If you like ‘Big Stuff’, Palau is the capital of big stuff. These fiercely protected waters are home to a healthy population of pelagic marine life – sharks, mantas – and lots of exciting sexy underwater events, with several species spawning on the full and new moon every month – in their thousands.
It’s one of the best places in the world to dive with sharks, mantas and big schools of pelagic fish including Jacks, barracuda, snapper and bump head parrot fish. Here are a few reasons to add Palau to your Dive Bucket List.
1. It’s easier than ever to get there.
While Palau’s borders have been open to international visitors for many months, getting there has been nigh impossible, with expensive, ever-changing flights, and ghastly 12-hour layovers. But that’s all changed with an exciting new flight initiative with funding from the Australian Government. The new weekly Australia-Palau Connector is an Air Niugini flight that departs Brisbane every Tuesday, flying to Koror with a short stopover in Port Moresby. No lengthy layovers and a digestible price point of around AUD 1,000.00.
2. Watch the Manta Ballet at German Channel
German Channel would have to be one of Palau’s most famous dive sites. Deb Dickson-Smith explains why, recalling one of her most memorable dives here.
“At German Channel there is excitement from the moment you drop in the water. Manta rays are the highlight at this dive site, so our dive plan was to swim to the two manta ray cleaning stations, but we got distracted by a leopard shark just below the boat and then massive schools of circling Jack fish delayed our plan further.
“Arriving at the station we were not disappointed as two mantas cruised by to be cleaned and soon joined by three more. The way they can glide with the slightest of motion or just hover in the current is simply mesmerizing. Having one of these intelligent creatures look into your eyes is an experience never to be forgotten. A few reef sharks joined the mantas nose down for a clean to complete the experience.”
3. Ulong Channel – one of the world’s best drift dives.
For Diveplanit Director Simon Mallender, Ulong Channel is reason enough to dive Palau.
“Since my first drift dive round Portland Bill off the south coast of England over 30 years ago, I’ve never lost that temptation to spread my arms wide, assume the posture of a Spitfire flying at high speed and low altitude over the terrain below. Start the dive reef-hooked on, watching Ulong’s Shark Show, the sharks almost parading past us, until our dive guide calls us over to start flying.
“The Channel has a coarse sandy base with coral of all types lining the shallow sides which are abundant with marine life. We fly over lemon sharks, reef sharks, large potato cod, giant clam shells and the flight ends in what can only be described as an entire forest of lettuce coral.”
4. Discover the rich Pacific WWII history diving Palau’s wrecks
For author and underwater photographer Nigel Marsh, it’s Palau’s wrecks that are the main attraction. “Most people think of Palau for sharks, mantas and beautiful corals – which is true, but the wreck diving in Palau is also amazing with many wrecks to dive and most in accessible depths.
“The Iro Maru stands out for me as memorable and fantastic wreck and well worth a few dives. After taking a direct hit to the engine room the Iro now sits in a perfectly upright position in 40 metres of water with the deck at around 25 metres. At 143 metres in length there is so much to explore with large guns on both the bow and stern. If you wish to go deeper into the wreck you can take a swim around the bathroom and cabins and then a slow swim back to the bridge area, which is covered in beautiful corals. The masts are the perfect way to finish your dive with large anemones and clownfish, lionfish and excellent corals in the shallows – perfect for the safety stop.”
5. Witness Full Moon and New Moon Spawning events
Possibly most exciting Palau diving adventure for Jayne Jenkins is the New Moon Bumphead Parrotfish Spawning Event.
“After 45 years of diving this was one of if not THE most exciting dive I have ever experienced.
“When I was told it was a 5am start I wondered if the effort was going to be worth it. Dropping into clear blue water we swim a few minutes before the Bump Heads slowly began to cruise by with numbers increasing by the minute. It was amazing, imagine 1000 bump head parrotfish swimming by, and then the excitement when they spawn.
“It is definitely one of the biggest adrenalin rushes being in middle of this circling mass orgy. Bump heads form groups of up to 10 individuals, charging to the surface to release their eggs. The speed they travel is incredible and when the eggs are released, they continue on their journey. The whole experience lasts about an hour.
For Diveplanit’s Deb and Simon, the Full Moon Snapper Spawning event was a similar adventure, departing before sunrise from a small resort on Peleliu Island and plunging into strong current at Peleliu Point to witness an enormous aggregation of snapper.
“It was the largest group of fish I’ve ever seen, swirling in a mating frenzy, with some opportunistic reef sharks and the odd bull shark circling and grabbing a snapper snack or two. And was it worth the early start? A resounding YES.”