And another fine day for mantas. We were rejoined by Sandra and Benjamin, who spent yesterday driving around Palau with Inga and Stefan. And we finally have Joedyn dedicated to us for the next three days. At last!
Benjamin and Sandra were eager to do Ulong Channel again, and we were in agreement, so we were joined by a few new folks on the boat as we headed out. The two men were Aussies, and the woman was a Scottish expat relocated to Australia (she and her beau met in Las Vegas!). The solo Aussie was definitely encouraging all on board to visit the Great Barrier Reef. It is on the bucket list, but the water is just so darn cold there...
Our first dive today was at the Sandbar, near Ulong Channel. Our second dive here wasn’t quite like the first, but still very nice. When we descended, we were in the middle of a school of bumphead parrotfish. Apparently, it is mating season, although we did not appear to catch any in flagrante delecto (sp?).
Somewhere during the dive, we acquired an extra diver from a different boat. She followed me from the leaf scorpionfish rock over to our group, and Joedyn wrote to her that she needed to stay and wait for her group. She nodded, and we took off. Only to discover 10 minutes later that she was still with us! Joedyn again wrote to her to wait, and this time she shook her head no. Quite emphatically. When we reached the turn around, we headed back and eventually ran into her dive buddy. You should have seen the body language under water. I wonder what that conversation wound up being.
The second dive was Ulong Channel. We descended into a school of jacks, quite impressive. And then followed along behind four grey reef sharks, going along a different route to the channel than I had taken before. There were another 2 sharks at the mouth of the channel, and two feeding anemones with some concerned fish along the way. We had a good current going through the channel, which was absolutely teeming with aggressive titan triggerfish. None of us got hurt, though, and we all enjoyed ourselves.
And then off to our third dive at German Channel. I was holding my breath and hoping for the best. There were quite a few boats there when we arrived, but we still needed a good bit of time for our surface interval. Joedyn spotted a bait ball on the surface, so we knew where to go in general.
No sooner than we get to the first cleaning station, we experienced a fly-by directly overhead. The manta was beautiful. There were two others far above it. We wound up following them towards the bait ball and we got a beautiful show yet again. During the dive Wayne and I simultaneously saw a jellyfish in front of us and we backed away. Unfortunately, I backed right into another’s tentacles. Painful. Good thing there were mantas to distract us!
At the end of the dive, we saw about 6 grey reef sharks and 4 groupers in a row just waiting to be photographed, but with no one paying them any attention. Poor babies!
Dinner was at the Taj again, probably our favorite place in the entire world to eat. Although Auntie Pasto’s is a close second. I have to admit to some distress in my lower back and my ankles today, largely because of two consecutive days on a boat with a really short ladder. Lesson learned is that if the ladder is short, I hand up my gear next time rather than put the larger strain on standing upright with the gear on.
Only one dive day left. Who knew 9 days could go so quickly? :(