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Snorkeling Palau

Listed under Snorkelling in Palau.

  • Photo of Snorkeling Palau
  • Photo of Snorkeling Palau
  • Photo of Snorkeling Palau
  • Photo of Snorkeling Palau
Photo of Snorkeling Palau
Photo by flickr user ctsnow
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The islands of the Republic of Palau, scattered across the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, are a literal paradise, a place where the tropical sun sparkles off the sea, gentle breezes whisper through coconut fronds, fish jump and birds soar.

Considered one of the world’s natural wonders, Palau contains more to see, both below and above the water line, than is possible in a lifetime of exploration. Hundreds of jade colored Rock Islands, mushroom shaped limestone formations, have been eroded into a maze of green walls, hidden coves, and protected bays, many virtually unexplored.

Palau is a newborn country, having recently become independent on October 1, 1994. Fortunately for the 19,300 residents, the 586 islands that make up the tightly packed archipelago are virtually unsurpassed anywhere in the world in the amount of biological diversity they hold. It is also one of the most distinctly beautiful places on Earth. The high diversity derives from the extraordinary variety of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, habitats, and niches available to species, which of course relates to the climate, geography and geology of the islands. From virgin rainforest, extensive tracts of mangrove and seagrass beds, to thousands of square kilometers of reef, Palau is a precious Eden. This splendid archipelago’s remote setting and small size have protected it from the masses so far.

It is the perfect setting for snorkelers to look beneath the surface and witness incredible walls and channels adorned with marine life. The waters around Palau harbor support an estimated 1,500 species of reef fishes, 700 coral species, and thousands of other invertebrates.

High adrenalin diving is by far the number one attraction to Palau. But many of the diving sites are also appropriate for snorkelers and these include opportunities to experience great numbers of sharks, mantas, WWII wrecks, and sheer walls that drop into the abyss. The Rock Islands also provide an incredible backdrop for daily snorkeling excursions. The diversity of corals and fishes that inhabit the lagoon make slipping into the warm waters a fascinating and tireless activity. Approximately 70 marine lakes are sprinkled throughout the Rock Islands and are considered oddities even by locals. Each lake is quite unique and contains a relatively isolated ecosystem, separated from the lagoon by high limestone walls. Seawater seeps in and out of these lakes through the porous rock, but most organisms that flow into the lakes as tiny larvae end up living as secluded populations. A few of the lakes contain outlandish numbers of jellyfish that have weak stinging cells that are unable to penetrate human skin. The latest population estimate of jellyfish in the most visited lake was close to 20 million! Swimming amongst millions of these soft, marine spaceships without being stung is an absolutely magnificent and trance-inducing sensation.

In addition to the excessive marine life there are World War II wrecks and artifacts spread throughout Palau’s lagoon. Operation Desecrate One, launched by American forces on March 30th, 1944 surprised much of what was left of the Japanese navy and nearly 60 Japanese naval and cargo ships were sunk within the lagoon. An untold number of Japanese planes were also destroyed during the two day battle. Many of the artifacts of WWII, especially those in shallow water, are now encrusted with coral and other invertebrates of interest to snorkelers.

Few snorkelers ever make their way to the archipelago as it remains a little known and solitary place, but those who do have the opportunity to visit places that have likely gone untouched or unseen for decades. What makes Palau so marvelous a snorkeling destination is that one can only scratch the surface of what it has to offer, whether you explore for a week or a month. It offers snorkelers the requisite coral gardens, drop-offs, reef fish, as well as white sand beaches trimmed with coconut palms set against the aqua colored waters of the Philippine Sea.

Written by  Joel Simon.

Other expert and press reviews

“Swimming with the Fishes in Palau”

By Martha Ann Overland for The Times  First Published Aug. 06, 2009 As mesmerizing and as beautiful as they are, most of us prefer to see jellyfish through a thick wall of aquarium glass. But given a chance to swim with invertebrates and not get s… Read more...

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