For vigorous-activity enthusiasts, a must is hiking in Babeldaob, Palau’s biggest island and the second-largest landmass in Micronesia. Measuring 27 miles/43 kilometers in length and 15 miles/24 kilometers across at its widest point, Babeldaob’s terrain transforms gracefully from steep mountains and sun-burnt volcanic savannahs to freshwater lakes to sand dunes along the longest natural beach in Palau. Blessed with these natural as well as historic wonders, ancient stone paths built in the jungle centuries ago lead to fascinating remnants of old villages and ancient hillside terraces.
Babeldaob’s dense jungle foliage is interrupted only by farms and villages, and by the paths and roads that connect them. On foot or by bike, energetic naturalists can stop at any one of the island’s vista points, wander into the jungle to commune with both plant and animal life, picnic by a river and then wash away the heat of the day under one of the island’s four picturesque waterfalls. The largest natural lake in Micronesia, Lake Ngardok, is an important nesting habitat for the saltwater crocodile and home to many species of birds.
There are steep limestone cliffs that hide ancient archeological sites and caves, as well as World War II planes, tank, cannons and war paraphernalia scattered about the islands. Dating from 1944, derelict tanks, amphibious landing ramps, airplane propellers, bomb casings and steel helmets now dot the landscape in Peleliu, a reef island measuring 4.6 miles in length. In Angaur, a raised coral limestone island situated southwest of Peleliu, white sand beaches alternate with rocky protrusions along the island’s rugged coastline.
Palau’s forests conceal 168 recorded species of birds, including 13 endemic. These include the Palau Swiftlet, Rusty-capped Kingfisher, Dusky White-eye, Giant White-eye, Palau Bushwarbler, Palau Ground Dove, Palau Morningbird, Palau Cicadabird, Palau Owl, Palau Medgapode, Palau Fruit Dove, Palau Flycatcher and Palau Fantail. Some of the rarest birds to see are the Palau Ground Dove (omekrengukl) and the Giant White-eye, only found in certain locations in the Rock Islands and the Palau Megapode (bekai), now an endangered species.
Bird watchers can explore the Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary in Ngeremlengui State, one of a network of Protected Areas, to search for the White-breasted Wood Swallow, and the Palau Fruit Dove.
An iBird Hawaii and Palau Bird App is currently available from iTunes to assist birders identify any Palauan bird. Published books about birds in Palau can also be purchased online or in Palau stores.
In Palau, see-through waters bequeath underwater visibility beyond anyone’s imagination. A prism of colorful coral reefs and virtually limitless variety of sea life set the stage in this tropical paradise. From beginners to more experienced snorkelers, there are over 50 existing sites, each possessing distinct characteristics and individual personalities to appeal to everyone’s desires. Snorkeling is year-round in Palau and during the busiest season from January to April, spectacular sights such as migratory whale sharks passing by, sharks or mantas mating, and large schools of fish spawning can be seen.
Attractions most can only dream of also include the daring and the unusual – like Jellyfish Lake, where two types of jellyfish can be found, namely the golden jellyfish known as Mastigias and the moon jellyfish known as Aurelia. This intriguing lake departs radically from convention for it is an enclosed body of water wherein, over the course of millennia, resident jellyfish have completely lost their sting because they have not had to fight off predators, allowing interested adventure seekers a rare opportunity to swim amongst these truly unique water creatures. Or take a white sediment mud bath in Milky Way, which is the most fun you can have as a simple, outdoor spa.
While the best locations for snorkeling in Palau are accessible by boat, closer to Koror, a visit to Dolphins Pacific, the world’s largest Dolphin Research Facility and a Non-Profit Corporation, is where one can interact with a dolphin while supervised by the dolphin trainer. For those who do not wish to get their feet wet, the Palau International Coral Reef Center, featuring the Palau Aquarium, is the most ideal place to see the best of underwater Palau. This marine research center showcases outdoor pools and indoor aquariums teeming with marine life from mangrove forest to outer reef.
Palau was made for kayaking, where paddlers can make their way into any one of hundreds of deserted bays and lagoons with perfectly unspoiled scenery, impeccable preserved reefs and coves, and only the swirling sound of the paddles breaking through the turquoise surface. Palau is probably the best place in the world for nature-loving kayakers to take day trips or excursions of several days.
The same serenity of nature’s pure embrace, through protected mangrove forests, is a twisting labyrinth of life set on a mirrored sheet of water. High in the tops of the canopies, fruit bats sleep. Channels take you to deltas of white sand set on top of the rich mangrove mud. You will also find land crabs, monitor lizards, and the amazing amphibious mudskipper fish.
