Palau Diving Expedition
Seen from above, the islands of Palau look like green calligraphy on an empty corner of the sea. Over 470 miles east of the Philippines and locked in by the stretching Pacific Ocean, Palau is a rare oasis, a self-contained, isolated archipelago thriving with biodiversity and abundance. Palau is the westernmost island group of a region called the West Caroline Islands, which is part of a larger region called Micronesia. Nations in the Micronesia region include the U.S. Territory of Guam, The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (of which Yap is a state), and the Republic of Palau.
Koror is a charming, quirky small town. Of Palau’s approximately 17,500 inhabitants, including approximately 4,500 foreign workers mostly from the Philippines, half the population lives on Koror, a 3.5-mile long town stretching over four islands connected by bridge and causeway. There are paved roads, cars, shopping centres (though not more than four stories high) and more than 25 restaurants for any taste bud. One main two-lane road runs through the town. All the shops and neighbourhoods are built on either side of this mini-highway, similar to the layout of the Florida Keys in the US.
Koror is safe to walk about at night, though nightlife remains limited to a few bars, including Barracuda, which overlooks the Rock Islands on the Fish’n Fins dock. Other nightspots include the dockside Kramer’s, favoured by ex-pats, Riptide, with a dance floor and occasional live music located on Palau’s small public beach, and Peleliu Club, a local favourite that gets quite rowdy with Palauan cha-cha.
Although the best action is on the water, for activities around the town of Koror, you will find they are very tourist friendly. A smile goes a long way here. There are two museums to visit (Etpison Museum and Belau National Museum), the Palau International Coral Reef Center (next door to us!) that houses an aquarium, a mariculture project where you can see a nursery of giant clams, a crocodile farm, an old Japanese shrine with a majestic view, WWII relics and monuments, traditional Bai meeting houses, a shop for traditional arts and crafts at the Senior Citizens Center, a public library with a rare collection on Palau, a center to swim with dolphins, and a movie theater.
You can take a dip in the water right off the rocky shore from underneath the KB Bridge, or on Long Island, a public cement dock and swimming area in the middle of town. To get around Koror you can rent a car, take taxis (2-4 dollars anywhere), bike or walk. Koror acts as a gateway to the other islands of Palau which you can visit by boat, plane or 4×4 vehicle.
The lifestyle on Palau is very easy-going and laid-back for all. No one goes hungry here, as they can rely on family members or friends if they’re unemployed. Palauans are very family-centred, it seems almost everybody is related here, and clan ties still run strong. Though appearing Americanized, Palauans preserve much of their traditional culture – ceremonies, exchanges and councils – on land and in the sea.
The excitement of Palau diving sites is as amazing as the boat ride to get there. On our speedboats you will glide over glassy water, wind in your hair, through the labyrinth of our Rock Islands – jungled islands sprinkled over the cobalt sea like emeralds.
The Rock Islands are composed of porous limestone, jagged and primal as they cut out of the water and towards the sky, yet overgrown in rich vegetation due to the collection of minerals in the limestone crevices. The water and bacteria have undercut the islands to form a precarious, skinny base rising out of the water, giving the islands their mushroom-shape or green muffin-top look. The limestone, once the structure of an ancient coral reef, raised out of the water, leaving a skeleton of what this ancient underwater landscape might look like, with caves, marine lakes and waterways enfolded in the islands like a complex circulatory system.
No buildings are allowed on the Rock Islands by law, to keep them so purely startling to both Palauans and visitors. Further strict conservation laws are in place around this oasis, restricting fishing, travel over the reef, and travel to certain Rock Islands in order to leave undisturbed sites for birds and turtles. The most famous conservation area, no humans allowed, is the 70 Islands Wildlife Preserve – the part of Palau you see in all the aerial photographs.
A large barrier reef encloses the Rock Islands as well as most islands of Palau. Koror is the capital region, composed of four small islands connected together by a bridge. To the south of Koror lies Peleliu and Anguar, two other limestone islands, with mid-height profiles like Koror. All islands are strewn with WWII artefacts such as a rusting tank covered with the tropical grasses and flowers so robust they spring from any crack in the sidewalk.
