GUEST ARTICLE: Palau or ‘Belau’ according to the Palauans is an island nation located in the Pacific about 500 miles east of the Philippines. It consists of some pretty unique sights like the Rock Islands that are made up of limestone and resemble large mushrooms. Palau is famous for its deliciously warm clear blue waters with its incredible marine life and colorful reefs.
It was mid March when we flew to Palau from Hong Kong. After a 2-hour stopover in Manila, Philippines we got off the plane and were welcomed with a beautiful warm tropical night.
Our hotel pickup drove us about 15 minutes into the centre of Palau’s capital Koror. After checking into the Penthouse Hotel (which we can thank TripAdvisor for) we called it a night.
The next morning after breakfast we rented a little beater of a car and set out for our first explore around the island.
The little town of Koror is pretty small but has all of the essentials some good restaurants and all at really reasonable prices. They use American currency there so luckily we went at the right time with our Aussie dollar being so strong.
As we drove out of town we had our first glimpse of the water. The color was just magnificent with beautiful hues of blues and greens and crystal clear. We were eager to feel the temperature of it and when we did we weren’t disappointed, it felt just like bath water!
We knew right away the snorkeling was going to be something else. So we headed straight to a place called Sam’s Tours and booked ourselves in on a snorkeling tour for the next day.
Sam’s picked us up early the next morning and before we knew it we were on our first snorkeling adventure. We had a fantastic guide and driver for our speedboat and only two other snorkelers – excellent! Our first stop was at a place called The Milky Way. The water resembled just that and was a great place to take a dip and take in the scenery.
Next we went to a place called The Big Drop Off. What an amazing snorkeling experience!! The visibility was the clearest we’ve ever seen and the fish bountiful amongst the colorful reef.
Immediately after entering the water we saw a huge Sea Turtle dining on a Jellyfish. It literally felt like swimming in a huge aquarium with sightings of graceful Reef Sharks, Barracuda and Trevally way down below. We could have easily spent hours at this place.
Afterwards we went for lunch at a little island known as Shark City. As we pulled up we could see large shadowy shapes in the deep. After lunch we went for a little snorkel with the sharks.
They were Black Tip Reef Sharks and some were pretty big reaching almost 6 feet in length but completely harmless and really interesting to watch, they are such incredible stealthy creatures.
Next we went to one of the most incredible places we’ve ever been to called Jellyfish Lake. We had seen this famous lake on National Geographic and in all actuality it was one of the main reasons we had initially booked this trip. After docking the boat and a little hike through the rainforest we came upon the fascinating Jellyfish Lake.
Jellyfish Lake is a salt lake located on one of the Rock Islands and is about 12,000 years old. It’s a fairly big lake and we had to swim quite a way to get to where the millions of jellyfish like to congregate.
When we saw our first jellyfish we were completely mesmerized by its beautiful gentle pulsating golden body. It gracefully traversed through the emerald green waters emitting what seemed like tiny soft lights in its body. Before long we were surrounded by millions of these fascinating prehistoric creatures.
Swimming amongst the gentle (sting free!) jellies was absolutely surreal. Diving deep down and then slowly coming back up was visually awesome! The jellyfish being haloed by the brilliant sun was definitely a Kodak moment. Luckily Sam’s had a waterproof camera for me to rent so I made sure to take full advantage of that moment.
After leaving the lake we stopped at a spot called Clam City. Yup, you guessed it we saw Clams…but giant ones! They were definitely the biggest ones we’ve ever seen being about 4-5ft and brilliantly colored.
Our final stop for the day was a place called The Cemetery. It was another great snorkeling spot with some spectacular fans and coral. We saw a Giant Napoleon Wrasse that had to be about a good 6 feet, what an incredible creature.
Just when we were about to pack it in for the day I had my first ever Hammerhead Shark sighting! I couldn’t believe my eyes and I kind of freaked out at first and swam as fast as I could to the shallow coral. I soon realized making such a commotion like that with the ol’ fins probably wasn’t such a good idea and it had the big boy (who easily mirrored me in length) gain interest and swim directly for me.
I swear my heart just about jumped out of my chest but at the same time I was awestruck by this magnificent looking creature. Now I wish I had just stayed calm and soaked in my fortunate encounter. Nothing happened and he disappeared back into the deep blue, what a moment!
We got back to Sam’s at about 5pm. What an absolutely fantastic day and talk about getting your money’s worth! In fact we loved it so much that we booked ourselves on one more trip before we went home, how could we not?! And that trip was easily just as good as the first one and with only one other passenger ~ perfect!
On our last day we went on a Dolphin Encounter located just a few minutes out of Koror in the very picturesque Dolphin Bay. It’s a really great facility and accommodating to everyone, especially people with special needs. We had the pleasure of getting to know 6 different Bottle Nosed Dolphins and signed ourselves up for the Dolphin Symphony.
That meant we got a chance to take a ride with a very gentle dolphin called Layla. Her skin was so soft it felt kind of like an eggplant. That ride was such an exhilarating experience and now I can see why they say dolphins are known for lifting up the spirits I swear I felt like a kid again!
We stayed for a week in Palau but we could have easily stayed on for another. It’s pretty obvious we had an unbelievable time there and had experiences we’ll surely treasure forever. It was by far the best snorkeling spot we’ve ever been to (and we’ve been to quite a few). The clarity of the water and the abundance of fish and brilliant corals were just superb and if you love snorkeling or diving as much as we do this spot is a must- must- must do!
Rob Gower’s Palau Photo Gallery
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!