Most people, unless you’re a fan of Survivor, have never heard of the tiny island country of Palau. Set on the western edge of Micronesia, these sum-odd 250 islands were a US territory from World War II until 1977 when they were granted their independence. The transition was smooth and uneventful, and today Palau is leading the way in preserving their greatest asset: their natural resources. It is one of the world leaders in the ecological preservation movement and, once you arrive, you can tell.
All of these facts can be summed up with our declaration: Palau is no question the best place we’ve ever scuba dived. Their waters contain more big wildlife and more small wildlife than any other place, a wider variety of formations to dive (from choral holes, to walls, to wrecks), and fewer crowds to ruin the experience. It’s the #1 Wonder of the Underwater World for a reason. It’s fantastic.
We partnered with Fish n Fins for our dives and were extremely impressed. They did a fantastic job of matching up divers into groups and ensuring that every dive on every day was a spectacular experience.
We dove for three days and it wasn’t near enough. Palau has hundreds of dives that will continue to challenge and excite even the most experienced diver. On our first day, we started with Fairyland, which is a simple reef dive with minimal current. WOW. The first dive (normally a check-up to make sure you know what you’re doing) is usually unexciting and a bit frustrating. NOT in Palau. The visibility was incredible and the abundance of fish was mind-boggling!
Next up, the Blue Holes. Palau’s Blue Holes consists of four large holes that open into a gigantic coral cavern. Truly incredible. While the wildlife was impressive, our favorite aspect of the dive was the terrain. Being inside a gigantic underwater cavern is such a cool experience.
The next day was a treat. We started at the world-famous Jellyfish Lake for a once in a lifetime experience. Jellyfish Lake is connected to the ocean through the porous limestone, but it is sufficiently isolated enough that a large population of jellyfish were able to evolve into an entirely new species. This species is by far our favorite type of Jellyfish in the world.
These jellyfish are a golden color and (get this) are completely harmless to humans. They don’t sting, and their vast numbers mean you can swim through the masses safely and enjoy the CRAZY texture of the jellyfish. It is positively unreal. And once you get past how weird it is, really fun.
After this we boated back to the Blue Holes and focused on the coral wall formation. This was one of our highlights for wildlife—countless turtles, schools of fish, a reef shark, and tons of grey tipped sharks lurking out in the deep blue!
Lastly, we headed to the German Channel, which is home to the Manta Ray cleaning station. We dove to a sandy spot at a depth of 60 feet and kneeled down to wait. Then, out of the deep blue, a gigantic manta appeared. As it got closer, it kept getting bigger, and bigger, until it was only a few meters away. It’s graceful wing movements are only matched by its insane wingspan. Then as it circled around and disappeared, another manta appeared and circled the spot. We kneeled on the sea floor for our entire dive, mesmerized by these creatures. Truly spectacular.
On our last day, Fish n Fins treated us to a grand finale of diving.
First up, another blue hole formation called the Virgin Blue Hole. This coral hole is a straight drop to a 90 foot depth where you find an underwater cavern. The cavern is fairly wide, and after about 150 horizontal feet it opens up into the open ocean. Then you can continue the dive along the northern coral wall, which has tons of crevices, holes and small caves. WOW.
Next we went to a wall dive site called the New Drop Off. This was no normal wall dive (of course, it’s Palau) so it ended in a gorgeous coral plateau that allowed us to slowly ascend and make the most of our underwater time. The mass of wildlife against the colorful coral was a prime example of how Palau’s high visibility and properly preserved natural resources raise it to the highest level of diving in the world.
We opted for a third dive because of the site—our very first wreck dive!
Fish n Fins took us to the Chuyo Maru wreck—Chuyo Maru is a coastal freighter that was bombed during Operation Discretion One on March 30-31, 1944. Diving a wreck is one of the coolest things we’ve done. The sharp metal and boat structure is overgrown with gorgeous coral and masses of fish. The atmosphere is subdued but poetic and 45 minutes wasn’t near enough time to explore!
On our last adventures in Palau, we actually stayed above water. First up was a kayaking through the many limestone islands dotting the blue ocean. We found caves, deserted beaches, and countless coves. By far the coolest was free diving through an underwater cave that led to a hidden lagoon! The lagoon was completely enclosed, and completely ours.
Lastly, we took a road trip around Palau with some of our diving friends. Our favorite sites from the day were some 3000 year old ruins and a breathtaking waterfall we could swim in.
If you can’t tell, we loved Palau. It is one of the most undiscovered treasures of our world and we are so grateful we could experience it! It was hard to pick a favorite-- can you pick for us?