The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
The island nation of Palau offers divers and adventurers some of the most exciting experiences in the Pacific. Famous dive sites such as Blue Corner, German Channel and Chandelier Caves offer exhilarating encounters with sharks and manta rays, dense schools of marine life and dramatic underwater scenery, whilst the beautiful islands and beaches of the Rock Islands are nothing short of spectacular. And with the Palauan government’s progressive steps to protect the natural environment and promote sustainability, visitors to this beautiful country can be sure of a once-in-a-lifetime experience - now, and in the future.
Palau is located at a marine crossroad where the deep waters of the Pacific meet the nutrient-rich Philippine Sea. This clash of the oceanic titans produces the perfect conditions for an explosion of life and the steady supply of nutrients brought in by oceanic currents supports the incredible amount of marine life that is so obvious on Palau’s famous dive sites. From heathy corals and amazing biodiversity, to huge schools of fish, plenty of sharks, manta rays and even passing whales, Palau’s prolific and exuberant marine life is testament to the richness of these waters. Add in the protection and conservation efforts provided by Palau’s progressive government and you have all the ingredients for a world-class dive destination - now, and in the future.
Palau’s limestone islands and reefs have been steadily eroded over millions of years creating the dramatic walls and channels, caverns, drop offs and hidden lakes that provide such an exciting range of diving. One of Palau’s best known sites - and possibly one of the most famous dives in the world - is the Blue Corner, a plateau of coral that extends out into the open ocean directly in front of a channel in the barrier reef. During an incoming tide the concentration of life here is extraordinary and divers can simply hook onto a rock at the edge of the drop off and watch as sharks, schools of fish, Napoleon wrasse and so much more cruise by, before releasing and drifting with the current through the sites prolific marine life. Other famous sites include the Ulong Channel and Shark City, famous for cruising sharks and dense schools of fish; German Channel and Devilfish City with where you can encounter manta rays at cleaning stations; the stunning Chandelier Caves that offers divers the chance to explore a series of ancient, air-filled chambers beneath the reef; and the legendary Peleliu Express, that has earned a reputation as one of the wildest drift dives on the planet!
World War II left its mark on Palau, including beneath the waves, and divers can explore over 15 wreck sites, including the Amatsu Maru, a huge oil tanker that is Palau’s largest wreck; the well-known ‘Helmet Wreck’ which takes its name from the artefacts that can still be seen stacked together inside the ship; the Iro Maru and Choyu Maru which offer exciting exploration for more advanced divers; and of course, the famous Jake Seaplane, a Japanese Aichi navy seaplane that lies almost completely intact in just 15m of water.
No trip to Palau would be complete without a visit to one of the most unique sites in the Pacific - Palau’s Jellyfish Lake. Recently reopened to controlled tourism, visitors can now snorkel amongst dense school of golden jellyfish, that have evolved in isolation affect being cut off from the open sea by towering limestone cliffs. The surreal experience of drifting through vast clouds of stingless jellyfish in a stunning marine lake sums up Palau as a dive destination - unique, exhilarating and spectacular.
While many of Palau’s famous dive sites are not suitable for snorkelers, there are still plenty of amazing locations to choose from and Palau offers some of the best snorkelling in the Pacific. Snorkeling at the recently reopened ‘Jellyfish Lake’ on Eil Malk within the Rock Islands is a unique experience and should not be missed, but we’d recommend a kayaking and snorkelling trip around one of the many islands around Koror as a great way to get away from the crowds. You can also visit a lagoon called the Milky Way, famous for its white mud, as well as check out the giant clams at the aptly named wait Clam City.
The Republic of Palau is an oceanic nation of over 300 islands that mark the western end of the Caroline Islands of Micronesia. Perched on the edge of an oceanic trench that plunges to over 5 kilometres in depth, the islands of Palau are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the Pacific, as well as some of the most exciting diving in the world. Dry land makes up just 450 square kilometres of Palau’s territory - the remaining 600,000 square kilometres is open ocean, lagoon or reef - but this tiny land area is home to some of the most spectacular island landscapes in the Pacific. The renowned Rock Islands attract thousands of tourists every year, all drawn by the desire to explore the spectacular lagoons and dramatic karst landscape that have made Palau so famous.
Palau was first settled by Philippine migrants over 3000 years ago and and visited by European explorers only in the 16th century. In more modern times, Palau has had a turbulent history and at various times has been claimed by Spain, Philippines, Germany and Japan, before finally declaring its independence in 1978. During World War II, Palau was the scene of some of the Pacific’s toughest fighting, particularly on Peleliu Island, where the epic Battle of Peleliu took place in 1944. American and Japanese forces fought over this tiny coral island and its airstrip for over 2 months, with the loss of over 13,000 men. Today Palau has become one of the Pacific’s most popular tourist destinations that are drawn by the stunning natural environment, adventure and exploration, its rich history, and of course, some of the best diving on the planet.
Palau International Airport is well connected to countries around the Pacific Ocean with direct flights from South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and Macau. If you are flying in from other destinations such as Japan, China or the US, you can connect via Guam, whilst guests traveling from other countries in Asia, or Australia, can fly first to Manila in the Philippines, or Incheon, South Korea. Once in Palau, all of the hotels in Koror are just a short drive from the airport.
Palau’s largest island - Babeldoab - is home to the nation’s capital at Ngerulmud however the majority of resorts and other accommodation options are concentrated on or around Koror to the southwest. Along with the small neighbouring islands of Ngerkebesang and Malakal which are connected by bridges, Koror has become the focal point for tourism development in Palau and is where most divers will base themselves - particular as most of the dive operators operate out of Koror. There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts that cater for holiday-makers as well as divers, along with smaller hotels in and around these three islands. If you are looking for something a little more off-the-beaten-track, you can also stay on Peleliu. Palau also has a number of liveaboards that are perfect for more committed divers looking to escape the crowds in the high season.
Palauan President Tommy Remengesau Jr summed up the nation’s weather perfectly when he said, “In Palau you can guarantee that you can catch a fish if you go fishing, but you can never guarantee what the weather will be.” That said, Palau does have two distinct seasons - a wet season from June to September, and a dry season from October to May. Just remember you’ll always get rain in the dry season, and plenty of sun during the wet season!
Palau can be dived year round, but you’ll have a better chance of calm seas and better visibility if you book a trip during the dry season, with the best weather from December to April. During the wet season, the seas can be rougher and the visibility lower, but this won’t affect the diving too much and the vast majority of sites can still be dived. In fact Palau’s famous dives see a lot less visitors during the wet season and you’ll be able to get some great deals at hotels, so don’t discount a trip in the off season if you are looking for a bargain!
The water temperature doesn’t vary much throughout the year and normally hovers around 28C with cooler thermoclines deep on the walls and reefs. For most people a 3mm suit with an extra rash guard or hood is ideal. Visibility is normally fantastic with wet season lows of 15-20m and dry season highs of 40m+! Palau lies beyond the main typhoon tracks and very rarely gets a direct hit from one of these monster storms, but it does occasionally suffers the effects of wind and swell from typhoons that hit the Philippines during the wet season.
Palau has become a global leader in protecting its environment and a model for other countries seeking for ways to protect their natural heritage and develop a more sustainable tourism industry. Over the last decade, Palau has created the world’s first shark sanctuary and protected over 80% of its entire Exclusive Economic Zone - the area of ocean that extends 200 nautical miles in all directions from the islands; banned all sunscreens that contain chemicals harmful to coral reefs; updated its immigration policy so that every visitor has to take the ‘Palau Pledge’ and commit to protecting the natural environment of the islands whilst visiting; and most recently started to phase out single use plastics across the country, starting with government offices and larger shops.
The Palau Pledge - Declare something worthwhile at customs:
Children of Palau,
I take this Pledge,
To preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.
I vow to tread lightly, act kindly, and explore mindfully.
I shall not take what is not given.
I shall not harm what does not harm me.
The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.