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September 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Ocean Hunter’s Special Trips

from the September, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Our writer says Ocean Hunter is worth the money for special trips to Palau sites that Fish n’ Fins’ day boats can’t reach. But is the diving any better at those sites than those closer to FNF’s home base of Koror? Alan Dean Foster, a longtime Undercurrent correspondent, weighed in after a twoweek trip aboard Ocean Hunter II last January. He was aboard a trip led by a German dive operator to the northern regions of Palau including the Kayangel Islands, the Ngulu Islands, Ulithi Atoll and Fais island.

“Unfortunately, the weather throughout was atypically rough and diving was, with one exception, ordinary. The Kayangel Islands’ governor had a contract with a Hong Kong company to catch and ship live fish every three months. The result: In two days of diving on perfectly healthy reefs, we saw no fish longer than a foot. No snapper, trevally, grouper, cod, barracuda, sweetlips, parrotfish…nothing. Fortunately, the Palauan government has since terminated the arrangement. Ngulu, with only 12 people living there, had healthy reefs and good manta and turtle populations. Because of the weather, we could only dive inside the reef line, so little chance to see pelagics.

“Ulithi Atoll was magical. Diving outside the southern end, we encountered feeding mantas, who ignored us. We were the first group of recreational divers I’m aware of to dive the wreck of the U.S.S. Mississenewa, a 563-foot oil tanker that was the only ship to be sunk in WWII by a kamikaze torpedo. The wreck lies inside the lagoon at 100 feet and is broken in half. Unfortunately, it’s upside down but the propellers are impressive.

“Fais is known as the Island of the Sharks. Guess what? Barracuda and other predators, but no sharks. Not one. We were told the sharks are more prevalent on the unprotected, swell-hit side of the island, but we couldn’t dive there because of the conditions. Interesting, isolated place, though, with spectacular viz.” His favorite dives? Same as those visited by FNF’s dive shop boats. “Two make-up dives at Ulong Channel in Palau were world-class.”

His trip may have been a one-shot deal, but Fish n Fins co-owner Tova Harel Bornovski says Ocean Hunter III will offer a special trip every year. (Ocean Hunter II, which did two in 2007, is currently commissioned for a research trip and won’t be available for recreational diving use until next year.) The next one is a two-week trip from December 21 to January 4, visiting Palau’s southwest outer islands. The dive sites include Sonsorol, Pula Anna, Helen Reef and Tobi - - stretching 400 miles south of Korol, they’re actually closer to Indonesia.

More special trips may soon be scheduled, Bornovski says. “We’ve been approached by a few TV channels interested in undiscovered WWII wrecks, and some natural history documentary filmmakers. This might open a window of opportunity for dive guests to explore truly remote destinations in the Western Pacific.” For more information on the special trips in December and beyond, send an e-mail to info@oceanhunter.com.

(PS: Foster has written scores of science-fiction, fantasy, horror and contemporary fiction books, including the novel versions of films such as Star Wars, the first three Alien movies, and The Chronicles of Riddick. See his website at www.alandeanfoster.com.)

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