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Palau

Palau is a world-class tropical diving destination fringed by large barrier reefs and steeped in culture. Get ready to explore one of the world’s last remaining frontiers and treat yourself to breathtaking marine encounters and storied wrecks.

Geography of Palau

The Republic of Palau is a remote scattering of islands roughly 500 miles off the coast of the Philippines. Situated in Micronesia, Palau is made up of eight principal islands and over 250 smaller ones. The island nation has been at the forefront of marine conservation and sustainable fishing. This has resulted in healthy coral reefs, bursting marine life, and untouched tropical beaches, making Palau diving one the best in the world.

Blue Corner

Blue Corner, as the name suggests, is an extensive coral reef plateau that juts into the open ocean, then drops to a maximum depth of 90 feet. One of Palau’s most popular scuba diving spots, it’s home to a sheer abundance of marine life and underwater structures. Divers are rewarded with massive schools of jacks, barracudas, and tunas. Shoals of colorful fish, like wrasses and butterflyfish, congregate in one of the most diverse marine communities in the world. Advanced diving skills are a must due to the strong tidal current flowing out into the sea. If you’re in Palau for the shark diving, you’re in for a treat as up to 13 species of sharks circle the plummeting reef wall.

The Big Drop-Off

Ngemelis Wall, also known to the Palau scuba diving scene as The Big Drop-Off, not only boasts a 900-feet wall dive but also breathtaking views and exhilarating drifts. There’s no wonder the famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau loved this place. This sheer vertical wall runs along the entire Ngemelis Island on the southern region of Palau. Here, you’ll find an exotic variety of reef fish like sergeant majors, moorish idols, angelfish, and yellowtail fusiliers foraging off the wall. Be prepared to encounter white tip, gray reef, and leopard sharks patrolling the drop-off. Arrange for an early morning or late afternoon dive to avoid tourist boats or use a safety marker buoy.

Peleliu Wall

Even paradise is not exempt from the brutality of war. Peleliu Island, located southwest of the archipelago, is a biodiversity hotspot barely populated by humans but laced with history. It was the theater of Operation Stalemate II, a brutal battle between the United States and Japan during World War II. Much of the remnants of this battle lie below the ocean’s surface. Diving around the island offers a history tour in living color, with each wreck having its own story to tell. Here, the tragedy of war gives birth to new life as technicolor species seek refuge in rusting fighter jets and battleships. Take an exhilarating drift dive through Peleliu’s many caves, crevices, and deep canyons.

Turtle Cove

Turtle Cove is a mini blue hole that forms a large cavern in Ngercheu Island’s extensive barrier reef. But don’t get confused by its name. Turtle Cove is actually a vertical wall that you can access by descending through the mini blue hole. The top of the reef hosts an amazing bounty of marine life. Striped and black snappers, goatfish, titan tigerish, anglerfish, sharks, and sweetlips await the intrepid diver. Upon exiting the cavern, you’ll be cruising through numerous small caves, ledges, and arches.

Ulong Channel (Shark Sanctuary)

The Ulong Channel has a barrier reef running perpendicular to it and a sandy bottom decorated with large coral formations and colorful sponges. During incoming tides, the channel bursts with life. Massive schools of jacks, snappers, batfish, and barracuda head for the mouth of the channel, inviting gray reef sharks for a feast. Currents can be strong along the valley, offering an exciting drift dive over majestic lettuce coral heads and giant clams.

Tunnels of Doom

If you’re one for rare, adrenaline-pumping Palau dive adventures, don’t miss a tour of the Tunnels of Doom within Palau’s Rocky Islands. Among the many hidden lagoons, pristine coves, and jellyfish lakes in this area, the Tunnels of Doom is quite a rare treat. After kayaking through marine caves, you’ll find a garden of multicolored brain coral that’s unique to this location. This ancient brain coral colony is a result of the shade from overhanging trees, inordinate nutrient flow, and physical protection from the wind and waves. The species love this habitat so much they would sting and fight other coral species that get in their way.

