Yesterday we did our final dives. Unfortunately, Tiff woke up with a head cold and wasn't able to dive due to her plugged ears. The rest of us headed back to Sam's and found out that Joedyn would be on our boat again. The weather hasn't really cooperated with us this week - it's been really windy, so the dive spots are fairly limited. We ended up going back to the Blue Corner area. We didn't get much variety of where we were diving, but when the one place you go is the best in the world you can't complain.
This time we dove through the Blue Holes. You descend about 60 feet through a hole, which empties out at the reef wall. Joedyn took the four of us and another diver that just got certified who looked eerily like our friend Walt (of course we were all calling him Walt in our heads all day). He was a much worse diver than Matt and I so we felt good about ourselves. Descending through the holes was a little scary, but if you looked up you could see the surface so it wasn't too confining. Joedyn showed us a "disco clam", which is a clam that looks like it's dancing. Once we got to the reef wall, we saw a lot more fish but not as many as we'd seen in previous dives. There were a few sharks hanging around. Matt and "Walt" ran out of air early and went to the top. I started to run out before Katie and Tim so I ascended to do my safety stop before them (that's a 3 minute break at 15 feet to allow some of the excess nitrogen to leave your system). When my time was up they were still down there so I went to the top. It was a little scary being up there alone! Rain was moving in and it was really choppy and dark. I could see our boat really far away. I kept my face in the water so that I could see the other people down there to feel safer. Luckily the boat saw us and came over quickly. It was an ok dive but not as good as we've come to expect.
It poured during lunch and we were all ready to get back in the water. This time we went around Blue Corner from the other side. The dive was amazing! As soon as we descended to about 15 feet we were surrounded by fish. There were sharks everywhere. We used reef hooks this time, which allow us to attach ourselves to the (dead) reef and float in the "breeze" as we watch the show. Again there were a ton of sharks and fish all around us. A couple of sharks must have come within 3 feet. I had my hand on my reef hook ready to get out of there if they looked at us! Behind us on the reef was a herd of Dogfish Tuna, which are some of the weirdest looking fish I've seen yet. They were enormous and really slow moving, very much like cows. We hung on the reef for probably 10 minutes and then moved on.
At another spot, Joedyn told us to hang onto the reef with our hands. "Walt" didn't want to do that so he used his reef hook but didn't let the string out all the way. He ended up kicking Katie in the head most of the time that we were sitting there. Katie and I were entranced with an anemone and clownfish that were right in front of us. These clownfish weren't as friendly as the ones we saw at Cemetery Reef, but they also didn't run away from us like most fish do. Tim was making fun of us for ignoring all the sharks that were in front of us to watch the clownfish. When we let go we headed back over the reef to the planned exit point. "Walt" again ran out of air much earlier than everyone else. Matt made it to the end. Yay Matt! We saw some sleeping sharks and Katie got to chase a sea turtle. It was an amazing dive. Even the really experienced divers were talking about how great it was.
I got to join a school of fish!! It was on the first dive and we came across a huge school of barracudas. They really weren't scary looking at all and they turned out to be really friendly. I kept getting closer and closer and eventually I was in the middle of the school with fish all around me! I was keeping close to the ones in front and below me so I got a really good look at the fish. They had really big eyes and were looking at me funny but the didn't mind me too much. They also had collapsible fins! Their front dorsal fin could fold down flat on their back. I thought that was pretty cool!
We saw a bunch of turtles too, at least one on the first dive and a couple on the second dive. I was close enough to touch them both times and I did on the first dive, just on the shell. He was kinda slimy. There was one that Joedyn pointed out right over by us on the second dive. The turtle was not in a hurry so I tagged along. I was swimming right next to him about an arm length away. We went quite a ways and I was just looking at him. He was very cool! Tim was following us too and got a couple of good pictures! Eventually Joedyn said that the turtle wasn't going our way and I had to say goodbye. I think he misses me!
After the diving, we headed to Kramer's for dinner and beers. The grilled fish was fantastically fresh. I had these skewers of grouper, shrimp and tuna. Outstanding. Kramer's is a nice dive bar ("dive" as in a bar that divers tent to flock to, not that the bar itself is a "dive.") The owner, Rene, is a friend of Tim's and he stopped a couple of times to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. We also had the opportunity to meet a couple of expats who used to have Tim's job, but who never left Palau. One is the public prosecutor and one is the public defender. Do you think Tim will ever come back to the states? I don't know... I think I would be tempted to stay here!
After dinner we headed back to Tim's where we polished off all of his rum and most of his Asahi (Japanese beer) and we played a$$hole (it's a card game) until like 2:00 in the morning, with some intermittent cooling off in the pool.
It was great. There are no friends in the world like my college buddies! I will surely miss them when we leave.
Obviously, we're getting a late start this morning. Our flight departs at 1:00 a.m. tonight, so we're going to take an easy day of shopping for souvenirs and "just kickin' it" at the beach. Maybe Palau will reveal that elusive sunset tonight.