It started like your average good day at Sam’s Tours - arrive early to get a head start and catch the tide in the most advantageous manner, get your gear assembled and on the boat, analyze the nitrox, get your second cup of coffee and some water, and head out.
We descended, went to the cleaning station, and waited. At about 13 minutes into the dive, we turned to head out, and there it was, a black manta in the sky! So further down to the cleaning station we went.
It only got better from there. We saw four mantas, and one of them did a drive by right overhead. It was utterly magnificent. We were astounded and thrilled! Near the end of the dive there was also a stingray nestled in the sand. We had to head out to do a safety stop, and we held our breath hoping for more, but four was our final number. The only down side was this sort of shimmering that we began to see in the water in front of us, below us, and eventually encompassing us. Thermal clines. The water went from 85.2 degrees to 77.8. Instantaneously. It. Was. Freezing!
Ok, I know, not freezing, but you try warming up your thermal core back to 98.6 when you are completely surrounded by 77.8. Not easy!
From there we had a surface interval over the always beautiful Ngemelis Coral Garden, and we then rolled over into the blue to drift from Fairy Wall to New Drop Off.
The drift was filled with a lot of pelagics, teeming around us as we drifted on. Lots of interesting stuff on the walls as well, to include a number of amorous nudibranches. Plus quite a few juvenile sweetlips!
Lunch was again on the dogless Two Dog Island, where we stayed until the rains came back. Then it was on to Jellyfish Lake, where we had not been since 2005. It’s changed a bit - the fee for entry is now $50, up from our last time in; and there is a check in stand where they take your permits until you exit the lake. They are looking to up the fee to $200 to limit the numbers coming in fairly soon, so it was good to get in while the price was still relatively low.
Jellies still abound, but there is now no free diving allowed, as the majority of free divers hurt the jelly population by thrashing their legs to get down. That was ok, we still had a ton of jellies to see teeming about us.
From there back to the shop (tide was too low to do Sam’s Wall), planning for tomorrow, and for Peleliu. After we went back to the hotel, it was off to the aquarium (Palau has a small, but well kept aquarium), to Arirang for a most spectacular Korean dinner (I had the stir fried squid with spicy sauce, YUM), and then back home. All this, and it was only 7:30!