Tova Harel Bornovski

Tova Harel Bornovski

Tuesday, 12 March 2019 11:18

Adventure Diving at Blue Holes Palau

Mystical diving in Palau - Blue Holes

The Blue Holes are one of the popular ways to start your dive to Blue Corner. The holes form the top of a very large cavern. On the face of the reef there are two (2) exits. One is a small 15-foot (5 meter) diameter window at 45 feet (15 meters). The other is a large opening starting at 85 feet (27 meters). The bottom of the cavern is at 120 feet (40 meters). In the north end of the cavern, at 85 feet (27 meters), is a narrow entrance that leads to another cave.

This cave is appropriately named The Temple of Doom. Several people have perished in this cave, it not for inexperienced divers. Only divers with a Cave Diver rating and special gear should enter this area. Please stay out!!!

Important notice - Blue holes are a popular dive site. Many dive boats are usually circling around the site waiting for divers. On ascent, use a Safety Sausage and keep your eyes and ears open for boats.

The current that runs along the west coast of the Palau Islands hits the reef wall at Blue Corner and flows up and over the plateau bringing with an abundance of clean water, plankton and algae. This phenomenon occasionally creates very strong currents and down drafts. The currents change with the tides and reverse direction approximately every 6 hours. As a rule of thumb the incoming tide will flow from south to north and the outgoing tide from north to south. The current at Blue Corner and Blue Holes are strongest and hardest to predict during the half- moon. When swimming from Blue Holes to Blue Corner you may have to swim against the current for about 150 feet (50 meters). When you pass the second buoy, the current will reverse and carry you to the corner. The ambient light coming into the cavern from the large opening appears dark blue; this is an excellent backdrop for award-winning photos.

Distance from Koror - 30 miles (48 km) 50-70 minutes by a speedboat.

Level of Diving Experience - Novice, intermediate.

Visibility - 60-150 feet (20-50 m).

Location

Northwest of Ngemelis Island and north of Blue Corner.

Blue Holes Palau photos by Anatoly Beloshchin

Reef Formation

A vertical wall runs from north to south and merges with Ngemelis wall at Blue Corner. Four holes on top the shallow reef 3-6 feet (1-2 m) deep, about 1000 feet (305 m) north of Blue Corner marks the ceiling of a very large cavern. There is a huge opening stretching from 85-140 feet (26-42 m). A window, 15 feet (5 m) in diameter at 55 feet (17 m) is an alternative way to swim out. At 85 feet (26 m) on the north part of the site, there is a narrow entrance at 80 feet (24 m) that leads to an even larger cave called “The Temple of Doom”.  Special preparation and gear is needed in order to penetrate this cave. The wall outside the cavern is vertical and ends at Blue Corner.

Marine Life

Inside of the cavern you will find many soft corals and Tubastraea decorating the walls, along with many species of nudibranchs and shells that can be found on the sandy bottom. Schools of fish patrol the large opening (with dark blue ambient light as a background). On the way out, the wall is vertical and offers just about any type of coral and fish you can imagine! The 7-10 minutes swim to Blue Corner is rewarding.

Diving Blue Holes Palau

Diving

Probably the second most popular site in Palau, the dive at the Blue Holes usually starts with swimming over the shallow reef and descending through one of the four holes on top of the reef. Occasionally if the tide is very low or the swell is high, the dive commences down along the wall and into the cavern. Swimming through the hole, you will discover a very big cavern. Flooded with rays of light, each hole on the ceiling is light blue and the very large opening to the west is dark blue. Spend some time in the cave and enjoy the sight of it before swimming out toward Blue Corner. Do not attempt to enter Temple of Doom unless you are prepared for cave diving and accompanied by a guide who knows the place! On your way out from Blue Holes, keep the wall to your left and kick toward Blue Corner, you will pass through beautiful canyons and crevices. The wall is colorful and rich with marine life. At the corner, hook yourself and watch the sharks playing in the current.

Sea Turtle sleeping in cave at Blue Holes Palau

Fascinating Facts

Recognizable from the air, early divers in the late 1950’s considered Blue Holes as one of the first dive sites in Palau.   

Blue Hole Dive Site Palau Info Graphic

If you want to see more of Anatoly's photos click here to visit his website

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Thursday, 16 May 2019 16:45

Dive Palau - the Wreck of Jake Seaplane

Jake Seaplane in Palau is a very easy dive site, suitable as well for snorkelers - the plane is visible from the surface. It is one of the sites most scuba divers want to visit to take underwater photos with their dive buddies being underwater models around the wreck. In the following video, our photo & video Pro Udi will give you a short introduction to the dive site. To get more details please read our dive site description until the end. We have a booking link for you, concluding this blog, in case you wish to book one of our Palau Best Price Dive Packages and explore Jake Sea Plane Palau yourself :-)

History of Palau's Jake Seaplane

This slow-flying reconnaissance seaplane is one of a few JAKEs on Palau and it is very well preserved. It was spotted from the surface by a Palauan fisherman in 1994, he informed Mandy and Shallum Etpison, owners of Neco Marine dive shop. Together with Paul Tzimolis and Gerry Merphy from Skin Diver Magazine they were the first to dive and photograph it. The plane apparently crashed during takeoff or landing after the engines had stopped. Note that the propellers are straight if the airplane hit the water while the engine was running the props would have bent! On impact, the tail section, the engine and one of the pontoons broke away. The tail section and the missing pontoon can be found about 20 feet (6.1 meters) north of the plane. They are difficult to find because they are now covered with thick layers of coral and marine growth. 

