Diving Palau

4.18181818182
(11 REVIEWS)

 

Country: Palau

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DIVING Palau in a Nutshell

Hook into the reef or drift through the channel as sharks, mantas, and large schools of fish coast by in the current. Explore historic WW2 wrecks, or soak up the view as shafts of sunlight pierce the transparent waters of undersea caverns like Blue Hole… Palau pretty much has it all!

 

Intro to Palau

Palau is a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago of emerald green jungle-covered rock islands dotting clear turquoise waters. Often visited in conjunction with Yap or Truk Lagoon, Palau offers the dive traveler big schools of fish, plentiful reef sharks, soft coral and a unique jellyfish dive in Jellyfish Lake. With a good selection of liveaboards and land-based resorts, fairly easy access from the USA, and an abundance of marine life diversity, it’s no surprise that Palau has been named one of the Underwater Wonders of the World.  

Check out this excellent "Best of Palau" underwater video! 

It starts off with jellyfish lake, and then shows an eagle ray, cuttlefish, white-tip sharks, napoleon wrasse, huge schools of fish, manta rays, turtles, sharks getting cleaned, and a curious thresher shark at 7:18. The filmmaker is based on Palau, so you may not see this all in one trip!  

 

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Diving Information 

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Marine Life & Photography Subjects

It can be difficult to get reef sharks to come close to you while you are hooked in at Blue Corner. Unhooking and swimming down into or over the lip of the reef can get you closer to sharks, but you also risk the ire of other dive groups who fear your bubbles will scare away the wildlife. It's best not to chase sharks - instead, find a good spot where they can swim by you in the current.

Night dives are often the best time to put on your macro lens, as a wide range of reclusive creatures emerge from the reef after dark. This can also be a great opportunity to get close to otherwise skittish fish while they sleep.

 

Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperature: 81-84 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Visibility: Ranges from 50 - 150+ feet. During the dry season, the visibility is often in excess of 100 feet.
  • Depth Range: 5m - >40m (16 - >131 feet)

 

Typical Palau Dive

Drift dives and reef hooks are common. After your descent, typically 50 to 60 feet, your dive will continue as either a gliding drift over the reefs and along walls as the current carries you, or you will stop and anchor yourself to a sturdy outcropping of rock and let the current bring the reef life to you. A reef hook is essentially a big fishing hook with the barb removed attached to a 3-5 meter rope. The hook goes into a dead part of the coral reef and the other end attaches to your BCD. Reef hooks are fairly well accepted in Palau, but only at specified sites that have consistent current and an abundance of dead coral to hook into. Perhaps the most popular of all reef hook dives is at Blue Corner, where a lot of current around the point brings in the big fish. Sharks, jacks, tuna, and resident Napoleon wrasse are often sighted. If mantas are what you seek, head out to the German Channel, where divers rest on the ocean floor while teams of mantas circle above. Palau has a lot of healthy hard coral and a good amount of wall diving. You should be able to get in 5 dives a day including a night dive on liveaboards; 2 - 3 dives per day are common for land-based diving.

 

 

Palau's Best Dive Sites

CHANDELIER CAVE - This site is a large cave with several “rooms”. You can enter the cave at 25ft, and surface in several different “rooms”. Underwater tunnels allow you to swim from room to room. This is a very cool place, and a good place to take a wide-angle photo with a diver. It's a very adventurous dive that must be done at the right time of day with an experienced guide with whom you feel comfortable. Bear in mind that this is an overhead environment—there are places where you can’t see any light, visibility can drop to zero, and you can have trouble finding your way out. For all of these reasons, this dive should be taken seriously, and participants should be experienced divers, equipped and trained accordingly, preferably at least cavern certified. It’s also wise to come equipped with lines & reels as well as backup lights, unless you’re sure that the dive operator will provide them.

 

GERMAN CHANNEL - German channel is famous for its manta rays, but it has much more. This narrow pass separates Ngemelis and Ngercheu Islands, forming a connection between the inner lagoon and open sea. Shallow water, strong currents and boating traffic make the narrowest portions unsuitable for scuba, but the large area at the channel’s mouth offers amazing diving opportunities. Virtually every sort of tropical marine life can be seen here, but the site is most famous for mantas, eagle rays, reef sharks and many species of schooling fish. Often the best strategy involves settling in a lively area and waiting for the action to come to you. If the current is running, this can also be a great drift dive—just go with the flow and soak up the sights as you fly effortlessly over the reef. Be extremely cautious when surfacing, however, as boating traffic can be very heavy here—make sure that at least one member of your team sends up a safety sausage (SMB) on a line before your final ascent!

 

Video from the German Channel showing sharks, napoleon wrasse and large schools of fish.

 

Video from the German channel showing Manta Rays.

 

JELLYFISH LAKE - Jellyfish lake is a must-do in Palau. The jellyfish do not sting. There are lots and lots of jellyfish.

