Palau - Losing Control


I went to Palau in 2015 to dive.  It's considered one of the best SCUBA spots in the world.  And I was excited for trip.   My plan was to spend five days there, but unfortunately, the weather had other plans.   

I arrived in Koror, Palau from the Philippines a day late after spending many hours in the Manila airport and a short night in a Filipino hotel courtesy of United Airlines.    There was a tropical wave in the area, not exactly the best conditions for diving.

When I showed up at the Fish n Fins dive shop, they didn't even ask me my name.  They simply said "Oh, you are the guy who was supposed to arrive yesterday."  

I was excited to get out on the water and start diving.   However, due to the stormy conditions, they told me that they weren't able to take the boat out to "best sites."    But I was happy to do any diving.

They introduced me to my dive guide, a French marine biologist by the name of Martin Mocquard.   We spent the first day diving on a couple of World War II wrecks.  These are real wrecks - boats that were sunk during battle.  Martin had an encyclopedic knowledge of the war and the wrecks in the area.   He cautioned us that there was still live ammunition on some of the sites and to leave it alone if we saw any.

Conditions were not great, but I still saw a lot of sea life that we don't see in Florida.  The next day, we visited the famous Jellyfish Lake and then headed out to a reef.  This is where I lost control.

Steve Hunsicker diving in Palau

Before we got in the water, Martin warned us that the current could be swift. He said with the stormy weather, it could be worse than normal.   There were just four of us and we all agreed to go.

When you dive, you use a vest to control your buoyancy in the water.  You adjust the vest to keep you below the water and above the bottom.   It works great, until it doesn't.   I was using a rental vest and shortly after I jumped into the swift current, it started to auto-inflate.  This occasionally happens and I had learned in my dive training how to disconnect it, which I did.   But now here I was in the swift current with absolutely no control.   It was like a rollercoaster, except that I'm being pushed along, being spun around and turned upside down.   I was completely out of control.   And my dive buddies, who all had functioning equipment, weren't doing much better.  I've never been in current that strong.

But before we had jumped in, Martin had told us to just "ride it out" and it would eventually deposit us in the right place.  He was right.   It finally settled down.   I was able to fix my vest and continue the dive.

Was I scared?  Perhaps a little. Thankfully, I am an experienced diver.  If this had happened when I was still a beginner, I might have freaked out.    But at a certain point, you just give up control and as an airline pilot might say, you "just sit back and enjoy the ride."


It's a shame the weather was so lousy during my trip.   Fish n Fins is an excellent dive company and I would love to have spent more time with them.

I was also fascinated by the Palauan language.   I thought it might have some similarity to other Polynesian languages, but I found it to sound much different.   I've linked below a video of my trip.  The background music is a Palauan Song.  

Dates of Travel

  • June, 2015

Places Visited

  • Koror




This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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