09 April 2009 | Peleliu
For the past few days we had been working on arranging a Peleliu dive/tour. Sam's does the trip with an 8 person minimum due to the distance down to the south end of the lagoon. We had the right number of folks, then some would cancel, then we had enough again, then some would cancel. It was a struggle but in the end Sam's put a trip together for us with only 6 folks, which was very nice of them.
It was an intense day. We began the day early at Sam's for a great breakfast (they do breakfast right). Once fed we loaded on the boat with Jay, a US paramedic from Iraq we have become friends with, and a lovely Swiss couple who are currently living in Singapore. Our guide was Jade, a great guy who we had dove with before as well.
It was a grey day with drizzling rain and a chop on the windward side of the lagoon. We managed to stay behind the rock islands almost all the way o Peleliu though. Some had dropped out due to weather. I think that when diving, the currents, and thus visibility, are more important than the topside weather. You're going to be soaked anyway, so what's a little rain? Too much cloud cover does shut down the underwater visibility a bit though.
We arrived after an hour and 20 minute boat ride with a short detour to play with some acrobatic spinner dolphins. The south end of Peleliu is outside of the reef and ripping. We dove Peleliu Express first.
This dive is a kick. We didn't have amazing vis but it was a lot of fun. We all dropped in with the boat underway and then moved down along the wall. We did a drift run for a bit and then hooked in at the point. The current came in rushes and got strong enough to depress my purge button, so I had to cover my reg from time to time. If your mask is not on tight you could lose it if you look sideways. We saw the standard array of Palau fish, including a few grey sharks. The highlight was a big school of Giant Trevally at the end of the dive.
We broke for lunch in the small Peleliu harbor, originally manufactured by the Japanese early in the last century. Not everyone was feeling great after the slightly bumpy but long ride down and the fairly vigorous conditions at the drop site. After lunch a smaller group went out for dive two. Unfortunate since it was very mellow.
Our second dive was along Peleliu Wall. This is a nice and easy dive dropping through a small hole down to the sheer wall on the leeward side of Peleliu. There was no real current, just lots of fish and coral. The wall is very interesting with lots of cracks and crevices. There are huge schools of Black Durgeon (aka. Niger Trigger Fish) and Snapper in the area. We saw turtles and sharks among other interesting critters.
We finished the day with a tour of Peleliu. There are many great sites to see on Peleliu including the White and Orange beaches where the Marines landed in WWII, rusting tanks and troop carriers, Japanese gun positions and, my favorite, the old eerie buildings buried in layers of recovering jungle. We also visited the museum. It is a modest place, appropriately housed inside a recovered WWII era concrete structure. The collection of items inside is impressive however. I could have spent two days reading all of the articles and old WWII printed material. We also stopped at an impressive hill top sporting a US memorial and a huge Japanese shrine, something rarely seen outside of Japan.
Our lovely guide, a Peleliu native, returned us to the harbor at the end of a wonderful day. We hunkered down for the long ride back to Malakal, with rain and dolphins breaking up the trip, happy to have had a great day regardless of the weather.