PALAU IN THE

MICRONESIAN

ARCHIPELAGO

Among the world's most spectacular diving 

and snorkeling destinations

> A diving and island hopping adventure in the Republic of Palau <

 

The tightly clustered islands, which comprise the tiny nation named Palau, are located just above the Equator north of New Guinea and east of the Philippines. Palau, rising steeply from the empty and remote Pacific Ocean, is made of more than three hundred raised coral islands as well as several atolls. The small body of islands, including the world famous Rock Islands and the larger inhabited islands to the north, all gather within a an expansive turquoise-colored lagoon, enclosed by a barrier reef more than 70 miles/110 km long. 

 

We loved this little travel diamond! We experienced first-hand how Palau is one of the most extraordinary diving spots in the world; the barrier reef enclose spectacular, unspoiled coral reefs flanking the Rock Islands but most action happens at the fringes of the barrier reef where steep underwater walls, drop-offs, blue holes, huge caves and tunnels can be visited. Due to Palau’s remote position in open waters and the fact that the archipelago is a crossroads of three major ocean currents, vast numbers of migratory fishes and pelagic predators gather around the reefs.

 

We spent a couple of weeks in Palau. And even though we used most of the time with a dive tank on the back, exploring all the greatest dive spots around the Rock Islands, we found time to sip the juice from betel nuts on a tour to the remote Southern island called Peleliu, which hides numerous WWII remains. We also circled the large jungle-clad Babeldoab Island to suck in the rural island atmosphere and visit several cultural and historical sites. It was therefore also easy to fall in love with the Micronesian culture, traditional village life, jungle scenery, warm-hearted locals, and the numerous World War II remains above and under the ocean surface. Palau is in our opinion definitely one of the most alluring places to visit in Oceania. In fact, even though the population is only 20.000, Palau has its very own brewed beer!

 

Selected pics:

Palau: Located in Western Pacific
Palau: Located in Western Pacific

The great Pacific has three major ethnical and geographically distinct areas: Micronesia, consisting of many small islands and widely spread north of the Equator, and then the Melanisian and Polynesian islands, south of the Equator. In Micronesia, Palua is the first island state when traveling directly east from the Philippines

View to the green rock islands
View to the green rock islands

We took day tours in this wild and beautiful arhipelago almost every day, for rock climbing, island-hopping, diving or snorkeling.

The wild Rock Islands
The wild Rock Islands

Formed by ancient coral reefs, the bases of these limestone formations have been slowly eroded over millennia into quirky mushroom shapes.

Among thousands of jellyfish
Among thousands of jellyfish

Jellyfish Lake is a marine lake located on Eil Malk island in Palau.10 million of the orange jellyfish creatures live in this landlocked saltwater lake where they got trapped million years ago when the reefs rose. Because of lack of predators they lost their burning hairs while multiplying. It is perhaps one of the most surreal experiences on Earth, to swim in this lake. We loved it, even so much, that we had to visit it two times! Definitely, a place we need to revisit some day with the kids

Island-hopping in our own boat
Island-hopping in our own boat

We used Sam's Tours in Koror Islands for arranging boat, snorkeling and kayak tours into the Rock Islands. Highly recommendable. This morning we went to the Southern Lagoon in the Rock Islands for snorkeling, kayaking and visiting various beaches. Sensational!

Map of Palau
Map of Palau

Displayed by our dive guide, a local fellow with red teeth, as he was addicted to the mildly narcotic betel nut, and chewed it at all times... (when he was not diving, but surely the first thing which come to his mount at surface time)

Farmer, Koror village
Farmer, Koror village

A smiling Palauan woman, actually all the locals were very friendly and open

View to corals
View to corals

Underwater visibility around Palau's pristine islands can be up to 60 meters (200 feet), sublime for visits its massive coral walls which coat the Rock Islands. At this picture theres see-thorugh to the coral bed at shallow water. Snorkeling doesn't get better than this!

Rock island part from above
Rock island part from above
Malakal island and Koror village
Malakal island and Koror village

We stayed at Malakal Island and used it as a base for island-hopping, diving and jeep excursions around the main islands. Koror, Malakal and Ngerekebesang islands are tightly connected by bridges and comprise the hub of Palau. Most people in the country live in Koror, the capital.

Traditional Bai House, Babeldaob
Traditional Bai House, Babeldaob

Babeldaob is the main island in the Palau archipelago. We spend a couple of days to drive around the island in a rented jeep, from village to village and coast to coast. It is really rural and also covered much by jungle. In several villages we visited a bai house: The traditional Palauan men's meeting house. They represent a lot of Micronesia customs and history and very fine art.

Old jungle, Babeldaob island
Old jungle, Babeldaob island

When criss-crossing Babeldaob on its muddy dirt roads, we took time to do several hikes along rivers, ridges, and through pristine rainforest. Babeldaob feels a world away from the populated island of Koror, which is part of its charm and appeal. Parts of the island's dense jungle interior remain virtually unexplored.

