Palau Aggressor II
Legendary Diving in Exotic Palau
text and photography by Cathy Church, May 1997
What a combination; extraordinary diving and comfortable luxury living aboard the Palau Aggressor II. The diving brought us here and the Palau Aggressor II will bring us back for more. I was on the boat for two back-to-back trips and we all had a fabulous time.
At German Channel we knelt quietly in an arc at a Manta Ray cleaning station. When I heard someone yelling I stared intently at the water in front of me, hoping for a glimpse of those wonderful creatures. Finally, I realized the sound was coming from behind. I turned in time to see a huge manta glide softly over my shoulder. During the next half hour we watched five more mantas came up to the rock, pause to be cleaned and then disappear into the blue to feed on the plankton-rich incoming tide.
The action at Blue Corner and New Drop-off is best in a current. To eliminate coral damage, three foot long lines with small hooks have been draped over the reef. Divers grab a hook and hover above the reef as sharks cruise back and forth. If you get your fill of sharks, you can watch the crew play with a large Napoleon Wrasse. They pose the wrasse just inches from the dome of your wide-angle lens or dance with him for the videographers.
In addition to action dives, Palau offers plenty of variety, including incredible walls with large fans and soft corals, historic wrecks, large chandelier caves, freshwater lakes with nonstinging jellyfish and quiet, lush coral gardens with an overwhelming variety of invertebrates. We found tiny nudibranchs, flatworms and crabs that were new to even our most seasoned divers.
I have witnessed the delights of Palau's diving paradise several times before but never with the professional care and expertise of the crew members of the Palau Aggressor II. They provided vivid dive site briefings that included the creatures we would see. Several crew members accompanied us on every dive. In the water, if you swam at a different pace or stayed behind to take a photograph, there would be an unobtrusive divemaster making sure everything was OK. They provided a perfect mix of freedom, guidance and care.
PALAU AGGRESSOR II
The Palau Aggressor II is beautiful, high tech, luxurious and spacious. The twin hulled craft is 106 feet long, with a beam of 30 feet and remains comfortably stable in virtually any conditions. It is propelled at 15 to 21 knots with two diver-friendly jet drives. She was designed with a shallow draft to allow easy passage through all of the main channels. Thus, she can quickly slip into the calmest waters between dives or for overnight stays and the travel time in the skiffs is rarely more than a few minutes. This is important in an area where seas can be rough.
The eight guestrooms are on the main deck and each has a comfortable queen sized lower and full twin upper bunk, individual air-conditioning control, private head, shower and vanity, and room left over for a small group meeting. I especially appreciated the large window that helped me wake up with the sunrise.
Most diving is done from a 30 foot jet propelled skiff that is raised and lowered into the water on an hydraulic platform. All gear remains in the skiff so you don't have to carry it on and off between dives. The skiff picks you up wherever you surface and you are handed a fresh, dry, hot towel almost before you sit down. The eight foot, two-tiered camera table actually had enough space for all of our group's cameras!
The galley staff not only satisfied our group's complex dietary requirements, they did it with gusto and style. Every meal included regular and low fat options. Everything was delicious, abundant and varied; from a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner to sushi and Japanese soups. Breakfast had plenty of both hot and cold choices; lunches were stupendous; hors d'oeuvres included shrimp toast and wonderful dips; between dive snacks included all kinds of pastries; and there were cookies, fruit, candy and juices round the clock. And, all drinks are included.
The galley, salon and TV viewing room are on the upper deck. When the weather is dry and balmy, the windows around the bar are opened to create an outdoor atmosphere. The stereo system pipes music anywhere on the boat, so bring your favorites along. When lounging you can have a cool drink in the hottub, watch TV from a full sofa, (there are plenty of videotapes to choose from) or go up to the huge,s 50 by 30 foot, partially covered sundeck to relax in a hammock or get a tan while enjoying the incredible beauty of the Rock Islands.
The Palau Aggressor's captain is skilled at tending to a high tech ship. The multi-national crew is from the United States, Canada, Ireland, the Philippines and Palau. They are ready to please.
An onboard photo pro is always available to offer good advice and help. She/he processes E-6 film, photographs the guests (no charge) and hands out the Nikonos rentals, including an unlimited package with instruction at very reasonable rates. If any of the guests' Nikonos equipment breaks during their trip, the Aggressor Fleet offers free Nikonos loaners. The photo pro puts together a fine group slide show on the last night and also produces a wonderful trip video.
If you've always wanted to become nitrox or rebreather certified, this can be done in your week aboard the Palau Aggressor II. And, if you're already certified to use an Atlantis 1 rebreather, you can rent one for use on this ship.
Toward the end of our second trip, we were hit by the edge of a small typhoon. Although we couldn't repeat some of the exciting Blue Corner sites, we were still treated to a wonderful array of excellent dives. Bad weather can hit on any trip, so it's important to know that even in the worst conditions, there is still plenty of great diving. The ship remains in quiet water, the critters are plentiful and the food just keeps on coming.
I rate this trip high on my list of great, all around trips for superb action diving, plenty of small critters, a top of the line, comfortable, luxurious boat and a reliable good time. For more information, contact Aggressor Fleet (U.S. and Canada) at (800) 348-2628, (504) 385-2628, fax (504) 384-0817; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The Web site address is http://www.aggressor.com or you may write to P.O. Box 1470, Morgan City, LA 70381-1470.