on the home page below. For general information about Palau, click on the home page below.
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