What better way to view hundreds of islands at once is to take a scenic flight, helicopter tour or skydiving over Palau. The famous mushroom-shaped gems of Palau’s Rock Islands Southern Lagoon were inscribed in 2012 as a mixed cultural and natural site into the UNESCO World Heritage List. Covering 100,200 hectares with 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin, these unique island formations are surrounded by turquoise lagoons and coral reefs. There is also the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere. These are isolated bodies of seawater that have been separated from the ocean by land barriers that sustain high endemism of populations which continue to yield new discoveries of species.
Palau’s elusive sea cow, dugong, known locally as mesekiu, is Palau’s most endangered marine species. The recommended way of viewing these amazing creatures in waters established a Marine Mammal Sanctuary in 2010 is by air.
Completed only in this millennium, Palau’s Compact Road encompasses Babeldaob Island, opening up opportunities to visit sites of cultural/historic importance, such as the Badrulchau (Stone Monoliths), Japanese lighthouse, stone paths, stone faces and stone platforms. Just one hour south near Koror to Ngarchelong in the north, the highway runs through forest and savannah. One exciting feature of the highway is the experience of both the east and west coasts of Babeldaob with stops at markets for local food and refreshments. There are several rental car companies in Palau and many tour operators offer land tours in the various states.
For those who want to get off their feet for exploration, Palau offers a jungle river boat cruise, where soft adventurers will cruise along the calm river to an ancient Palauan village and historical site. Along the way, discover the abundance of beautiful flora and fauna of Palau, spot the birds and even catch glimpses of the crocodiles. This adventure is most suitable for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts and an excellent opportunity for photographers to capture the wildlife along the river where the mangroves are nature’s nursery.
If you prefer the rush of flying above treetops, there are two zip lines running to a waterfall and a mangrove forest. Located in Ngardmau and Airai States, these zip lines are easily accessible by road, or can be included in most tours.
Opened in 2006, Palau’s capital buildings are located in Melekeok State in an area locally known as Ngerulmud. Only a short distance from the main highway, the hilltop location offers panoramic views of the eastern coastline.
Palau has an abundance of the most spectacular sports fishing opportunities. One can troll for game fish such as mammoth 400-pound blue marlin, sailfish, giant trevally, wahoo and tuna. As a matter of fact, sport-fishing is so popular in the islands that there are serious fishing derby competitions that are open to anyone. Generous cash prizes are awarded for the biggest catches in several categories including tuna, barracuda, wahoo and marlin, to name a few.
Formal competitions aside, it’s truly a rare day when one of several fully-equipped custom sports fishing vessels fails to come back with the proverbial “big catch” when guided by a friendly local guide. And, for die-hard fans of the intriguing sport, the joy of tug-of-war combat with formidable predators of the deep is likely to be the unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
Choices for those who favor more relaxing activities include catch & release, spear fishing, reef casting, hitching a ride on a bamboo raft or simply bringing a hand line to the Rock Islands to catch lunch, the local way, bottom fishing.
For sportsfising tour operators, visit palausportsfishing.com.
Where divers can have it all, Palau is and will be a destination for those who want to experience the wild side of nature, one of the most amazing adventures you will find underwater today. The archipelago’s oceanic realm is home to about 400 reef-building hard corals and 150 species of soft corals, gorgonians and sea pens. Reef fishes in Palau are also far more diverse than those in neighboring Micronesian islands – at least 1450 species. Favorites of divers, the napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrot fish are protected species here. For shark fans, these regal creatures thrive in the waters that were named the World’s First Shark Sanctuary in 2009.
See-through waters bequeath underwater visibility beyond anyone’s imagination. So much so that from the shoreline, a boat fifty meters beyond creates the magical illusion that it floats merely on air, with its conspicuous shadow cast on a translucent seabed a few feet beneath. Visibility is good year-round, but can be affected by tide, wind, and weather. A prism of colorful coral reefs and virtually limitless variety of sea life set the stage in this tropical paradise. Palau’s experienced dive guides know what to find and where, introducing you to world-class diving.
From beginners and intermediate to expert divers, there are over fifty existing dive sites, each possessing distinct characteristics and individual personalities to appeal to everyone’s desires. Chandelier Cave, for instance, is a sub-surface catacombs of rooms filled with massive, ancient icicle-shape stalactites deposits that simultaneously hang from the ceilings of cavernous openings. Experienced guides ensure measures are taken to adroitly negotiate the dives that result from this shallow-water, yet challenging diving experience.
The Ngemelis Wall, commonly known as the Big Drop-Off, and declared by diving’s immortal icon, Jacques Cousteau to be the best wall dive in the world, is but one. Its precipitous 1,000 feet drop confers a profusion of intriguing sights of soft corals and reef animals, while its upper portion is encrusted with a rainbow of multi-colored sea fans, sponges, coral whips and soft corals.
