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Dive Review of Ocean Hunter III in
Micronesia/Palau

Ocean Hunter III, Feb, 2009,

by Steven M. Genkins, M.D., NC, USA ( 1 report). Report 4702.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Wider Caribbean: Belize; Cayman Islands; Grenada; Honduras; St. Kitts; Turks & Caicos; US (Florida; South Carolina); Virgin Islands (US & British).

Eastern Pacific: Cocos Island; Galapagos Islands.

Central & Western Pacific: Fiji; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Solomon Islands.

Indian Ocean: Indonesia; Maldives.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy, surge, currents, no currents
Water Temp 82 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30 to 150 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Maximum dive time of 60 minutes. Maximum depth conforming to the MOD of the gas being breathed.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Excellent on board facilities for underwater photographers. Spacious camera tables, with sufficient and convenient 110 and 220 V outlets for battery charging. Dedicated camera rinse tank. Cameras handled and transported carefully by crew members.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I first visited, and fell in love with, Palau ten years ago. When I returned this February, I was not disappointed.

Ocean Hunter III, a 96 foot spacious and well maintained world class dive live-aboard, was my home this trip. Its experienced crew is capable, friendly, attentive, and helpful. Captain Kenneth, a native Palauan, sets the tone. He is ably assisted by Co-captain and Divemaster Siksei, his countryman, and by their Filipino crewmates Gabby (Chief Engineer), Eddie (Dive Director), Arlee and Roy (Chief and Assistant Cooks), and Richard and Epi (Deckhands).

I occupied one of two upper deck master cabins, which opened directly onto a covered sundeck. My commodious digs included a queen sized bed, small sitting area with desk, TV/DVD player, and en suite bath. The cabins AC worked flawlessly, and was easily adjusted.

The adjacent large sundeck, sporting two hot tubs, is a great spot to relax between dives, or to enjoy the sunset after a full diving day, while cruising through Palaus beautiful Rock Islands.

The dining room is well appointed and comfortable. Hot coffee and tea are always available. Meals on Ocean Hunter III, served buffet style, are substantial, varied, and delicious. Cold breakfast is available before the first morning dive, hot breakfast after the first dive, lunch follows the second dive, and dinner the night dive. Tasty snacks, including fresh-baked cookies and brownies, and fruit smoothies, are proffered between dives.

An inviting lounge opens off the dining room. It features several plush sofas, an entertainment center with a nice DVD collection, a small library, and a computer complete with a software program describing virtually all Palauan dive sites, including 3D site maps, quite useful for predive planning.

Underwater photography facilities are excellent. Located in a covered area between the dining room and the dive deck, the camera tables are spacious. Sufficient 110 and 220 V outlets are available for battery charging. Cameras are handled carefully by crew members.

The dive deck has ample space for gearing up for dives. There are two showers, two rinse hoses, and dedicated camera and dive equipment rinse tanks.

Five dives are offered each day. All diving is done from a spacious, 35 foot covered rigid hull chase boat, aboard which tanks, BCs, fins, and weight belts reside throughout the trip. Both air and nitrox are available. Fills are consistently 3000 PSI, and nitrox a predictable 32%. Rides to dive sites are typically short, often 5 or 10 minutes or less. Dive briefings are thorough and accurate. Dives are limited to sixty minutes, with maximum depths conforming to the MOD of the gas being breathed. Dive entries are by backroll off the chase boat, and dive exits via a sturdy ladder lowered over the side of the boat. Chase boat drivers are skilled and vigilant. Surface wait times are typically 5 minutes or less before pick up.

A pleasing variety of different types of dive sites is available in Palau. We sampled a great cross section, diving locations as far north as Devilfish City off the northwest coast of Babeldaob Island, and as far south as Peleliu Island. Sites varied from World War II wrecks such as Amatsu Maru, Teshio Maru, Jake Seaplane, and Iro; to sheer walls such as Big Drop-Off, Ngedbus Corner, Peleliu Express, Ngerchong Wall, and Short Drop-Off; to cavern dives such as Blue Holes, Virgin Blue Hole, Siaes Tunnel, and Chandelier Cave; to healthy coral gardens such as Ngemelis Coral Garden, Peleliu Coral Garden, and Wild West Coral Garden; to manta ray cleaning stations at German Channel and Ngardmau Channel; to such iconic Palauan sites as Blue Corner, Ulong Channel, and Mandarinfish Lake; as well as a snorkel in Jellyfish Lake.

Water temperatures varied from 82 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Visibility ranged from 30 feet at lagoon sites, to greater than 150 feet on some of the outer walls. Currents varied from nonexistent to ripping, and could change direction during the course of a dive. In Palau you learn to go with the flow.

My two favorite dive sites were Blue Corner and Ulong Channel. With current flowing, Blue Corner, a triangular submarine plateau jutting out from adjacent vertical walls at a depth of 60 feet, provides a frenzy of activity, including squadrons of cruising gray reef and whitetip sharks just a few feet away, friendly humphead wrasses, schooling jacks, barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, Moorish idols and redtooth triggerfish, as well as an occasional wahoo, tuna, moray eel, or turtle.

At Ulong Channel you descend at the channel mouth to a depth of about 60 feet and watch gray reef and whitetip sharks patrol between resident large schools of snappers and jacks, followed by an exhilarating ride down channel with the current past large formations of lettuce leaf coral.

Wide angle photography was my main focus in Palau, and I was quite satisfied. Healthy hard coral seascapes with a smattering of soft corals all colors of the rainbow, unique wreck and cavern scenes, large schools of fish, cruising sharks, frequent turtles, and an occasional manta or spotted eagle ray, provided me with many terrific photographic opportunities. I didnt encounter the ornate eagle ray or the leopard shark which I had hoped for, providing me with a great excuse to return to Palau.

After 10 days aboard Ocean Hunter III, I dove for two days with Fish N Fins, its land-based affiliate, from boats similar to Ocean Hunter IIIs chase boat. Not surprisingly, Fish N Fins is also a well-run, first class operation, with friendly and capable staff, and diving opportunities on par with those of Ocean Hunter III. Following in the footsteps of Palauan dive pioneer Francis Toribiong, Tova and Navot Bornovski have done a great job developing and running these two Palauan gems.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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