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by 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.

Day Two

The morning welcomes us with a picture-perfect image: The ocean is like a mirror, reflecting puffy clouds scattered across an otherwise blue sky. Again, we start early since we are planning on three dives. Ethan, our guide, suggests going to some sites today that don't just represent different marine life environments, but also demonstrate some surprising discoveries from the negative effects of El.

Ngercheu Coral Garden experienced fairly severe shallow hard coral damage, but has now almost fully recovered and multiple species of hard corals are sprouting everywhere, with many of them already reaching substantial size. This is considered an incredibly fast recovery, particularly since this site is sheltered from nutrient rich currents. Although located on the outside of the barrier reef, the Coral Garden is tucked into a large bay, making for calm dive conditions. Hard coral reef structures are interspersed with patches of sand, which make for ideal resting and feeding spots for Spotted Eagle Rays, stingrays, as well as Leopard and Whitetip Sharks. Hawksbill Turtles along with Blacktip and Grey Reef Sharks frequent the gently sloping hard coral garden. For us, a particularly special encounter is with a huge, foot-and-a-half-long cuttlefish. He insists on modeling for us and we end photographing the color-changing creature in all color phases and from all directions.

In our on-going experiment with the digital camera, Casey has added a strobe to our setup. However, the exterior strobe doesn't sync with the camera. But by now he has figured out how to optimize natural light, and is getting really nice results. The water is clear, and bright, thanks to abundant sunlight, and as long as he keeps the sun behind him, the results are great.

Our next stop is Jellyfish Lake. Ethan thoroughly educates us on the many endemic species that are found in this unique marine environment and we spend time exploring the surrounding mangrove region. Of course, the lake's most famous endemic species are the jellyfish: The Moon Jellies and Mastigias Jellies. During El Nino, the Mastigias population plummeted. During our visit to Palau just over 2 years ago, operators didn't even want to take us to the lake. Amazingly, since then, the population has fully returned. The lake is full of jellies again, with the densest concentration of jellyfish found in areas that receive the most direct sunlight (which also enssured a major sunburn) and we were soon engulfed by a soup of hundreds of thousands of jellyfish. What an awesome experience! Our lesson with the digital camera included the discovery that the battery power is limited. While we had replaced the batteries this morning, they failed as soon as we started to run into the mass! es of jellyfish. Luckily, we had also brought the 35mm camera, so for shots of jellyfish soup look in future issues of Skin Diver!

The evening promised another discovery. While the photographic results with the digital camera had improved, we now had many more images to download and quickly learned that our laptop was incapable of handling it and simply locked up. After deletion of most major files, it finally allowed us to download one image after another. Our plan for tomorrow includes exploring both the outside reef and inner lagoon sites. Casey is planning to advance to macro photography and perhaps try his luck on some larger, fast-moving subjects, such as sharks! So stay tuned for more*

Webcast Sponsor

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 Terrace Restaurant.

Sam's Tours

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 disks.

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