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My Dive Map

Reviews (2)

Palau

5
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5
4

Palau is simply idyllic! As an archipelago of over 300 islands and numerous fringe reefs, the variety of dive sites and biodiversity of marine life is truly exceptional. A labyrinth of about 200 islands in its southern lagoon, known as the Rock Islands, includes a high concentration of great dive sites. These unique mushroom-shaped islands are gorgeous in a sort of magical way. Mantas, dolphins, and several species of shark are common pelagics at a number of sites; Napoleon (humphead) wrasse can be found. There are many different species of clownfish, and I often saw several types on each dive, patrolling their anemones. The anemones and myriad soft corals are quite spectacular themselves, colorful and distinctly shaped. Giant clams, some of which are endangered, are riotously beautiful, growing to over 3 feet and living to about 100 years; many are simply electric in their colorations. You can hunt for the elusive Mandarin fish. Palau is also famous for Jellyfish Lake, an isolated inland saltwater lake within the rock islands, in which abundant jellyfish who have lost their sting to evolution as they’ve been isolation from predators. In a separate and controlled outing, the Palau marine park allows you to snorkel Jellyfish Lake; this will forever remain a highlight of my life!

Topside, I found several cultural attractions are very worthwhile. Around the main island, of which Koror is the capital (and where most dive resorts are located), you can tour either an authentic historic Bai, or a replica of one, which were the traditional meeting houses for village chiefs. These A-framed structures are elaborately decorated and painted, depicting local legends and history. If looking to bring something home, a local art form involves carved wooden storyboards, each of which describes a story or legend about Palauan culture or teachings; they are artistic treasures and purchasing one is a lovely way to remember your trip. Odd as it may sound, some of the best quality storyboards are found at the jail in Koror (inmates hand down the skills); it’s a mandatory stop in my opinion. Farther south in the islands is Peleliu, site of a horrific WWII battle between the Allies and Japan; a privately guided land tour was humbling and amazing. Tanks, machine guns, and other battle paraphernalia are slowly being reclaimed by the jungle, as if paying homage to the struggle. Peleliu is accessible only by boat, and most dive operators include this option, as there are several great dive sites there as well.

You can also spend a day or afternoon kayaking around the Rock Islands.

Land-based resort options are numerous and range from budget-conscious to luxury. Dive operators such as Neco Marine and Sam’s Fins cater to the resorts conveniently; many packages can be arranged with resort and diving combinations, and most resorts are on beaches with piers for mooring the dive boats. Dining options are plentiful, at the resorts and throughout Koror, including Palauan and Micronesian seafood, as well as Japanese, Indian, Thai, Italian, and many other cultural cuisines. Kramer’s is a fun, laid-back restaurant frequented by ex-pats and tourists alike, with more of a pub-grub style menu, very good food, and decent prices. One of the nicest things about land diversions, whether exploring, shopping, dining, or seeking some night excitement, is the public bus system on Koror: a hop-on, hop-off approach which is efficient, economical, and extensive in their hours of operation. Between the bus system and private taxis, I got around quite easily. There are a few live-aboard options as well.

Favorite dive sites of mine include German Channel, where 3 of us were privileged to enjoy an extended private encounter with a couple of mantas one afternoon; Chandelier Caves, which are not so much caves as a series of caverns or “rooms” full of stalactites (you don’t need cave-diver certification for this), any of a number of walls, and most certainly Jellyfish Lake which is so other-worldly it is nearly impossible to describe.

Getting to Palau can take 2 or 3 days, depending on your starting base. It’s notably hot, and quite humid. Rain showers are common but short and fleeting. Divers come from many countries, and especially from Japan, as it is close by. Dive operators typically separate divers into groups by language, with Japanese-speaking and English-speaking guides. Water temperature is warm enough that I became spoiled diving without a wetsuit, or just board shorts and a vest. Visibility is typically 100 feet plus. Dives can range from shallow to quite deep, with numerous walls, and some currents (a few of which involved reef hooks). I think Palau is ideal for experienced divers; novice divers may find some sites a bit challenging in terms of depth and currents. It ranks among my favorite dive locations in the world, and I can’t wait to go back!

Visited on 01/2008 - Submitted on 02/26/2014
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Little Cayman Beach Resort

5
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Little Cayman Beach Resort is pleasantly unpretentious and laid back; as guests, my husband and I feel at once relaxed and pampered. The food at their Flamingo Room restaurant is outstanding, with impressive buffet-style meals that are gourmet in preparation and presentation. There are lots of fresh food selections, and nightly dessert bars to die for! Every meal is a feast. My favorite breakfast dish (anywhere) is their delicious coconut porridge. Oceanfront and poolside rooms are well designed and comfortable; as a photographer, I appreciate the ample sized counters, cupboards, and closet storage. Resort staff is efficient and friendly, clearly into making your stay fun, like the groundskeeper who, while pruning a palm, eagerly cleaved a coconut for me, primed for a straw and my lounge chair! Beach Nuts Bar is a cheerful diversion; its ceilings and surrounds are packed with “artwork” crafted by fellow divers, using organic materials (driftwood, shells, palm fronds, etc.) and paint; great fun to check out, or add to the collection yourself (they have the supplies). Nightlife at Beach Nuts varies from quite lively to subdued. A weekly team trivia contest can be a hoot. For a short daytime stroll, the Red-Footed Booby Sanctuary is just down the road. Other resort activities include kayak and sunfish rentals; there is a small pool and hot tub, and a gift shop called Mermaids.

Diving, primarily on the north side of the island at Bloody Bay and Jackson Bight, is nothing short of phenomenal: remarkable topography with steep walls, swim-throughs, drop-offs, and sand pans with coral mounts full of critters large and small; it’s a healthy reef with lots to explore. Sea turtles and Southern stingrays are common, and I often see lemon rays and reef sharks. Large barrel sponges frequently punctuate the reefscape. There’s plenty of great macro life and lots to investigate; as a photographer, I’m thrilled with constant close and wide-angle opportunities. Resident groupers are friendly and make for willing models. The “concierge” style of diving provided by Reef Divers means minimal handling of your BC and reg after the first day. Their dive briefings are well detailed, which I much appreciate given the relief. Visibility is generally 75-100 plus feet; a few sites have mild currents. Many sites allow for deep (>90 feet) or shallow exploration. I’d be hard-pressed to pick favorite sites (!) but I’m especially fond of Coconut Walk and anything with a swim-through. Reef Divers will guide each dive, but also give you the option of exploring on your own. Most diving is about 20-30 minutes from the resort pier.

LCBR is a bit more involved to get to, as an additional flight from Grand Cayman is needed, which for me adds to the adventure. As such, it’s great for people who can handle a little extra travel time and cost. I think it’s less well suited for kids (there’s no daycare or separate kid’s pool), novice divers (potential depths and topography). Snorklers may be disappointed as the resort sits on a shallow bay of turtle grass. I think it’s ideal for competent divers, couples or groups, and as to photography, there is something for every level of interest and skill. We definitely look forward to returning to the LCBR!

Visited on 02/2014 - Submitted on 02/12/2014
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