Accessed by a short hike on a well-marked trail over a jungle-covered ridge, this marine lake is largely isolated from the surrounding sea. However, the water remains connected to the outside by a huge network of fissures and channels in the porous limestone, allowing the tide to rise and fall inside the lake as it does in the surrounding lagoon. Scuba is not permitted in the lake, nor is it needed, as snorkeling is perfect for observing and photographing the famous golden jellyfish, which stay near the surface to maximize exposure to the sun. Sunlight is critical to their survival, since they obtain much of their energy from photosynthetic algae living in their tissues. In fact, the jellies actually migrate across the lake on a daily basis, following the sunlight and avoiding shade. Contrary to popular belief, these jellies have not completely lost their stinging ability, but it is so mild as to be unnoticeable except on sensitive tissue like lips, or for individuals with unusual sensitivity. While the jellies are the main attraction, the mangrove-clad shoreline is also home to a healthy community of anemones, sponges and tunicates, as well as gobies and other small fish.

 

This relaxing video takes you on a dive through jellyfish lake. The good stuff is at 1:15

 

BLUE HOLE / BLUE CORNER - These two sites are among the most celebrated in Palau, for good reason. Known throughout the world for its abundance of fish life, Blue Corner is the kind of place where it’s possible to see just about anything. Situated on a current-swept corner of a steep drop-off, it’s a natural gathering point for reef fish of every description, dense schools of jacks, snappers and barracuda, and a healthy population of white-tip and gray reef sharks, as well as Napoleon wrasse and many other species. Eagle rays, mantas, turtles, tuna and wahoo are also seen fairly often, and even billfish, whale sharks and whales make occasional appearances. Within easy swimming distance (depending on current) is the sister site of Blue Holes. A large cavern with multiple entrances, accessible from the shallow reef top as well as deeper points on the wall. Illuminated by shafts of sunlight from overhead, the view from inside is a memorable experience of sublime beauty. The spacious main cavern is appropriate for divers of all experience levels, but there’s also a narrow cave at 85 ft. that should only be explored by properly equipped and certified cave divers. The reef itself is another attraction surrounding both sites, with colonies of boulder and cabbage corals scattered over the plateau at 45 to 60 ft. Dropping over the wall, you’ll find a healthy mix of hard and soft corals, as well as sponges and massive gorgonian sea fans.

 

OTHER PALAU DIVE SITES - Other notable Palauan sites include New and Big Drop Offs, Ulong Channel, Peleliu Wall and Cut, Mandarinfish Lake and WW 2 Japanese shipwrecks Iro and Sata. There’s also a Zero fighter plane in very shallow water, plus countless other reefs and walls.

 

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

Several airlines departing from the western United States make 1 stop and then continue on direct to Palau. Once you land, you can basically get on the boat and start diving.

 

How to Dive Palau

Dive centers and dive resorts are available in Palau, but if maximizing the amount of time spent diving is your priority, a liveaboard is your best option. Palau has a number of liveaboards that cater to everyone from the budget traveler to those seeking ultimate luxury.  

 

Weather

The best time to visit Palau is during the “dry” season from October - May. The “rainy” season from June - September brings more wind and rain than usual, though much of it occurs at night. Palau is in the tropics so it does receive a fair amount of rain, but weather patterns here are fairly predictable. In general, Palau is considered a great place to visit year round.

 

Topside & Non-Diving Activities

Palau offers a host of exciting and adventurous non-diving activities including a dolphin research station, waterfall hikes at Ngardmau, rock island excursions, sport fishing, speedboat & kayak tours, city tours and more. If you seek nature, kayaking in calm blue waters among the islands is a must-do activity on your non-dive day. Palau is rich with World War II history. For history buffs, a trip to Peleliu Island or the German Lighthouse is recommended. The Palau Pacific resort is convenient as a 1-2 day stop either before or after boarding a Palau-based liveaboard boat. It’s the islands biggest luxury resort with a lovely private beach.

 

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LIVEABOARD AVAILABILITY

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Please contact us for the latest availability of  Discovery Adventure.

 

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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: United States Dollar
  • Language: The official languages are English and Palauan
  • Main Airport Code: ROR
  • Time Zone: UTC+9
  • Electricity: 120 V 60 Hz

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Reviews (11)

5
3
5
3

I loved Palau !
The shark and Manta encounters were constant and we also did the jellyfish lake, which was an awesome experience that should not be missed if you are there.
Hooking into the reefs at Ulong Chanell and watching the sharks swim by grabbing the tangs for lunch was very exhilarating.
After hanging there and watching, the drift dive up the channel was an experience I will not forget.
This was a wide angle photographers dream trip with Manta's and sharks regularly within feet of me.
We saw Manta's every time we went to German channel and it quickly became our favorite site which we requested almost every day.
Chandelier cave was cool, but vis was limited and it was an overhead environment with pockets that you could pop up into .
It was important to keep sight of the guide and his light as you went through.

Blue holes/Blue corner has a cavern with sunlight streaming through the many holes in the reef and fantastic photo ops of divers with sunlight beams were available. After dropping through the cavern, we drifted over the Blue corner wall to the Ulong Chanell site and hooked in for the remaining bottom time , watching sharks.

Visibility was an average of 75-100 ft and I was very comfortable in the 80-85º water wearing a full 3mm wetsuit .
Some people wore less, but I don't like being cold after dive 2 or 3.

