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Guide to Diving Palau in 2024

We have covered diving in Palau a few times, here and here, so we wanted to give you a quick update for 2024.

schooling barracuda Palau. Guide to scuba diving Palau

Palau, a Marine Sanctuary

Palau is a hidden gem largely unexplored by many, except those within the diving community. This archipelago consists of 340 islands, of which 70 belong to a fully protected marine reserve in Micronesia in the northwest Pacific Ocean, between the Philippines and Guam.

For dive enthusiasts, Palau is one of the premier global diving destinations. This marine haven showcases an astonishing diversity of marine life, from minuscule creatures to majestic giants. A noteworthy aspect of Palau’s scuba diving allure is its Shark Sanctuary, an expansive 600,000 sq km zone—comparable in size to Thailand—where commercial shark fishing is expressly prohibited. 

This sanctuary has helped Palau island diving sites remain pristine and abundant, attracting divers from all corners of the globe keen to experience its healthy marine ecosystem.

Diving in Palau

When planning your Palau diving journey, you must choose between the entirely different experiences of liveaboard diving and resort-based diving.

A key benefit of a liveaboard in Palau is the ability to squeeze in more daily dives—up to five, including mesmerising sunset or night dives. This diving flexibility contrasts with shore-based diving, with dive resorts typically offering up to three dives daily and concluding by mid-afternoon.

Though liveaboards may appear pricier upfront, they can offer more value in the long run. Given the limited budget accommodations in Palau and the higher costs of eating out, the overall expense of staying on a liveaboard can be comparable.

For divers choosing Palau for their next scuba holiday, numerous reputable operators facilitate liveaboard excursions and day trips. Aside from a few wreck dives, most dive spots require a 40 to 60-minute boat ride from Koror. While some might find this travel time taxing, others relish the journey—enjoying the serene sunrise en route to an early dive and unwinding amidst the stunning vistas of this tropical paradise post-dive, still buzzing from the thrill that diving in Palau creates.

Whether it’s the extensive, concentrated diving opportunities of a liveaboard or the convenience of a resort-based dive, Palau scuba diving offers diverse options to suit any diver’s preferences. Each provides a unique way to experience Palau’s rich underwater life and breathtaking beauty.

Getting to Palau 

The island’s central commercial hub is Koror, the gateway to your Palau diving experience. Most of the island’s accommodations, restaurants, shops, and bars are here. The central area is also compact enough to explore on foot. 

While it is always wise to be cautious with your belongings, Koror is known for its safety and low-level crime rate. Feel safe knowing you can chill and enjoy the island life during your Palau scuba diving trip.

To embark on your Palau Island diving adventure, you can fly into Palau via one of five airlines: United Airlines, Delta Air, China Airlines, Korean Air, and Asiana Airlines. These flights connect Palau with major cities like Manila, Guam, Japan, Taipei, and Korea, making it accessible for an exciting Palau diving experience.

Palau flag, visa for PalauVisa Information

Here are some guidelines, but it’s crucial to confirm with the relevant embassy:

  • All travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months.
  • A return ticket is required for entry.
  • Many nationalities can obtain a free 30-day entry permit, while USA citizens may be allowed for up to one year.
  • Now, included in the cost of your airline ticket is the $100 Palau Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF).
  • Upon arrival, you must sign the ‘Palau Pledge,‘ a commitment to respect and protect the natural environment of Palau, which is stamped into your passport and takes up a page. For more details, visit the official Palau Pledge website.

Adding to your visit, the Palau Pledge is part of a unique environmental initiative to preserve Palau’s natural beauty for future generations and ensure that the splendour of Palau diving experiences remain abundant and memorable.

The Best Dive Sites in Palau

A guide to diving in Palau would not be complete without a best dive site list. With Palau scuba diving options, you will be amazed by the available choices. However, sometimes you must choose, so we’ve highlighted some of the best below.

Blue Corner: Blue Corner is touted as Palau’s most renowned dive site and among the top dive locations worldwide. It offers divers a unique spectacle. Typically, divers hook in at the plateau’s edge around 20m/60ft and enjoy an unravelling shark panorama. With fluctuating tides and currents bringing in an enormous variety of marine life, each diving experience in Palau at Blue Corner is distinct and breathtaking.

