...Highlights: shark action, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Blue Corner's diving environment: advanced divers...
If you know about the action-packed diving in Palau then you’ve probably heard about THE dive site, Blue Corner. This epic spot can be combined with diving at Blue Holes and together they hold the promise of numerous species of shark, multitudinous schools of fish and reefs festooned with beautiful coral and caverns to explore. Located southwest of Koror and to the northwest end of Ngemelis Island, this not-to-be-missed dive is best experienced from a Palau liveaboard cruise.
Considered to be one of the top dive sites in the world, Blue Corner is approximately 8m at its shallowest point and descends to about 30m. Visibility is great on any given day when diving Blue Corner, averaging 16m on the outgoing tide, and a crystal 28m+ on the incoming tide. This is when clear ocean water increases the visibility on the reefs and lagoons. The incoming tide waters hit the reef wall, forcing plankton and algae rich waters up and over onto the plateau providing nutrients for the pulsating life on the reef. These strong tidal currents facilitate the constantly active big and small fish action and aggregations of reef sharks.
Blue Corner Palau is known for its variable currents which can change direction (horizontally and vertically) at any given moment. This dive is definitely a drift dive offering you an adrenalin-fuelled experience. Due to the strong, unpredictable currents, divers are advised to use their reef hook (not surprisingly, Palau is the birthplace of the reef hook). Once hooked in, inflate your BCD a little to prevent from crashing into the reef and then you are like a kite, effortlessly hovering above the reef (conserving energy, keeping your air consumption in check and saving the reef from potential damage) while the action comes to you along the currents that sweep around the reef wall.
Prepare to be dazzled! There is an incredible variety and abundance of marine life to be encountered when diving Blue Corner. This claim is supported by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). According to them, Palau’s marine biodata includes 7 out of 9 of the world’s species of giant clams, approximately 1,400 species of reef fish, 300 species of soft corals and 400 species of hard corals. Dives at Blue Corner are right in the heart of this diverse location. The site is awash with life, both big and small. Some notable critters include leafy scorpionfish, nudibranchs, lionfish and anemone fish. Typical pelagics are big-eye trevallies, blue fin tuna, large schools of snapper and barracuda. Hawksbill and green turtles frequent the reef as do bumphead parrotfish, mackerel, wahoo, and on occasion spotted eagle rays.
Scuba divers use 1 of 2 usual entry points: along the main reef wall, and at the eastern end of the reef where you descend to a cavern at 22m. Descending down the main reef wall you’ll pass magnificent gorgonian,fans standing like miniature trees, with their ‘branches’ spread out waiting for the zooplankton to pass by on the incoming tide. The main part of the reef is an underwater promontory at 15-20m that juts out of the reef like a triangular terrace, overhanging the precipitous walls providing the perfect vantage point to witness life on the reef and be wowed by the pelagic action. You should aim for the edge of the plateau to hook in.
If there are already divers at Blue Corner hooked in near the wall edge, be careful not to disturb their field of vision. As you hover above the reef with the perfect view of the plummeting wall and sapphire blue ocean before you, you have ‘the best seat in the house’ to observe rays, resident grey and whitetip reef sharks, tuna and barracuda. Turtles, butterflyfish and a variety of anthias cruise the reef and Napoleon wrasse pass by to say ‘hello’. This area is also known for huge spawning aggregations of Bohar Snappers. The action on the reef will surely keep your attention, but look occasionally into the deeper reaches of Blue Corner and you may be fortunate to spot hammerheads, bull sharks, tiger or a whale shark. Marlin, sailfish, whales, mantas have been spotted at Blue Corner although you need a large dose of luck to see any of these one your dives here.
When it’s time to unhook, you will drift back along the reef and, as the currents subside, so should your heart rate from all the excitement. The more gentle current will take you across the hard coral covered shelf filled with activity of a myriad species of fish. Here you may have more encounters with friendly Napoleon wrasse and turtles and may even spot the occasional manta or eagle ray. Beautiful clown triggerfish and butterflyfish may swim by. Keep a look out for king triggers, as they will aggressively defend their territory. As you move slowly along the sandy pathway, resting whitetip sharks are often seen. During your safety stop, the current will take you past the coral ridge into open ocean where you may be fortunate to see more passing pelagics. Diving Blue Corner offers something new and different with each experience, and you will want to experience it more than once!
When the current is favourable, there is an alternative option to experience a surreal dive which includes dropping in at the sublime site Blue Holes, and drift down to Blue Corner, ensuring you hook in, in time for the show! If your dive begins at Blue Holes, you will start at a shallow 1-2m where the top of the reef leads to one of the 4 holes which are the entry points to the amphitheatre-sized cavern. This is the spot for your dive buddy to take that perfect silhouetted pic of you in a halo of ambient light, surrounded by topaz-hued waters and framed by the cavern’s entrance.
Descending among the corals, tubastraea, wire and black corals adorning the cavern’s walls, watch out for large schools of barracuda and snapper patrolling the cavern opening. Further into the cavern you may encounter flaming scallops, dartfish and cleaner shrimps. On your journey down the cavern wall you’ll be hard pressed to remember the variety of corals and tropical fish species to note in your log book after the dive. The sandy floor is at about 40m where whitetip reef sharks and leopard sharks can be seen sleeping, as well as a variety of shells and nudibranchs can be spotted.
Blue Holes certainly provides enough interest and action to be a dive on its own. However, if your plan includes diving Blue Corner you will exit at either 15m through a 5m diameter window, or a larger opening at 27m. Whitetip and grey reef sharks, wahoos and dog-toothed tuna patrol the exit. En route to Blue Corner your experienced dive guide will show you small outlying caverns while you meander among the brain corals and are introduced to the tropical critters that call this reef home. Expect a 20-25 minute swim along the reef (sometimes against the current for about 50m), as you pass the second buoy, the current will reverse and carry you to the corner, have your hook ready and be prepared for an underwater bristling shark spectacle.
Most dive sites which have received such high accolades are generally reserved for experienced or advanced qualified divers, however during slack tide novice divers can share in the phenomenal Blue Corner scuba diving experience. New scuba divers will be enthralled with the abundance of hard and soft corals and the marine life that lives among them. Swimming to the edge of the ridge, one looks out into the blue where pelagics swim in the deeper waters and on occasion they will swim to the reef top and explore the reef allowing for a close up view. Novice divers would have to time their dives just right and other divers in your party may feel disappointed at missing out on the thrill of a drift dive. The reef is best experienced when the ocean currents are strong, drawing in big schools of fish and predators. For these reasons novice divers may want to consider upgrading their scuba qualification before traveling to Palau.
Blue Corner Basics: Drift dive
Depth: 8 - 30m
Visibility: 15 - 28m
Currents: Moderate to very strong
Surface conditions: Calm, may be choppy
Water temperature: 28 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: 2
Diving season: All year round
Distance: Northwest of Ngemelis Island (~ 40 km southwest of Koror)
Access: Palau liveaboards