NOTICE: July 5th: we can now dine indoors (with social distancing rules). The silversides are at the Kittiwake. North Wall is looking awesome this week. Next big update: July 19th.

Group Trip – GUAM/PALAU/TRUK

CHUUK, aboard the Truk Odyssey: it was six (6) years ago I ventured to this area of the world, and returning, well, seemed like coming home.

The Odyssey was spacious, comfortable and well run by Captain Brandi Mueller. There really is nothing “negative” to say about this boat, other than breakfast service was a bit slow. Keeping in mind, you are dealing with Chuuk employees, and they have their way of doing things – that is what makes travel unique and all of the staff was lovely, personable and most gracious.

The wrecks of Truk Lagoon are showing some wear-and-tear, but that is to be expected after 76 years. Believe me, they are awesome and beautiful, at the same time. And you’ll love the elevator that is at the back of the boat to bring you out of the water.

Do not expect “big life”, but expect super life on the wrecks and loads of growth. Penetration is available and pending your comfort level, you should take the chance to enjoy going inside the wrecks and exploring. Most of this is done in the 60-80ft depth. One can enjoy much of many of the wrecks in the 30-80ft. range.

The Blue Lagoon Resort: we overnighted prior to boarding the ship and ended up with a full-day upon exiting (thank you United Airlines for canceling our flight – ugh!). The BLR is more than showing wear! However, your options are limited in a 3rd world country. It is the “best-of-the-worst”. A couple of the rooms have been redone and look great, but it is a work in progress as of FEB2020. The restaurant at the property has an extensive menu and very welcoming.

REMAINING PALAU TRIP: Getting behind and losing track of time! That will be my excuse. . . . however, the stay in Palau was fabulous. Most everyday was like the 24th of January, listed below. While I won’t list each dive site and give a description (because honestly, there is not much difference and it was all fabulous), our sites were: Orange Beach, Peleliu Wall, Peleliu Cut (all 3, off the historic island of Peleliu); Saies Wall (2x), German Channel (a 2nd time), JAKE Seaplane, Blue Corner (2x), Ulong Sandbar (2x) and Chandelier Caves (for mandarin fish).

Let’s do a bit of a summary of what you can see at each of these spots:

Saies Wall – is a beautiful, shear wall that featured a ton of sharks. Expect current on this site, loads of reef fish (schools of pyramid butterfly are beautiful) and ended the dive with a manta flying by.

Peleliu: in summary, the trip to Peleliu is about 1 hour. We completed two (2) dives in the AM just outside the “rest area” and it was beautiful, with many sharks around us.

While others took part in the land tour after lunch, a 3rd dive was conducted off Orange Beach which was the site of the famous WWII battle which saw the lost of life on both sides number of 20,000. The site featured one of the best currents of the week and gave us a chance to “fly” for 45+ minutes while seeing immaculate corals and lots of fresh.

The famous Blue Corner had some changing currents but nothing that could not be managed. A friendly Napoleon wrasse was “our guest” for much of one of our dives and site featured turtles and sharks along the way.

Ulong Sandbar was home to a couple of beautiful mantas – one (1) 18’+ crosses, and the other, a baby. Some epic video was taken thanks to the close encounter.

January 24th, 2020: Up at 630AM for breakfast. Our group of 10 divers had our own boat and upon meeting in the foyer area, the staff took our gear and there was nothing left for us to do. About 15 minutes later, we walked to the boat, got on, checked our gear, and got underway for the 45 minute trip out to the dive sites. As we ventured out, the Nitrox was analyzed and everyone was anticipating what was to come.

Dive 1: Fairyland. A nice, easy, wall to get started on. Clams, turtles, a shark or two (2) and things were sorted. The coral life is abundant and like many of have not experienced before. Dive time – 1 hour.

Dive 2: Turtle Wall. A shear drop of a wall from 20-25ft. to a few hundred. The maximum depth was 60ft. This site featured many turtles (at least 10), an abundance of fish and many, many sharks. At one time, I saw eight (8) in the area. Reef, and blacktip were the primary type of shark.

Dive 3: German Channel. Viz was low and many divers from other operations, but German Channel is home to the manta rays. For the better part of our 1 hr dive, we had at least four (4) mantas swim around, over and under the group. We have requested a return trip to German Channel when there are less divers.

Everyone seemed to have a remarkable day and yes, we are tired.

January 23rd, 2020: A travel day from Guam to Palau. 2hr flight that departed at 810P that arrived at 915PM (there is an hour time change). This UA flight even served a hot (but small) turkey sandwich along with a bite of cole slaw and a Twix piece. Made for an enjoyable venture.