The coral was not real healthy, probably due to currents, but this was all about the big animals.
The boats seemed to know where we were and even if a few of us broke from the group (who? me??) they were in touch with all boats in the area and quickly found their divers.
We had an hour ride every morning to get from the resort to the dive sites and it was raining frequently.
This made a cold ride and I highly recommend bringing your rain slicker !
There were 3 dives only because we were diving off a land based operator, but they did offer night dives .
I would have preferred doing a live-aboard, and doing 5 dives a day, when I go back I will be on one !

Visited on 10/2012 - Submitted on 01/20/2014
5
5
5
5

The most excellent dive conditions while we were in Palau. The weather was beautiful, the water was crystal clear, and the marine life was fantastic. Blue Corner had the reef sharks entertaining us every visit. My favourite swim was at jellyfish lake where I was surrounded by the most dense aggregation of jellies ever. The manta rays were always in the areas where we were guided, and the island surface intervals were heaven on Earth. This has so far been the most special of places dived in my travels.

Visited on 03/2011 - Submitted on 06/04/2014
3
0
4
3

Palau has a very big reputation as one of the best dive location in the world...and it is! A bit of everything - macro, big fish, beautiful coral, caves, drift, shallow, deep, planes, boats...it felt like a cross between Raja Ampat and New Caledonia with a bunch of World War 2 wrecks thrown in. Water temperature was a steaming 30 degrees which was actually warmer than the air when the rain and wind came through.

Dive sites are all within about an hour from town, so all operators other than one or two liveaboards operate from land. They leave around 8am and do 2 or 3 dives getting back around 3 or 4pm. Paying a little extra will allow you to dive Peliu which is about 1h30 mins from town - certainly worth the diving and there is a great World War 2 land tour.

Visibility was great.

A trip to jellyfish lake is a must and counts as a dive during one of the day trips.

The boat ride itself I looked forward to every day - the Rock Islands are fantastic!! A geological phenomenon I had never seen anywhere else.

On my dive-free day I went to visit the Biota Hatchery where the first ever Bumphead Parrots have been raised in captivity - well done Tom! And finished off the day with a kayak around the Rock Islands.

I miss Palau already and will be back!

Visited on 07/2014 - Submitted on 07/27/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Larkspur, CO
United States
4
4
5
4

The best parts of Palau diving are the German Cut (mantas and really giant clams), WW II wrecks, Blue Corner and the mandarin fish lagoon. The fresh water jelly fish lake is also cool, if you're into that. Palau is definitely a live-aboard type destination, as the dive sites range over a large area. We were on a liveaboard, and service was excellent. Day boat diving would miss much of the good stuff. The week we were there, the visibility wasn't great, but it was adequate. Be sure to bring a good quality reef hook, or purchase one before going out--absolutely essential at places like Blue Corner. I would definitely go back to Palau. It has some unique things to offer, such as being able to dive on a variety of WW II Japanese ship wrecks, some of which still have depth charges scattered around on deck! You can also dive through a short underwater tunnel and surface in an enclosed cavern. Also of interest are the land tours of Koror and especially of Peleliu, the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of WW II, where you can go into the 1000-man cave and still see sake bottles and personal items lying where they were left 70 years ago.

Visited on 07/2011 - Submitted on 07/30/2014
4
5
5
3

Palau is the dive destination vacation. You really shouldn't be going to Palau unless you really want to be spending your time underwater. The walls are ridiculously vertical. I mean, *nothing* below you. Awesome. Drift dives are fantastic - you get to see a larger area underwater, and stop to explore what you want to, when you want to.

The soft corals here are unreal - everywhere - all colors - it's just so colorful underwater! Fishes everywhere too - and not to mention sharks! I was expecting more different sharks - we only saw Grey reef sharks and whitetip reef sharks - but we saw TONS. Blue corner was my favorite place to chill - but the best dives I have had were at Peleliu. Peleliu was epic. super clear water (150' viz) - strong currents, and just the most gorgeous blue you can imagine.

Topside was very quiet. Nothing really open after 8pm, and not too many food and nightlife options. My suggestion is to find a favorite watering hole/restaurant and stick with it. We drove around the island - but Koror really was all we needed to see. The dirt roads to the northwest were fun to get lost on though - make sure not to get lost after dark with no cell reception and out on a forgotten dirt road….

If you can afford it, the live aboard option is the way to go - and frankly, if you're traveling to Palau - you can afford it. If you stay extra days before or after, hit up the other charter companies which are also worthwhile.

OH! Almost all the wrecks in Palau are INSIDE the lagoon (didn't know that going there) so visibility is pretty low. I think the Chuyo Maru had about 20' viz while we were there, which added an odd eerie green to the wreck. Teshio Maru was probably my favorite wreck - huge, lots of areas to explore, and seeing the damage of a bomb on the ship really was mind-blowing. Helmet Wreck had about 40' Viz and Iro Maru had about 60' - but once you start wall diving, the visibility opens up substantially to over 100'.

Visited on 05/2014 - Submitted on 08/04/2014

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