Blue Corner is arguably one of the best in the world and the most famous of Palau’s underwater attractions. Rich in nutrients, oceanic currents rush up from the deep as cruising gray reef sharks search for their prey. Insatiable photographers snap away at schools of barracuda, giant resident Napoleon Wrasse, snappers and butterfly fish. The dense concentration of marine life is revealed as these countless underwater fruits of nature dart in and out of a scintillating panorama of hard and soft corals that house them.
The famed Siaes Tunnel, with its enormous cavern bathed in ethereal blue light and peppered with sea fans and ancient bushes of black coral, is an unparalleled aesthetic dive. On its spotless, white sand bottom can often be seen white tip reef sharks and black spotted stingrays slumbering.
On the east side of Palau Lagoon is a site known as the Ngerchong Coral Gardens, famous for its fabulous variety of intricate coral formations and high concentrations of small, schooling reef fish. The photographic opportunities here are inexhaustible.
Visualize diving amid gentle manta rays at German Channel as they engage in the ritual of circling reefs to render their gills cleaned by small fish. When not chased, these graceful creatures remain calm and even maneuver friendly approaches, as if intent on giving welcomed divers close proximity glimpses of their undulating beauty. Or how about encounters with endangered species like the Hawksbill Turtle and the giant dog-toothed tuna or blue marlin.
World War II relics randomly dot the underwater seascape with an almost perfect sense of dispersion; displaying haunting wrecks of World War II Japanese seaplanes and shipwrecks that render the islands a dream for wreck diving aficionados. There is an uncanny distribution to the intervals and space between their whereabouts and the effect that they effortlessly blend in with the underwater environment while at the same time embellishing what are already exceedingly attractive natural diving venues. The irrepressible synergy between all the wonderful elements found in Palau’s diving sites gives way to the many of the finest diving venues. And they in turn do nothing better than invite diving enthusiasts of the world to visit and dive in our unsurpassed immaculately preserved waters.
Diving is year-round in Palau and during the busiest season from January to April, spectacular sights such as migratory whale sharks passing by, sharks or mantas mating, and large schools of fish spawning can be seen. Although typhoons are rare in Palau, southwest winds from July to September can affect conditions. Palau is strategically straddled by two extremely deep channels to the east and to the west, those of the Philippine Trench and Palau Trench. The cold nutrient-rich waters of these fathomless abysses teem with sub surface natural gifts, and the results are striking; in very few other places can such awe-inspiring underwater activity and life be witnessed with such regularity and ease.
And this is all not to mention the incredible Rock Islands, probably most enduring image of Palau. Beneath her islands, is an ocean of dazzling gardens replete with luminous, rainbow-like collection of fish and crustaceans. The sheer splendor of the diving experience here is said to leave scuba divers speechless upon their return to the surface.
The Belau National Hospital has an operational two-chambered Hyperbaric Chamber. Two chamber operators and one doctor are available 24/7 for diving emergencies.
For more information, contact:
Palau Ministry of Health
P.O. Box 6027, Koror, Palau 96940
Tel: +680 488-2552/2553 / Fax: +680 488-1211
Email: [email protected]
Swim or play with Dolphins at this research facility, a five minute boat ride from Koror. Weddings and other events can be arranged upon request. Please visit http://www.dolphinspacific.com/en/index.php
Regional sporting events are popular in Palau. The highway in Babeldaob Island is a challenging venue for walks, runs or bike events. Combine this with Palau’s ocean, and you have a triathlon, which is held at least twice per year. Sporting clubs also feature open ocean swimming events, outrigger canoe races, and fun walk/runs are put together by local agencies.
The Palau National Olympic Committee is located at the Palau National Gym, and the Palau Community College’s track and field was built to host regional sporting games. For more information contact [email protected].
Held for the first time in 2017, KONQER Palau is an obstacle course event similar to those held in Guam and Saipan. This event will be held again in October 2018 so check the web site for more details.
For more information, visit www.pristineparadisepalau.com/happenings or Email [email protected]
Badminton Tournaments are held at Koror’s Palau National Gym. For events, please visit www.pristineparadisepalau.com/happenings or email [email protected] There is also a Palau Badminton Association, which can be found at facebook.com/groups/palaubadmintonassociation/about.
There are days in Palau when the ocean is a sheet of glass, when your paddle slices though the aqua or crystalline waters of lagoons, inner reefs or placid hideaways. Imagine catching the first or last rays of light across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean or Philippine Sea, or experiencing the vibrancy of the blue and green world during midday, colors that no cameras could do justice.
Stand-up Paddling’s delicate touch on nature also allows visitors the chance to view Palau’s wildlife, in sea and air. All is tranquil, except for the sounds of the sea and islands. Experienced guides know these secrets and are willing to share their knowledge.