Here at the Road Warrior (the most universal travel adapter!), one of our favorite past times is scuba diving. Going underwater is a great way to explore a new destination. One of the most amazing places we have discovered in our scuba diving adventures (thus far!) is the amazing diving mecca of Palau. For anyone who appreciates aquatic life, we definitely recommend that you visit Palau: A Divers’ Paradise!
Palau is a country that many people have never heard of. It is officially called the “Republic of Palau”, but is often referred to as “Belau” or “Pelew”. It is one of the smallest countries in the world — with a population of only around 21,000 people — a small island located in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. Officially, the country is part of a larger island group called Micronesia. It is believed that the islands were initially settled by people from Indonesia or the Philippines, hence the very asian influence of the people of the island. After being conquested by various nations (Spain, Germany and Japan), in 1947 it was made part of the U.S. governed Pacific Island Trust. However, in 1994, it gained full sovereignty from the U.S. and became its own independent country.
We made our home for the duration of our stay in Palau in Malakal Harbour on the west side of Koror Island. Koror is the largest island by population, with over 70 percent living here. There are many dive shops located on this island. If you are flying into the island, you will likely fly into Babeldaob Island, where the international airport is located, just north of the city of Airai. Koror Island is connected to Babeldaob by a bridge and is accessible by car.
In terms of “must dos” when you are in Palau, here are a couple of our recommendations from the Road Warrior:
1. Dive “Blue Corner, Palau” (and use a “Reef Hook”!) –
There is a reason why the Blue Corner dive site in Palau commonly makes it into the “top 10” lists for best dive sites in the world. Located at the northwest end of Ngemelis Island, Blue Corner is a coral shelf that juts out like an elbow with a wall that drops deep into deep water. There are often very strong currents here which make it a haven for aquatic life. The soft corals and abundance of things to see make this site incredibly breathtaking.
Because of the strong current (my ears literally could hear the current swishing by…it sounded like a windy winter day when the air currents get trapped in the fireplace!), one of the most amazing experiences at the Blue Corner is to use a “reef hook” to dive, so that you can see the sharks pass you just inches away or watch schools of barracuda and other fish as they come to feed. In fact, Palau is where the reef hook originated. A reef hook is essentially a metal hook that attaches to a rope and hooks on to a BCD (buoyancy control device) so that a diver can tether onto a location that has a strong current (literally like flying yourself like a kite over the reef). Reef hooks are safe but, like with any device, need special attention for proper operation (warning: this is definitely an advanced dive!). As well, just to clear up any misconceptions, reef hooks are NOT destroying the reefs here. Dive operators who take divers to this area ensure that their divers hook on to dead reef spots where there is no live coral, which does not affect the aquatic life here.
We were not disappointed. The Blue Corner was the most AMAZING place we have ever dived in the world. While we were enjoying the view from our reef hook location, we saw over a dozen sharks, a huge school of barracuda and a school of beautiful white butterfly fish that made the water look like it was snowing.
We dived with Sam’s Tours when we visited Palau and definitely recommend them for professional and personalized service…and safety, which is paramount when diving advanced sites like the Blue Corner (as there have been various diver deaths that have occurred at this site).
2. Swim Jellyfish Lake –
One of the most amazing non-diving aquatic experiences that we have had was to snorkel with a lake full of jellyfish (and not get bitten!!!). The Rock Islands, a short trip from Koror Island, is a largely uninhabited part of the Palau, with almost 300 small islands. They are the home to Jellyfish Lake, which contains millions of jellyfish that have lost their stingers. Here, snorkelers are permitted to swim with the jellyfish.
If you want to read about our experience, check out an earlier blog post at: http://rwarrior.com/swimming-safely-with-jellyfish/
Paradise in Palau
Palau is a divers’ paradise, but it is just generally an island paradise…even if you don’t enjoy underwater adventure. With its turquoise waters, soft, pristine white sands, amazing people, tropical weather and gorgeous sunsets, this should definitely be on any traveler’s bucket lists of places to visit in the world.
Until the next time, the Road Warrior wishes you safe and happy travels…from paradise!!!