Palau Scuba Diving: A Comprehensive Review of the Best Spots
by Jorge Mezcua on Feb 13, 2023
Palau is located in the area of the planet that provides the best conditions for marine life. It receives nutrient-rich currents and is adjacent to the Coral Triangle. It holds dozens of unique dives that will not leave you indifferent.
Like most of the world's great dive destinations such as the Galapagos Islands, Raja Ampat or the Maldives, the best way to get to know their best dive sites is to go on a liveaboard dive trip. This is the only way to get the most out of Palau and in a single trip and dive in Marine lakes with millions of jellyfish, in caves with spectacular lighting effects, vertiginous walls that go up to 2,000 meters or a multitude of the largest pelagics. There are also dives in the remains of historic aerial battles, hundreds of species of coral and gorgonians, home to the smallest and most photogenic creatures.
All this surrounded by a jungle paradise that makes investing a diving vacation on board change your way of seeing the underwater nature.
The Republic of Palau consists of three hundred and forty islands of volcanic and coral origin with a coastline of more than 1,519 km. These islands, bathed by the Philippine Sea, have exceptional temperatures averaging 27º C, allowing scuba diving in its waters throughout the year. They are classified as a top diving destination that offers a thousand and one experiences. Both for the most experienced diver and for the beginner in this sport and even for those who prefer snorkeling. Its waters of great visibility ensure emotions for everyone regardless of the depth at which we want or we can dive.
Every dive in Palau is different. On the one hand we can dive with a simple snorkel in the "Jellyfish Lake" letting harmless jellyfish caress us; on the other hand we can dive into the abyss of the "Blue Corner" and surround ourselves with corals. Even the most expert diver will be amazed by the spectacular design of the gray sharks or the humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) that live there. We can also delve into the history of the Second World War and visit some of the wrecks of planes and ships that rest forever at the bottom of the sea.
Humphead wrasse are regular dive buddies at "Blue Corner"
"Blue Corner has been rated by many dive magazines as the best dive site in the world. The formation of the reefs, the steep walls and the large number of schools of fish and pelagic species that flock to this area make it one of the best sites on the planet.
Blue Corner is home to some of the largest schools of fish in the world. Here you can see almost every kind of fish that lives in tropical waters. Gray sharks, whitetip or hammerhead sharks, schools of large tuna or barracuda, green turtles, giant humphead wrasses nibbling on coral walls, hawksbill and green turtles, eagle rays. Others such as giant groupers, butterfly fish or black triggerfish are some of the permanent residents of this incredible place. They are joined from time to time by whale sharks, marlins, manta rays...
This spectacular vertical wall extends over 300 meters and is filled with a variety of hard and soft corals and giant gorgonians. If the current is not too strong, divers of all levels can enjoy this incredible spectacle that takes place between 20 and 30 meters.
The best dive sites in Palau
Palau's "Blue Holes" are one of the most popular ways to start the dive to the "Blue Corner". They form the upper part of a cavern with two exits, the small one with a diameter of 5 meters leading to a beautiful window at 15 meters and the other exit is a large opening at 27 meters. The cavern is large and flooded with light, offering a variety of spectacular blue hues. Inside the cavern you will find many soft corals and sun corals (Tubastraea genre) decorating the walls along with many species of nudibranchs. There is no shortage of different species of tropical fish that seek food and shelter in the shelter of the corals. The entrance is patrolled by large schools of barracuda, tuna and snappers. After the 30 minute dive we make the spectacular exit to the "Blue Corner" to watch the sharks swaying with the current.
Palau Jellyfish Lake (Tketau Ongeim'l) is one of about 70 marine lakes scattered among the limestone islands in the southern part of the main Palau archipelago. This lake is populated by more than 5 million golden jellyfish (Mastigias sp.). Believe it or not, you can snorkel with them and be caressed by them. The lack of natural predators of the jellyfish, due to the fact that the lake was closed to the sea thousands of years ago, has modified their physiognomy. Today these jellyfish have shed their stinging cells. There is no other dive like this in the world. This lake is one of the great attractions of Palau, giving anyone who can swim the opportunity to have a truly privileged experience.
Big Drop Off
El "Big Drop Off" es una pared vertical que recorre toda isla Ngemelis. Su nombre evidencia la profundidad de la pared: llega hasta los 274 metros de profundidad. La cantidad de vida es asombrosa: peces mariposa, emperador, león, piedra, ángel, antias o ídolos moros. Algunos de los más bellos y coloridos peces de arrecife coralino acuden a esta pared a refugiarse entre los muchos corales que pueblan este punto. Mientras descendemos nos podemos maravillar con preciosos corales blandos que sobresalen de la pared en busca de alimento junto con algunos tiburones, como los nodriza, puntas blancas o el raro y solitario tiburón leopardo.
This dive is known mainly for its manta ray cleaning station, groups of juvenile sharks and abundance of tropical fish. But almost all forms of marine life can be seen at this point. Huge schools of groupers, barracudas and snappers fly over a sandy bottom. It is home to garden eels and the inseparable Luther's gobies and blind shrimp, among hundreds of others. When the tide comes in, manta rays access the inside of the channel to feed on plankton and krill and to be wormed by industrious wrasses and butterfly fish. Divers who want to enjoy this unique spectacle need only be patient, get a good spot (it is usually crowded) and marvel at these extraordinary animals.
"German channel", the manta ray cleaning station of Palau
World War II shipwrecks
Palau was a very important enclave during the Pacific battles of World War II. The Japanese had the archipelago under their control but the American offensive during operation "Desecrate One" sent more than 50 ships and countless aircraft to the bottom of the Philippine Sea. Known as "The other Truk Lagoon", it has first class sunken ships, full of life, where you can even see the remains and belongings of the crew. At the bottom of Palau we can dive among the wreckage of the 143 meter long "Ijn Iro". This ship, sunk between 5 and 28 meters deep, lets you go through its workshops and engine room. You can also access the cabins or even see the ammunition that is still scattered among the wreckage. This wreck is now covered with large corals that provide an excellent refuge for the many species of fish that live here.
Another of Palau's outstanding wrecks is the JAKE plane, which sank at a depth of only 15 meters, its fuselage shattered by anti-aircraft fire. The area has excellent visibility that allows you to see the plane surrounded by soft and hard corals and the species that live there: squid, octopus and a variety of nudibranchs.