For vigorous-activity enthusiasts, a must is hiking in Babeldaob, Palau’s biggest island and the second-largest landmass in Micronesia. Measuring 27 miles/43 kilometers in length and 15 miles/24 kilometers across at its widest point, Babeldaob’s terrain transforms gracefully from steep mountains and sun-burnt volcanic savannahs to freshwater lakes to sand dunes along the longest natural beach in Palau. Blessed with these natural as well as historic wonders, ancient stone paths built in the jungle centuries ago lead to fascinating remnants of old villages and ancient hillside terraces.
Babeldaob’s dense jungle foliage is interrupted only by farms and villages, and by the paths and roads that connect them. On foot or by bike, energetic naturalists can stop at any one of the island’s vista points, wander into the jungle to commune with both plant and animal life, picnic by a river and then wash away the heat of the day under one of the island’s four picturesque waterfalls. The largest natural lake in Micronesia, Lake Ngardok, is an important nesting habitat for the saltwater crocodile and home to many species of birds.
Bird watchers can explore the Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary, one of a network of Protected Areas, to spot 13 endemic of the 168 species of birds, including the White-breasted Wood Swallow, and the Palau Fruit Dove.
There are steep limestone cliffs that hide ancient archeological sites and caves, as well as World War II planes, tank, cannons and war paraphernalia scattered about the islands. In Peleliu, a reef island measuring 4.6 miles in length that date from 1944, derelict tanks, amphibious landing ramps, airplane propellers, bomb casings and steel helmets now dot the landscape. In Angaur, a raised coral limestone island situated southwest of Peleliu, white sand beaches alternate with rocky protrusions along the island’s rugged coastline.