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Palau Expedition: Diving Palau’s Famous Blue Corner

In September 2013, Palau’s current President Tommy Remengesau announced his intention to protect 80 percent of Palau’s waters as a National Marine Sanctuary. For the month of September 2014, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala is leading key scientists and filmmakers to explore, survey, and document the diversity and abundance of the marine life that will be protected by the new offshore sanctuary. The team will also assess how well inshore marine protected areas have performed to date.

This morning we moved near the southern tip of Palau, to dive where everyone who comes here wants to dive: the Blue Corner. It is an underwater promontory sticking out of the reef like a triangular terrace twenty meters deep. Precipitous walls surround the terrace, and thousands of fish are supposed to congregate there, including barracuda, jacks and sharks. The ocean currents are typically strong, which fish schools appreciate.

Blue Corner is the main attraction for anyone diving in Palau.  Rich deep waters hit the wall and rush to the surface, bringing up nutrients that attract all sorts of fish. (Photo by Enric Sala)
Blue Corner is the main attraction for anyone diving in Palau. Rich deep waters hit the wall and rush to the surface, bringing up nutrients that attract all sorts of fish. (Photo by Enric Sala)

When we arrived there were already two diving boats with mostly Japanese tourists. We jumped in the water and immediately saw a school of hundreds of bigeye trevally.

A Napoleon wrasse (also called bumphead wrasse) the size of a car windshield swam straight to us. It touched the dome of my camera. Quickly realizing that we did not have any food to offer (fish feeding is prohibited in Palau), the Napoleon wrasse swam straight to another group of divers, only to feel equally disappointed. It turned around and saw us again, swimming back to us. Maybe the wrasse forgot that we did not have any food.

"Sacre bleu! " cried the Napoleon wrasse, disappointed at the lack of free food from divers, or perhaps merely describing his heavenly surroundings. (Photo by Enric Sala)
“Sacre bleu!” cried the Napoleon wrasse, disappointed at the lack of free food from divers, or perhaps merely describing his heavenly surroundings. (Photo by Enric Sala)

We also saw a handful of whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks, a couple of hawksbill turtles, and a school of barracuda. But the most unique thing we saw was a school of about 30 divers, building a curtain of bubbles. It felt like diving inside a champagne glass.

Tourism is the major industry of Palau. The fact that a hundred thousand people come to this small island nation every year—mostly to dive and observe its underwater life—clearly indicates that there is demand for wild nature. President Remengesau recognized this and announced at the United Nations a year ago his intention to create a large marine reserve in Palau’s waters, aware that ecotourism—and not industrial fishing—is the future of this wonderful country.

Read All Pristine Seas: Palau Blog Posts

The Pristine Seas expedition to Palau is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Comments

  1. margherita moretti
    Mariano Comense (Como), Italy
    June 13, 8:53 am

    Dived Palau in 2016 January. From Italy to Palau, to dive in this magnific reef. Wonderful !

  2. Jinny
    Palau
    April 26, 2015, 9:58 pm

    Thank you. Sometimes it takes a stranger’s eyes to really appreciate what you have, even if you have it at your backyard.

  3. Gary
    San Jose,Ca
    September 19, 2014, 11:40 am

    My son was badly bitten by a tiger grouper in Cozumel because the grouper thought he had food in his hand. Needed 20 stitches. That’s why divers should not feed fish.

  4. Sharon Brennan
    Melbourne, Australia
    September 8, 2014, 11:08 pm

    Dived Palau in 2005 inc this spot and it was brilliant. Best reef diving I have done anywhere before or since. German Channel, Jellyfish Lake, Blue Hole, so many great spots.

  5. Miles
    September 8, 2014, 10:38 pm

    I was fortunate enough to dive Blue Corner in 2000 while aboard Star Dancer. The guides on our boat stuck to the no-feeding rule, however they told us other guides would sometimes carry hard boiled eggs in their BCD pockets to feed Napoleon wrasse.

    As a result, they said if a diver mimed reaching into their BCD pocket, the Nw would hang around in front of the diver, expecting to be fed. I tried it, and it worked, and I rememeber thinking “what a smart fish, able to recognize the motions of a person.”

    After miming for several minutes, switching between my whopping 2 BCD pockets, with a big Nw hanging right in front of me, I remember thinking “c’mon guy, how many pockets do you think I have to hide eggs in, what a dumb fish.”

    I am now fortunate enough to be a volunteer diver at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, where the Tropical Reef exhibit is modeled after Blue Corner. The Napoleon wrasse in that tank knows EXACTLY when feeding time is, and is fooled by no such antics.