Casey Mahaney & |
Astrid Witte Mahaney
Operating Blue Kirio Travel and Photography, this photographic
team specializes in underwater photography and exotic dive travel
and have co-authored 10 books on marine life identification
and dive travel, along with a vast number of articles for periodicals.
Through the years, they have developed a special interest in
exploring marine life habitats and identifying and photographing
unusual and uncommon species of fish and invertebrates. While
spending several months every year traveling on various assignments,
they also specialize in organizing and escorting a limited number
of live-aboard dive tours to select remote and exotic destinations
around the globe.
agenda calls for exploring Palau's lagoons. These environments
range from turbid inner lagoons to those that are crystal
clear, and we are hoping to encounter a whole new batch
of marine life. Starting out with another perfect morning,
the wind soon picks up, making the seas choppy. Luckily,
we only have a short run to our first site, the Chuyo Maru.
Inside Malakal Harbor, this artificial reef from WWII represents
the typical inner lagoon environment. Heavily encrusted
with sponges, comb oysters, tubastrea coral and whip coral,
the wreckage is also covered with a thick layer of silt.
Gobs of it drape even from the ceilings and the large black
coral trees, while the water is filled with particulate
matter. Lionfish thrive in this environment, along with
cardinalfish, Coral Trout and Dusky Anemonefish.
capture several unfamiliar gobies and an unusual type of
wire coral shrimp on film. Casey is trying out a new lighting
system on the digital. He has mounted a strong flashlight
to the housing, which enables him to bring out the colors,
but the light is still uneven. Nevertheless, he gets several
make our second dive on a different kind of wreck. Resting
inside a large bay on top of a hardcoral garden is a Jake
Float Plane. It's one of Micronesia's most intact plane
wrecks. We inspect the sponge-encrusted aluminum and an
enormous black coral tree that drapes from one of the wings.
Clustered with flute oysters, the coral tree is sheltering
an array of juvenile damsels and cardinal fish. The surrounding
reef supports species such as pipefish, and Eight-banded
Butterflyfish and Dusky Angelfish, all species that are
not normally seen on the seaward reef walls.
of the most exciting discoveries awaits us on the last dive.
This is kind of a funky dive, with a maximum depth of four
feet. It's in the center of a large seagrass bed inside
the Rock Islands. Just barely below the surface, in a patch
of rubbly sand, we find a family of Black Seahorses, all
of them well camouflaged by a covering of algae. I'm very
excited, I have only seen seahorses once before, but Ethan
confirms, that these are quite common in this type of environment.
is pretty easy on this dive?all you do is stand up and talk.)
Casey tries to capture the little creature with the macro
adapter on the digital, but the depth of field is limited,
so he returns once more to the boat to switch back to the
regular lens, deciding to try and edit the images later
on the computer. Minutes later, underneath a gathering of
rocks, Ethan spots several
scorpionfish that appear to be in the same genus, but their
colorations vary from scarlet red with a white band to !
gray and pink. Unable to identify any of them, we figure
they belong to the Parascorpaena genus.
We are on a natural high from our discoveries, but pull
ourselves out of the water and rush back to the resort to
download our images. We are hoping to make it back in time
to watch (and, of course, photograph) one of Palau's dramatic
sunsets, but also would like to take our hosts up on a dinner
invitation. The event is top be held at Kraemers Cafe, owned
and managed by Rene Menz, an Austrian Chef who is well-known
in diving circles.
Hey, we have to keep our strength up.
The Palau Pacific Resort
Considered one of Micronesia's most luxurious resorts, the
Palau Pacific Resort features 160 guest rooms and suites nestled
within a lush tropical landscape. Located along a beautiful
white sand beach, just 25 minutes from the international airport
it provides a vast selection of leisure and recreational activities.
The 5 Star PADI Dive Center "Splash" offers instructional programs
as well as guided scuba and snorkeling tours. "Photo Palau"
provides a full-service photo and digital video center, while
"The Poolside" is the center for watersports such as windsurfing,
kayaking, sailing and snorkeling. The resort also offers a fitness
center, outdoor tennis courts, nature trails as well as fine
dining at the Meduu Ribtal Restaurant and the alfresco Coconut
Sam Scott has been exploring Palau's vast reef system, hidden
waterways and forgotten jungles for more than 18 years and knows
the best locations below and above the surface. An endless enthusiasm
for showcasing Palau's diversified ecosystem for every visitor
and a willingness to go the extra mile have earned Sam a reputation
for unique and personalized service. With his first-class team
of PADI instructors, marine biologists and trained naturalists,
Sam's Tours offers an array of watersports, including diving,
kayaking, snorkeling, overnight sailing and environmentally
friendly sportfishing tours. In addition, Sam's offers thrilling
land tours to towering waterfalls, ancient Palauan monoliths,
prehistoric cave paintings and fascinating Yapese stone money
For more information,
go to the website at: