The Republic of Palau is Micronesia’s western most archipelago in the Caroline Islands chain. The tightly clustered Palau archipelago, consists of eight principal islands and more than 250 smaller ones covering an area of 459 square kilometers.
Palau is the home to one of the world’s unique phenomena, the Rock Islands. The Rock Islands are Palau’s crowning glory. More than 200 of these jungle-topped knobs of limestone dot the waters for a 20 mile (35km) stretch south of Koror. Their bases, having been worn away by tidal action and grazing sea creatures, are narrower than their tops, causing them to look like emerald-hued mushrooms rising from the turquoise sea.
Another phenomenon is Jellyfish Lake where you can snorkel in the clear water lake filled with nearly two million jellyfish. Here the salt water from the ocean seeps through fissures in the limestone into the lake, whilst other marine life is kept out. Due to a lack of predators the jellyfish have evolved to a point of having no ability to sting.
Babeldaob is the largest island and contains the capital, Ngerulmud. It is the second largest landmass in Micronesia (after Guam) having an area of over 200 square kilometers and is recognised as one of the largest undisturbed tropical rainforests in Micronesia. Babeldaob is home to Ngardok Lake and Ngermeduu Bay, the largest natural lake and largest estuary in Micronesia. Two thirds of Palau’s population lives on the island of Koror.
Palau can be classified into four types of island: volcanic; reef and atoll; low platform; and high limestone. The terrain varies from the high, mountainous main island of Babeldaob to low, coral islands fringed by large barrier reefs. Palau’s eastern shore drops off steeply to the Palau Trench which reaches a maximum depth of 27,000 feet about 30 miles offshore while the western shore slopes gradually to depths of 18,000 feet about 250 miles to the west.
Palau enjoys a pleasantly warm climate all year round with an annual mean temperature of 27°C. Rainfall can occur throughout the year, and the annual average is 150 inches. The average relative humidity is approx 82% and although rain falls are more frequent between July and October, there is still plenty of sunshine.
Palau’s warm tropical waters are legendary amongst divers for their dramatic sheer walls rising from the depths to within inches of the surface and capped with thriving coral reefs. Palau is home to over 1,300 species of fish and more than 700 species of coral.
World renowned for its’ marine bio-diversity and abundance of large pelagic animals, Palau also offers avid wreck divers one of Micronesia’s largest collections of WWII shipwrecks.
From current swept plateaus to sheltered coral gardens, Palau offers a wonderful range of diving for every level of interest and skill.
The majority of diving in Palau is drift diving along the walls, plateaus and coral gardens of the outer reef, with the dive boat following along from the surface to meet you upon ascent.
Experience the sites that make Palau one of the top dive destinations in the world: the sharks of Blue Comer, the manta rays of Devilfish City and German Channel, and the coral reefs and stunning drop offs teeming with marine life. Many liveaboard ships also operate in the waters of Palau
Diving is excellent year round, the best diving season is considered to be between late November and early June.
The Ngemelis Drop-Off
The Ngemelis Drop-Off is considered to be one of the world’s best wall dives. Starting in water just knee deep, the wall drops off vertically nearly 300 meters. Divers can free float past a brilliant rainbow of sponges and soft corals whose intense blues, reds, or pure whites form a back drop for quivering nine foot orange and yellow sea fans and giant black coral trees.
Blue Corner is regarded as one of the best single dives on earth! The wall is vertical and deep and is known for it’s sheer abundance of underwater life. There are large pelagic fish; schooling barracudas; tropical fish in every variety; turtles; guaranteed sharks; hard corals; soft corals; and fan corals. Strong tidal currents nourish this chain of life. Best diving is from 15 to 24 meters. Not a dive for beginner divers.
Blue Holes is a huge cavern on the north side of Ngemelis Island. Four big holes on the ceiling enable a lot of ambient light to penetrate the cave and create great photo opportunities. Maximum depth is 30 meters
Big Drop Off
This steep wall offers an amazing formation of soft and hard corals and a healthy population of reef fish. The best of Big Drop Off lies relatively shallow in 2 – 17m, which also makes it an excellent snorkeling area.
German Channel is a man made shallow channel that connects the lagoon with the outer reef. The channel was blasted by the Germans in the early 1900s in order to transport the excavated phosphates from the island of Angaur to the Koror port.
Today, many Manta Rays visit the channel and feed on the plankton that the strong currents bring. Few cleaning stations in the channel’s mouth allow one to view those great creatures from such a short distance. The cleaning station is at 18m and the beautiful coral garden at 7-13m.
Popular WWII wreck dives
Before and during WWII, Palau became strategically important for the Japanese war machine. On March 31, 1944, the American Navy air raided the Palau Archipelago in an operation named DESECRATE I “. During operation “DESECRATE I ” more than 60 ships were sunk. The wrecks rest at depths ranging from 20m to 40m. Some of the recommended sites are:
Helmet Wreck (10 – 31m)
Small supply ship, stern gun and shells, depth charges and radial engines for zero fighters in cargo hold.
Buoy #6 Wreck (26m)
Patrol boat, best wreck for macro photography, excellent night dive.
USS Perry (82m)
The only US shipwreck in Micronesia. A 315ft (96m) long, Clemson-class destroyer. Sunk after hitting a mine on September 14, 1944.
Chuyu Maru (35 – 23m)
Freighter, stern gun and shell, bridge intact, engine room, many Lion Fish.
Iro (23 – 35m)
Fleet oiler, large coral encrusted bow and stem guns, open engine room.
Amatzu Maru (30 – 14m)
Tanker, largest wreck in Micronesia, many black coral bushes.
Kayaking or canoeing is the perfect way to explore the hidden network of saltwater lakes, mangrove forests, marine tunnels, tropical beaches and caverns. A speedboat shuttle service to and from the kayak sites eliminates a long distance paddle, enabling you to concentrate on the wonders of Palau. Visit the remains of ancient Palauan villages where stone paths and ceremonial stone podiums tell us the story of the past.
With over 350 islands to explore a well-balanced tour with a variety of activities would include: light paddling combined with snorkelling, bird- watching and hiking. You can explore caves, adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, within the rock islands or take in the history of Palau’s WWII past, such as the Japanese forts, lighthouses and other installations.
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