About Palau Micronesia
Her people have thought to have arrived from the Philippines over 3,000 years ago and until the 18th century the islands remained isolated. The Spanish came along and took over, then went to war with the US at the end of the 19th Century when Palau was sold to Germany. The Germans built the famous "German Channel" just before WW1 to carry ore through the coral reef. After World War 1, the Japanese were awarded the islands and kept them until the end of World War 2. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Today, tourism is the major source of income for the islanders as most of the fishing done is simply for substance. There isn't much of that going on either. It's surprisingly difficult to find fresh fish at most restaurants around town. Those who don't farm or work as civil servants have some direct connection to the tourism industry. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. It's not a big place so it's pretty easy to get around by car or bus.
Air transport has been difficult and unreliable over the years making it expensive to get to Palau for scuba diving. This has recently undergone some changes, however, and the once monopoly on air travel has finally been broken. Flights arrive daily from Manila on United and China Airlines, Korean Air, Asian and Japan Airlines all have schedules flights to the islands. She's finally become more connected to Asia than she is to the US.
Palau's climate is pretty consistent throughout the year being so close to the equator. Most of the storms that hit the Philippines are created over Palau and move west. There are occasional bad storms in Palau, as there are in every tropical area, but the major typhoons are rare. Rainfall averages 150 inches or 280 cm so that means any visit here will probably include some rain. This keeps the islands nice and green year around and doesn't affect the quality of diving. As we all know, it doesn't rain underwater. Visibility is always good to great and more depends on the tides flowing in and out of the huge lagoon southwest of the capital of Koror. This is where the diving is done and where the liveaboards stay. In flowing tides mean fresh water flowing in from the great Pacific Ocean and an out flowing tide means runoff from the islands can cloud the inshore dive sites. But no matter, the visibility is always very nice as there are no major rivers on the islands.
The most famous of the dive sites lie outside the lagoon and are considered the main destination. Blue Corner is probably the most famous dive site and thousands of words have told the story of the many sharks at Blue Hole. These stories are true and correct. The shark population, unlike other areas around the world, remains healthy. There is pressure, but that pressure is easing as Palau realizes that to protect their economy, they must keep the shark poachers out. So far they have been successful and the government's activism against shark fishing and other fish poaching is gaining worldwide attention. In 2001 Palau declared a shark sanctuary, one of the first of it's kind, and though pressure remains strong on the shark population, we, as divers, will not notice anything amiss. Compared to almost any other place I have dived in Asia, Palau by far has the best shark dives. Thousands of blacktip, grey, and whitetip reef sharks cruise the vertical walls you dive on. Other types of sharks are harder to spot, but lucky divers spot bull sharks, oceanic whitecaps and hammerheads.
Deep, Deep Ocean
Palau rises up from some of the deepest water on the planet and is made of coral limestone outcrops, both big and small, usually called "Rock Islands." These types of limestone islands are commonly seen throughout Asia. The difference is that such deep water surrounds Palau. The main lagoon around Koror is approximately 1200 square kilometers. We divers head for the edge as that's where we find the big stuff, but other tourists will head to the famous rock islands for paddling and for visits to the famous jellyfish lake, a lake full of non-stinging jellyfish who were trapped there and lost their need to defend themselves. There are fantastic dive sites in the lagoon as well as outside, and there are World War 2 wrecks and planes to visit. However, these dive sites are not as poplar probably for two reasons. One, there is better wreck diving elsewhere and two, most people want to dive on fabulous coral and see hundreds of sharks.
Coral Healthy and Beautiful
There was a coral bleaching event in the late 1990s that caused extensive damage to the coral reefs throughout the Pacific including Palau. But the reefs have made a splendid recovery and most of the dives have absolutely stunning healthy coral. There is storm damage on western reefs so the liveaboards stay to the southeast.
Easy Diving with Sharks
Palau offers some of the best diving in the world, and experienced divers know this. If you live in Asia, it's an easy place to get to. If you live in Europe or the US it's a big trip for sure. But at least once in your life you have to do it. Palau is a bucket-list destination on the one hand, but also a place to visit as often as you have time for. The diving is not any more challenging than any other dive destination and the water is warm and clear. If you've never had a chance to see hundreds of sharks on one dive, or if you did a long time ago and now wonder where all the sharks have gone, Palau will restore your faith in shark diving.