Arrived at the hotel after a pleasant greeting from Cheryl, of Palau Dive Adventures (PDA) and some of “the boys”. Easy getting everyone to the Palau Royal Resort (PRR) and check-in. Very pleasant folks.

The dive staff issued a gear bag and a waiver and now, it is time to sleep.

January 22nd, 2020: The final day of Guam diving is done. Today, we did the Val Bomber (80ft of water), which included a barge on the top of the reef, and the 2nd dive was the American Barge (40ft. to the surface).

The diving was “OK”. I summed it up by saying, “you don’t book a trip to dive Guam”, however, you use the island as a stopover (as we are doing), and make the best of it.

A lot of the diving seems to be in the harbour (which is about 2mi. x 2mi. – give or take). Many of the sites are the “barges” that were used to bring in supplies to the island after WWII and were left. We did not get the famous site that features the two (2) wrecks touching – one (1) from WWI and the other from WWII.

Outside the harbour is where several of our dives took place. There was no “reef system” or “coral”, yet just bare rocks and landscape. There were enough colorful fish to enjoy and formations to peek around while searching for a shark. We were lucky enough to see a whitecap as well as a blacktip, but nothing like we’ll see in Palau.

A bit about the dive operation (Micronesia Diving Assoc./MDA) and dive ops in general. Let’s summarize and say, “it is done a lot different” on this side of the world, and I understand that. That is one thing that makes diving and traveling fun – experience the local culture.

First, we knew after dive one (1), the guide would need to slow down. We don’t dive with jet propulsion vehicles. Our 1st dive today, Wednesday, to the Val Bomber, was a bit of a swim. After seeing the barge, I wrote on the slate, “boating picking up?” I got a “no”. I knew that the dive would be over the 1 hour limit and did not care. They got us there – they can get us back. Air was not a problem, but for the captain to come by and whisper, “1 hr dive time, guys; 1 hr dive time”. That is wrong (in my eyes)!

The island features several operations with dive boats – however, there are many more people who have dive ops that “buy a seat” on the MDA boat.

As an overall dive op, MDA is probably the best way to go in Guam, however, expect to set-up your tank, rinse your gear, carry it to/from the car, etc. If you do not have a dive buddy, you are charged for a personal guide, and I’ve known one lady to be charged $100 extra. The island is no cheap.

For stopover diving, don’t pass it up. But again, I’d not “plan a trip to dive Guam”.

Tomorrow, January 23rd, 2020, the group will have a “get acquainted lunch at the Hilton, before jetting off to Palau at 8PM. Now, let the real diving experience begin.

January 20th-21st, 2020: Two (2) days of two (2) tank dives and the best dive, by far, was the last one at Gab Gab 2. This was a field of coral at 60′ or less and played home to a large school of golden spadefish. This is also an area the Atlantis Submarine frequents.

Our small group of three (3) ventured off to a large anemone that served as homage to many clownfish of different varieties.

While the previous dives were “good”, there was no life in this area we dived, in terms of corals. Nothing. Some nice formations of the rock but no coral.

January 17th, 2020: spent the day in Houston at the Hyatt and doing some shopping, mentally preparing for the long day of flying on Saturday.

United Airlines has done me no favors: a) booked eight (8) months ago and requested an upgrade. Several months later, I learned they would only confirm 1st/Business 24 hours out (the purpose is to sell the seats at full price) yet they took the frequent flyer points out of the account. It just does not seem fair to the flying public. Also, when United booked the reservation, they did not book me in the seats I requested, yet, put me in a #2 seat in a row of five (5). No aisle.

I spent 2.5-3 hours online expressing my anger only to get a complimentary $109 waiver on the economy-plus seat. Did I say, it is just not fair (or in this case “fare”) for the traveling.

The Hyatt Intercontinental property was very adequate with nice people. I can least give them a “thumbs up” and say “thank you”.

January 19th-February 9th, 2020: In December of 2017, I sat with some guests at The Wharf Restaurant, and a couple mentioned, “we’d really love to do Palau and Truk”. Now, in just over two (2) years, this trip has become a reality with 10 divers (3 of us opted to go out a bit early to “adjust”, and thus, group leader Tom is leaving Cayman today, January 16th, where he’ll spend a couple of nights in Houston. On Saturday, January 18th, he heads to Guam with a quick plane change in Honolulu. Please follow the adventures of this trip here, as well as on Facebook at OFF THE WALL DIVERS.

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Our family has been diving in Grand Cayman for over 35 years. Off The Wall provides the best dive experience on the Island. They have a well tenured and friendly staff. Their attention to detail, safety and your needs are unsurpassed.

Scott H.

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