Day 6 of my Palau Adventure onboard the Black Pearl: Siaes Corner, Sand Bar, Chandelier Cave
Our penultimate day of diving began with a site called Siaes Corner. This is another of Palau's sites where it is handy to have a reef hook. Even if the current is not particularly strong, using a reef hook means no finning is required to maintain your position; both hands are free for photography. Perhaps most importantly, the coral does not get damaged. The plateau starts at around 10m and drops to approximately 20 meters.
A plunging wall covered in soft coral then disappears into the depths. Along the wall at the drop-off were plenty of sharks and your usual schools of fish, including scad, sea bream, snappers, jacks and fusiliers.
Dive number two was at Sand Bar. While the site's name did not sound particularly inspiring, this was an excellent dive. A sloping hard coral garden drops to around 18 meters. Then a gentle sandy slope carries on into the blue.
Above the reefs were large schools of red bigeyes, seabream, and jacks and a swirling mass of barracuda over the sandy slope. Napoleon wrasse roamed the sandy seascape, and the occasional shark stopped at the numerous cleaning stations littering the sandy slope. The cleaner wrasse at these stations are so conscientious about their jobs that they will also clean inside divers' mouths. All in all, this was a very fishy dive, which exceeded my expectations.
We were now well into the relaxed routine of diving, eating, then diving some more. For the final dive of the day, the Black Pearl cruised through the picturesque landscape of Palau back towards Koro to the location of the natural phenomenon known as the Chandelier Cave.
Although these caves are pretty substantial, the cruise directors decided to enter one group at a time. Fortunately, just outside the cave is a shallow hard coral reef and Hidden among these corals are the shy and retiring mandarin fish, plus the less nervous cardinal fish. So, while our group explored the cave, the other group could search for Mandarin fish and vice versa.
The entrance to the caves is in a sheltered lagoon at the foot of a jungle-covered cliff and is just a few meters underwater. This is an easy and shallow dive, with the bottom of the deepest cave at only around 16 meters. Four large chambers are connected by wide underwater openings and boast impressive but very different stalactite formations. We were diving at low tide so that we could see them at their impressive best. We moved from cave-to-cave surfacing in each one to look at the formations and enjoy this unique experience. Underwater the stalactites were even more amazing and made for great photo opportunities.