Caverns & Caves: Another majestic site, Blue Hole, lies adjacent to Blue Corner. This massive cavern, with its floor at 40m/120ft, can be entered through one of four openings in the reef. Sunlight piercing through the water creates striking silhouettes against the vibrant blue backdrop, perfect for photographers. 

Inside, divers glide through serene waters, observing vividly coloured fish, corals, and unique marine life like disco clams and flaming scallops nestled in the cavern walls.

Siaes Corner: Though less celebrated than Blue Corner, Siaes Corner is a spectacular drift dive. Divers typically hook into the current-swept corner (or the plateau for those less experienced), where the most dynamic marine activity occurs at depths of 10-20m. Below, the reef plunges vertically to about 50m. 

Here, sightings of Gray Reef Sharks and large schools of jacks and barracudas are common amidst a backdrop of diverse tropical fish. The dive culminates in a stunning shallow coral garden, a haven for large Hawksbill and Green Turtles, making it an incredible Palau diving experience.

Chandelier Cave: Just minutes from Koror, Chandelier Cave comprises a limestone cave system featuring five caverns ready for exploration. Named for its stalactite and stalagmite formations that mimic sparkling chandeliers, this site offers a mesmerising visual experience. With a maximum depth of 11m/36ft, divers should bring a torch to navigate the darker sections of the cave effectively. This site adds another captivating layer to your Palau scuba diving adventures.

German Channel: An additional renowned Palau island diving site is the German Channel, known for its manta ray cleaning stations. Divers here can observe these majestic creatures as they elegantly glide through the water, often coming up close to the cleaned by smaller fish. This site offers a modest depth within a channel originally dredged by Germans. It is excellent for experienced and novice divers and is a favourite choice to add to your experience diving in Palau.

WW2 Wrecks

Palau is not just about diving options; it has plenty of WW2 Wreck sites. There is a rich selection of ten WWII wrecks, including cargo ships, navy destroyers, transport vessels, and two seaplanes. These wrecks are in excellent condition, easily accessible, and allow for exploring areas such as engine rooms. Let’s discuss them in more detail!

Iro Maru: The Iro Maru is one of Palau’s most beloved wreck dives. This Japanese oil supply vessel is located near Koror Harbor and rests at a 20m/65ft depth. Divers typically descend along the mooring line directly to the coral-covered bow and gun mount, starting their underwater exploration.

This site is notorious for its resident large groupers and batfish, which hover around the intriguing wreck, adding life to the historical remains beneath Palau’s blue waters.

Chuyo Maru: Chuyo Maru, another impressive Japanese wreck in Palau, lies upright at a depth of 30m/90ft. Diving here offers a glimpse into history with accessible views of the ship’s brass compass and telegraph inside the bridge and visible guns on the stern deck.

The wreck serves as a thriving habitat for an array of marine life, including nudibranchs, scorpionfish, pipefish, stonefish, various crustaceans, and tropical fish, making it a must-visit site when diving in Palau.

Jake’s Sea Plane: The wreckage of Jake’s Sea Plane, a Japanese Navy Floatplane, provides a unique dive experience at 15m/45ft. The wreckage is a microcosm of marine biodiversity encased in hard and soft corals.

Divers can observe various sea life, such as Batfish, Lionfish, Crocodile fish, 6-banded Angelfish, and schooling Yellowtail Fusiliers, making it a picturesque dive.

Other Fun Things To Do In Palau

We thought we should update our guide to diving in Palau with non-scuba activities catering to diverse interests.

History enthusiasts can explore Peleliu Island, a site steeped in World War Two. For those seeking more water-based activities, Kayangel Atoll and the Rock Islands provide superb opportunities for snorkelling, kayaking, and leisurely days soaking in the scenic beauty.

On the island of Babeldaob, you can marvel at the Ngardmau Waterfall, the tallest in Palau at 30 meters. Back in Koror, culture buffs will appreciate the rich insights offered at the Belau National Museum and the Etpison Museum, which delve into the local history and culture.

For an additional treat, you can take a boat tour around Palau’s rock islands without getting wet. This tour offers panoramic views of the underwater landscapes and vibrant marine life from above, combining the beauty of Palau’s terrestrial and aquatic worlds in a unique, memorable way.

To Wrap it Up

Our guide to diving in Palau covers the basics. Now, you can plan your dive holiday and explore this remarkable destination in Micronesia. With more airlines flying there, Palau has become more accessible, so there has never been a better time. If you have any thoughts or queries, do not hesitate to get in touch!

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