Infographic of the wreck of jake seaplane in Palau Micronesia
From "Diving & Snorkeling Guide Palau" by Navot & Tova Bornovski

Jake Sea Plane Specifications 

Type: Aichi E13A-1 Japanese Navy Seaplane (Allied code name: JAKE)

Engine: Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 fourteen (14) cylinder air-cooled radial engine

Length: 37.875 feet (11.3 meters)

Wingspan: 47.6 feet (14.5 meters)

Crew: Three

Underwater photo of Jake Seaplane Palau
Jake Seaplane Palau by Anatoly Beloshchin

Before WWII, the Japanese built two (2) seaplane bases on Palau. The largest base serviced the Kawanishi flying boats (Allied code name: EMILY) and can still be seen today; the Palau Pacific Resort is built on the foundation of this old seaplane base. The SPLASH dive shop is erected on top of the taxiway. The metal tie-down rings still exist where those large seaplanes were moored on the southeast side of the hotel and under the lookout hut. Meyuns Sea Plane Ramp is the other seaplane base and was home to the JAKE seaplanes.

Underwater photo of Jake Seaplane Palau
Jake Seaplane Palau by Anatoly Beloshchin

Location &  Distance from Koror

The wreck is northwest of Palau Pacific Resort, 500 yards west of Meyuns Seaplane Ramp, a five (5) minute boat ride from most dive shops in Koror.

Visibility during Diving & Snorkeling

Usually 60-90 feet (20-30 m). It is highly recommended to dive this wreck during high tide for the best visibility.

This dive site is a suitable site for novice divers

Diving Depth Summary

The plane is resting in 45 feet (15 m) of water. The plane is upright, the starboard wing is bent downward at a 30-degree angle and the engine is broken off from the fuselage.

Currents: None.

Reef Formation at Jake Seaplane Wreck Palau

The plane is resting in about 45 feet (15 m) on a large coral head. The reef slopes up from 120 foot (40 m) sandy bottom. Corals found here include Staghorn, Lettuce, Brain, and Table as well as many varieties of soft corals. 

Underwater photo of Jake Seaplane Palau
Jake Seaplane Palau by Anatoly Beloshchin

Marine Life & Underwater Photography

After visiting the seaplane, time and air permitting, take the opportunity to explore the area. Octopus, Cuttlefish (Sepia sp.), Nudibranchs and colorful tropical fishes abound among the corals. Due to the shallow depth and clarity of the water, the seaplane is a photographers paradise. 

Diving the Wreck of Jake Seaplane Palau

Visibility is usually excellent. The wreck can be clearly seen from the surface. Many artifacts still exist inside and around this seaplane, such as radios, ammunition and a small bomb inside the cockpit to the right of the aft seat. Please do not take any artifacts. On this dive site, as well as with all ship and plane wrecks in Palau waters, live ammunition can be found. A word of caution: DO NOT PICK UP ANY AMMUNITION!!! Due to the age of the bullets, bombs, and mortars, etc. these pieces of history are very unstable and can explode. Jake Seaplane Palau is a very easy and popular site for night dives.

Conclusions of Diving Jake Sea Plane Palau

Jake Seaplane Palau is an easy site, suitable for all divers and for snorkelers. It is perfect for night dives and Fluo Diving. You can book your Palau dive adventure here with us - choose one of our Palau Best Price Dive Packages - click here for more information and booking.

Friday, 07 December 2018 11:53

Jellyfish Lake Palau - Wonders of Nature

Jellyfish Lake Palau - The Jellyfish are coming back!

On October 7, 2018, we’ve posted “The Jellyfish are coming back!” on our facebook page.

Ever since the Jellyfish disappeared we checked monthly if we could see some, with little to no result, until October 2018.

Since our Facebook report, it has been estimated by concerned conservation organizations and park rangers that the number of Jelly Fish has grown to over 1 million.

Golden Jellyfish Palau

In 1982 National Geographic published an article about Palau’s Jellyfish Lake and since then its fame has been growing constantly.

Jellyfish Lake in Palau is one of seventy marine lakes in Palau. The marine lakes are connected to ocean water through fissures and tunnels in the limestone structure of the rock islands. Five of the marine lakes have a continuous population of the Golden Jellyfish (Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni). There are five endemic subspecies of Jellyfish in Palau all named after Palau’s first five presidents.