Marine Life

  • Sea anemones - Sea anemones may be pretty, but they can be ferocious predators. These animals are abundant throughout Palau, helping keep the island nation’s reefs healthy and balanced.
  • Moray eel - Most Palau diving spots offer the chance to spot yellow margin and giant moray eels. Keep your eyes peeled when you swim over sandy bottoms and crevices.
  • Broad stingray - The broad stingray is a beautiful, elusive animal, and Palau’s shallow and warm lagoons make for an ideal habitat for this species.
  • Cuttlefish - These marine mollusks are nearly everywhere in Palau, but they usually stay hidden during the day. They are also chameleon-like, so if you want to spot this intelligent, 500 million-year-old species, you’ll have to be clever.
  • Leopard shark - Palau is one of the few island nations in the world that you can call a true “shark sanctuary.” On a good day, you can spot up to 13 species of sharks, including the leopard shark, one of the smallest and least intimidating of reef sharks.

Other Attractions

  • Peleliu Island - Hop on a boat to Peleliu Island and see the remnants of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
  • Ngardmau Waterfall - Go deep into Palau’s ancient tropical forests and witness the majestic Ngardmau Waterfall, the island nation’s tallest one.
  • Men’s House - Get a glimpse of Palauan culture and way of life by visiting the iconic men’s house in the Belau National Museum in Koror.
  • The Milky Way - Kayak between towering rocks and get a white limestone mud bath in the brilliant blue waters of the Milky Way, a picturesque lagoon in the Rock Islands of Palau.

How to Get There

Due to Palau’s remote location, getting there can be a bit tricky. But with some careful planning and research, you can reach paradise without a hitch.

By Air
The Roman Tmetuchl International Airport (code ROR) is Palau’s only airport. It currently serves four airlines: Asiana Airlines, Korean Airlines, United Airlines, and China Airlines. The quickest way to get to the island nation is to fly from Manila, Taipei, Guam, and Seoul.

By Sea
There’s only a handful of major cruises visiting Palau. If you prefer this mode of travel, keep an eye out for tickets and be ready to shell out the big bucks.

Getting Around
There is no public transportation in Palau. There are, however, plenty of options to get around. If you’re touring Koror, you may take advantage of its limited service bus or hire a local taxi. If you’re exploring other smaller towns, you may rent a car or join a tour. To hop between islands, you can make use of private boats, liveaboard tours, or government-run boats.

Best Time to Visit

Palau is a year-round scuba diving destination, it being in the tropics. The trade winds shift from June to August, bringing more rain than usual. The best Palau diving season is between December and March, when the water is clear, calm, and warm. But this is also the peak season, which means hotels are pricier and diving sites are busier. If you wish to avoid the crowds while avoiding heavy rain, book your trip during the transitional months (April, August, October, and November). But keep in mind that the seas might be choppier during these months.

Required Trainings & Certifications

All card-carrying divers from around the world can dive in Palau. As a world-class scuba diving destination, you’ll find a number of training centers and certification agencies. Many of Palau’s best diving sites are along channels with strong currents and steep drop-offs, so it would be wise to get an Advanced Open Water license before you arrive. But you can always learn in the field and get certified in Palau.

Miscellaneous Information

Currency
The United States Dollar is the legal tender throughout Palau. Most credit cards are accepted in Koror and other busy tourist areas. In small islands and towns, though, you might need cash for most purchases and rental fees.

Language
Palauan and English are the two official languages in the archipelago, while Tobian, Sonsorolese, and Japanese are recognized as regional languages. Filipino is also widely spoken in commercial places like hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Time Zone
Palau observes Palau Time (PWT), which is nine hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). There are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Driving Side
Driving in Palau is on the right side of the road. After 30 days of staying in Palau, foreign drivers must obtain a local driver’s license. Sidewalks are limited, so drivers must adhere to the 40 kph national speed limit.

Calling Code
Dialing +680 will allow you to call Palau from another country. International dialing is 680 followed by an area code.

ISO 3166 code
ISO 3166 alpha-2 code “PW” is the ISO 3166 entry for Palau and its 16 states.

Internet TLD
.pw is the Internet country code top-level domain for Palau.