See-through waters bequeath underwater visibility beyond anyone’s imagination. So much so that from the most immaculate shorelines in the world, a boat 50 meters beyond creates the magical illusion that it floats merely on air, with its conspicuous shadow cast on a translucent seabed a few feet beneath. A prism of colorful coral reefs and virtually limitless variety of sea life set the stage in this tropical paradise.
From beginners and intermediate to expert divers, there are over 50 existing dive sites, each possessing distinct characteristics and individual personalities to appeal to everyone’s desires:
Chandelier Cave, for instance, is a sub-surface catacombs of rooms filled with massive, ancient icicle-shape stalactites deposits that simultaneously hang from the ceilings of cavernous openings. Experienced guides ensure measures are taken to adroitly negotiate the dives that result from this shallow-water, yet challenging diving experience.
The Ngemelis Wall, commonly known as the Big Drop-Off, and declared by diving’s immortal icon, Jacques Cousteau to be the best wall dive in the world, is but one. Its precipitous 1,000 feet drop confers a profusion of intriguing sights of soft corals and reef animals, while its upper portion is encrusted with a rainbow of multi-colored sea fans, sponges, coral whips and soft corals.
Blue Corner, arguably one of the best in the world and the most famous of Palau’s underwater attractions, shows off constantly cruising gray reef sharks searching the rich waters for their prey. Insatiable photographers, their excitement masked considerably by the slow motion pace of underwater movement, train their equipment and snap away at schools of barracuda, giant resident Napoleon Wrasse that often reach six feet in length, snappers and butterfly fish. The dense concentration f marine life is revealed as these countless underwater fruits of nature dart in and out of a scintillating panorama of hard and soft corals that house them. And they are but a fraction of the more than 1,400 species of coral that thrive in these extraordinarily clear waters.
The famed Siaes Tunnel, with its enormous cavern bathed in ethereal blue light and peppered with sea fans and ancient bushes of black coral, is an unparalleled aesthetic dive. On its spotless, white sand bottom can often be seen whit tip reef sharks and black spotted stingrays slumbering.
On the east side of Palau Lagoon is a site known as the Ngerchong Coral Gardens, famous for its fabulous variety of intricate coral formations and high concentrations of small, schooling reef fish. The photographic opportunities here are inexhaustible.
Visualize diving amid gentle manta rays as they engage in the ritual of circling reefs to render their gills cleaned by small fish. When not chased, these graceful creatures remain calm and even maneuver friendly approaches, as if intent on giving welcomed divers close proximity glimpses of their undulating beauty. Or how about encounters with endangered species like the Hawksbill Turtle and the Chambered Nautilus, the latter of which is now only found in a few Pacific Islands.
World War II relics randomly dot the underwater seascape with an almost perfect sense of dispersion; displaying haunting wrecks over 40 World War II Japanese seaplanes and shipwrecks that render the islands a dream for wreck diving aficionados. There is an uncanny distribution to the intervals and space between their whereabouts and the effect that they effortlessly blend in with the underwater environment while at the same time embellishing what are already exceedingly attractive natural diving venues. The irrepressible synergy between all the wonderful elements found in Palau’s diving sites gives way to the many of the finest diving venues. And they in turn do nothing better than invite diving enthusiasts of the world to visit and dive in our unsurpassed immaculately preserved waters.
Diving is year-round in Palau and during the busiest season from January to April, spectacular sights such as migratory whale sharks passing by, sharks or mantas mating, and large schools of fish spawning can be seen. Palau is strategically straddled by two extremely deep channels to the east and to the west, those of the Philippine Trench and Palau Trench. The cold nutrient-rich waters of these fathomless abysses teem with sub surface natural gifts, and the results are striking; in very few other places can such awe-inspiring underwater activity and life be witnessed with such regularity and ease.
And this is all not to mention the incredible Rock Islands, probably most enduring image of Palau. Beneath each of her more than 424 islands, is an ocean of dazzling gardens replete with luminous, rainbow-like collection of fish and crustaceans. The sheer splendor of the diving experience here is said to leave scuba divers speechless upon their return to the surface.
And as for the “icing on the cake,” shark enthusiasts will enjoy the Micronesian Shark Foundation’s (MSF) annual shark week full of adrenalin-packed activities. The MSF is a Palauan-based, non-profit foundation whose goal is to research and monitor the many sharks of Palau as well as scientific shark data collection. Between February and April, hundreds of grey reef sharks migrate to the waters of Palau to mate. This generates a fabulous opportunity for shark lovers to dive with the world famous sharks of Palau and to participate in data collection. Following a dedicated day of shark diving, a full evening’s program of shark themed seminars and activities are conducted at a local dive shop.