The famous Jellyfish Lake is the only lake open to the public due to conservation reasons. The lake is called Ongeim’l Tketau (in Palauan Fifth Lake) and located on Eil Malk island, part of the Rock Islands in the southern lagoon in Koror State, roughly 45 minutes by boat from Koror.

Palau Jellyfish

Due to isolation over about 12,000 years, the marine life in the lakes evolved to be different from species in lagoon and ocean. The jellyfish almost lost their ability to sting and they have no natural predators. Though the jellyfish do have stingers, they are too small to be felt by humans. However, at Fish ’n Fins, we recommend that people with allergies wear wetsuits while snorkeling.

Jellyfish Lake Palau


About Jellyfish Lakes

Jellyfish Lake is stratified (stratification = the formation of water layers based on salinity and temperature) into two layers, an oxygenated upper layer (mixolimnion) and a lower anoxic layer (monimolimnion). The oxygen concentration in the lake declines from the surface to zero at 15 meters (at the chemocline).

Stratification is persistent and seasonal mixing does not occur. The lake is one of about 200 saline meromictic lakes that have been identified in the world. However, most of these lakes are of freshwater origin. Permanently stratified marine lakes are unusual, but on Eil Malk and on other nearby islands there are eleven other apparently permanent stratified marine lakes.

The stratification of the lake is caused by conditions which prevent or restrict the mixing of water vertically. These conditions include:

The lake is surrounded by rock walls and trees which substantially block the wind flow across the lake that would cause mixing.

The primary water sources for the lake (rain, runoff and tidal flows through tunnels) are all close to the surface.

The lake is in the tropics where seasonal temperature variation is small, and so the temperature inversion that can cause vertical mixing of lakes in temperate zones does not occur.

The oxygenated layer extends from the surface to about 15 meters (49 ft). All organisms that require oxygen live in this layer including the jellyfish, a few species of fish and planktonic life forms.

The lake is connected to the sea via three tunnels that lie near the surface.

The tunnels channel tidal water in and out of the lake. Because the tidal water enters at the surface, the lower anoxic layer is largely unaffected by tidal flows. The anoxic layer extends from about 15 meters (49 ft) below the surface to the bottom of the lake. The oxygen concentration in this layer is zero. This layer, however, is rich on hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and phosphate. The top three meters of this layer contains a dense population of bacteria, at least one species of which is a purple photosynthetic sulfur bacterium. This bacterial layer absorbs all sunlight so that the anoxic layer below the bacterial plate is dark but transparent.

The anoxic layer is potentially dangerous for divers, who can be poisoned through their skin.

jellyfish palau


Jellyfish Species of the Jellyfish Lake Palau

Two species are seen in Ongeim’l Tektau the Golden Jellyfish (Mastigias Papua Etpisoni) and the Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia Aurita)

Jellyfish at the lake in Palau

The Golden Jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake Palau

The spotted jelly (Mastigias papua), lagoon jelly, golden medusa, or Papuan jellyfish, is a species of jellyfish from the Indo-Pacific oceans. Like corals, sea anemones, and other sea jellies, it belongs to the phylum Cnidaria. They have a lifespan of approximately 4 months and are active primarily in mid-summer to early autumn.

Jellyfishes with stinging tentacles are usually hunters. Cnidocyte cells enable them to catch their preys before eating them. The spotted jelly has developed another way to feed itself; it lives in symbiosis with a unicellular photosynthetic organism called zooxanthellae. This unicellular organism settles in the tissue of jellyfishes. It provides products of photosynthesis to the jellyfish, and in return, the jellyfish provides it minerals and nutrients from the soil and the sea water. In addition to this symbiosis, the spotted jelly has several smallmouths used to grab animal plankton. These mouths are disposed all along its oral arms.

Golden Jellyfish while touring with Fishnfins

Moon Jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake Palau

Aurelia aurita (also called the common jellyfish, moon jellyfish, moon jelly or saucer jelly) is a species of the genus Aurelia. The jellyfish is translucent, usually about 25–40 cm (10–16 in) in diameter, and can be recognized by its four horseshoe-shaped gonads, easily seen through the top of the bell. It feeds by collecting medusae, plankton, and mollusks with its tentacles, and bringing them into its body for digestion. It is capable of only limited motion, and drifts with the current, even when swimming.

Jellyfish in Palau


Change of Jellyfish Population and their Return

El Niño affected Palau with a severe drought in 1998 and 2015-2016 causing the water temperature in Jellyfish Lake to rise drastically causing the Jellyfish to disappear from the lake.

The Jellyfish remained dormant as polyps waited for better conditions and cooler water temperature. Since about May 2018 , the water temperature started going down and the Jellyfish started coming back.

From counts that were done recently the number of Jellyfish reached one million and is still growing.

Tourists are enjoying visiting the unique lake and snorkeling with the non-stinging Jellyfish.


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