Jungle hike to waterfall
Jungle hike to waterfall

After the time through the dense jungle a swim in the rock pool and the waterfall was very refreshing

The giant in Karaeru
The giant in Karaeru

Babeldaob Island

View to barrier reef
View to barrier reef

From all high points on the Babeldaob Island there’s a nice view towards the barrier reef which surrounds the island from the rough Pacific. Here from the very north of the island looking east. The path leads to a gathering of old stone monoliths with view to the barrier reef

Megaliths of Badrulchau
Megaliths of Badrulchau

Polynesia was populated late whereas the first people settled on the Micronesian islands over 4000 years ago. Stone structures and spread across Micronesia and on Palau's Babeldoab Island there are 52 megaliths, forming two columns of 3m high, which used to support a large structure, perhaps a pyramid. Archeologists date these structures to around A.D. 161. It is a great day tour from Koror, through dense jungle to the northernmost and very rural part of the largest island in Palau

Remote beach, Babeldaob Isl.
Remote beach, Babeldaob Isl.

Babeldaob, located northeast of Koror, is the largest island in Palau. Unlike the smaller limestone Rock Islands and Koror, Babeldaob is mountainous and volcanic. Mangrove forests border all but a few stretches of the coastline which have nice and empty sand beaches. The empty and pristine beaches of Babeldaob reminded me of the Andaman Islands in the remove Indian Ocean – perfect for hideaway-lovers

Sunset over Rock Islands
Sunset over Rock Islands

The picturesque 300 or more Rock Islands are Palau’s major trademark. The limestone seascape was formed millions ago as tectonic forces pulled coral reef out the oceans, and today the isles comprise a complex network of high ridges and steep rock mountains perforated by clear lagoons and narrow channels. All the rock islands are densely covered by plant life and inhabited by a diverse plethora of life form, many of them unique to Micronesia.

Sailing through rock arch
Sailing through rock arch

Almost every morning we boarded a big speedboat and sailed through the Rock Island for the great dive sites in the south. We dived some of the best places in the world which are famous among intrepid divers: ‘Blue Corner’, the most requested dive in Palau, a dive site where you use reef hooks to attach to the seafloor against the current and stare into the deep blue to be greeted by loads of grey reefs sharks. We even saw a huge bull shark on that dive!

German Channel
German Channel

Was build during WWII to navigate combat ships throigh the barrier reef, On our way to a spectacular dive site: ‘Peleliu Wall’, an abrupt 300m drop that starts in about 3m of water, is one of the wildest dives in Palau, and one of the best wall dives in the world. ‘Blue Hole´ is an extremely cool dive where you descent deeply trough a narrow and small hole in the shallow reef which empty into a vast interconnected cave and cavern system which, in the end, open into the deep blue.

Dolphin close to Malakal Isl.
Dolphin close to Malakal Isl.
Big clams, Ulong Island
Big clams, Ulong Island

They had a size of 3x3. Close to Ulong Island. The diving was amazing: ‘Ulong Channel’ was an ideal drift dive: A 45 min joyride through a technicolor and shark-filled reef canyon where you can be carried by the current in an excess of 10 mph / 16 km/h. But, the most extraordinary and unforgettable dive was ‘Siaes Tunnel’, a dive trough a deep underwater reef tunnel which starts at a sheer wall at 27m and stretches 50m. The inside is a huge cavern ranging in depth from 35 to 50m.

Ulong Island beach break
Ulong Island beach break

Resting at remote and untouched Ulong Island between two dives. Most of the Rock Islands are steep rocks our mountains covered in a green foliage with a few bright white sandy beaches.

Seakayaking in Risong Bay
Seakayaking in Risong Bay

A boat or canoeing trip through the islands is a must when visiting Palau and it will reveal several beautiful white sand beaches perfect for hideaway picnics and lagoons with magnificent clarity offering superb snorkeling. Here with Rie at Risong bay with glassy waters and corals just beneath the surface

Dive trip
Dive trip

Diving with Sam’s Tours in the Rock Islands and outer reefs was the absolute highlight of visiting Palau

Betel not anyone?
Betel not anyone?

Our dive guide at surface time.

Paradisiacal Three Palms Beach
Paradisiacal Three Palms Beach

The picturesque 300 or more Rock Islands are Palau’s major trademark. The limestone seascape was formed millions ago as tectonic forces pulled coral reef out the oceans, and today the isles comprise a complex network of high ridges and steep rock mountains perforated by clear lagoons and narrow channels. All the rock islands are densely covered by plant life and inhabited by a diverse plethora of life form, many of them unique to Micronesia.

Rock Islands lagoon
Rock Islands lagoon

Some of the Rock Islands, or isles, are really small, others are huge like mountains.This is not a swimming pool but the clear waters at the Rock Islands – here close to Carp Island

Snorkeling with sharks
Snorkeling with sharks

After a lunch at Carp Island we went straing from the beach to snorkel. What we met was nothing less than 20 black-tipped reef sharks just off the beach. Palau has shark-infested waters! On our dives we encoutered hundreds of grey reef sharks and even some large bull sharks.

Jellyfish Lake view
Jellyfish Lake view

Ongeim’l Tketau in local tongue or Jelly Fish Lake in english. We had it all ourselves the whole afternoon. It was some years before the charter flights from Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo started to arrive in Palau.The lake is separated from the lagoons between several isles by sharp and high limestone ridges and a short walk through a rocky terrain is needed to get to the lake. Visiting the marine lake is probably one of the most spectacular experiences which can be offered in the Pacific