Palau is a group of incredibly beautiful islands located in Micronesia. Palau is also a divers’ paradise, certainly one of the best diving locations in the world. You can float through huge light filled caverns like Blue Holes or hook on to the reef at Blue Corner and watch as the sharks patrol the current for prey.
The diving in Palau is a close up wildlife experience, sharks can come as close as a meter (3 feet), while turtles wobble their way along the reef and schools of fish swarm around you. However the most amazing experience was having two manta rays continually loop around us as though we were not even there. The mantas perform loops of around 10 meters (30 feet) in diameter and sometimes pass so close you could almost touch them (though of course you should not do that).
The key to having the best diving experience of your life in Palau is to be with a good dive guide. All the dive guides were good, but I was particularly lucky to have Jonathon as my guide. He seemed to have a sixth sense for knowing where to look for mantas and sharks, and he knew from experience what dives to do at what times, and that really made a difference.
Of course most divers will have heard of Blue Corner, and it is fantastic to hook on to the reef and get that feeling of effortless flight as the current flows past, while watching the show. However, there are other dives which are just as good and sometimes better. Peleliu Cut is also a reef hook dive where sometimes the current is so strong it can feel as though your mask is about to be ripped from your face, giving the dive an extra level of excitement. The strong current also pushes schools of fish up off the wall into the open space above the drop off, giving the sharks a chance at lunch.
Ulong Channel is a drift dive down an underwater valley with a huge bank of lettuce coral on one side. Ulong Cut is a lesser known but good reef hook dive, that is where the sharks were closest for me. German Channel is where you find the mantas and Siaes Tunnel is an alternative to Blue Holes. There are many more, I have been to Palau twice now and still have not done all the dives.
Palau created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009 and in October 2010, extended that protection to dolphins, whales and dugongs in an area covering 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles). Palau is a beacon of intelligent marine resource management that others will hopefully follow.
Palau has a lot to offer the visitor apart from diving. The country has hundreds of islands, many of which are the quintessential tropical paradise you dream about. Most of the islands are not much higher than a 100 meters (300 feet) and usually have an interesting mushroom shape with the sides eroded by the sea. The islands and beaches are rimmed with a bright light aqua water typical of coral reefs. The climate in Palau is also a pretty constant 30 degrees C (85 F).
Anyone who sees the wonders of Palau first hand will never forget it and I think will see the value in preserving the marine wildlife and environment. Palau is quite simply one of those places and life experiences that should be on your top 10 list of things to do.
Here are some images from Palau, you can see the entire gallery by clicking on this Palau Gallery link.