North of Koror, Babeldaob is the largest island, totalling 153 square miles while the others together total a mere 37. The oldest island as well, Babeldaob is volcanic and holds the highest peaks and waterfalls, with the tall Mt. Ngerchelchuus at 713 feet above sea level. Babeldaob holds trails for hiking and mountain biking, with hints of Palau’s rich history nestled into the hillside in the form of a Yapese stone money quarry, sculpted terraces possibly used for agriculture in the BC era, and the oldest standing traditional Bai or Palauan meeting house used by the chiefs. Plans to move the current capital to Melekeok State on Babeldaob instigated construction of a new, all-island paved road, locally known as the Compact Road, which has made travel on the island much easier.
Kayangel island, the farthest north, is a raised coral atoll, surrounding a marine lagoon with its low sloping beaches. From Kayangel to Peleliu, the Palauan islands sprawl about 125 miles. However, 300 miles southwest lie more members of the Palau nation: 6 sparsely inhabited islands called the Southwest Islands.
Named one of the last “Living Edens” by PBS, and number one of seven “Underwater Wonders of the World,” by CEDAM International, Palau is etching its consciousness onto the world for its spectacular physical offerings, above and below the sea.
With over 1,500 species of fish and 700 corals and anemones, Palau acts as a heart of biodiversity, pumping life outwards from the blood-warm waters of the Pacific to farther regions like Hawaii which only has 1/3rd as many underwater species as Palau. It is impossible to get bored on dives here when everywhere you look you see something new and different.
On almost every dive you see sharks (grey reef, black tip, white tip, and the occasional bull shark, leopard shark and hammerhead) and turtles (hawksbill, green, olive ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead), often so many sightings that you lose count. We have bumphead parrotfish and huge resident Napoleon wrasses that swim extremely close to divers. Experience close encounters with Palau’s abundant population of manta rays, lionfish and the usually rare, shy and wildly coloured mandarin fish. Other underwater highlights include cuttlefish, moray eels, lobsters, eagle rays, and dolphins, plus schools of barracudas, big-eye trevally (jacks), neon fusiliers, black snapper, and colourful anthias. Brightly coloured clown fish in pulsating anemones and large fish such as big-eye tuna and marlins are also common on dives. Palau is one of the last places in the world to spot a legendary and nearly extinct dugong (sea cow), a sea mammal, and seven of the nine species of endangered tridacna giant clams – larger than yourself and up to 100 years old! You can also find here saltwater crocodiles and sea snakes (non-aggressive). And of course, the biological wonder of Palau is Jellyfish Lake filled with millions of Mastigias species of jellyfish that have no sting, pulsing in a cloud-like hearts reflecting the sun’s rays through their pink bodies. The dives are truly a sensual feast.
As for life above the water, there are 142 bird species. The Palau Owl, endangered Palau Ground Dove, and beautiful Palau Fantail are some of the 16 endemic bird species in Palau. 1260 plant species include 109 endemic plants, with such highlights as the rare wild orchid and ancient cicada palm. There are 2 endemic bat species including the Palauan Fruit Bat.
The biodiversity of Palau is reflected in Palauan legends, which show a close relationship between the Palauans and the many creatures that inhabit their land. In the legends, often humans transform into animals, such as when a Palauan mother clutching her child turned into a dugong to explain the start of this marine mammal, and the theme of transformation is very strong. Visitors here will see how in Palau, the close relationship with such a thriving natural world opens up the interconnectedness of life and will not leave you untransformed.
Maximising your dives
The Ocean Hunter III crew will use their knowledge and experience to bring you to the right dive site at the right moment. Diving off the Ocean Hunter means you get personal attention, reefs without a crowd, easy entry into the water and a maximum bottom time! Instead of waiting for 25 other divers to surface or have them wait for you, you and your buddy can stay underwater as long as you like, without any pressure.
After giving you a briefing at least one divemaster will enter the water with you on every dive to guide, guard and assist.
Night dives are offered every night.
Our chaseboat is a purpose-built 35ft rigid hull boat designed specifically for divers, with ample room and dry storage areas. It is always prepared to bring you to the dive sites when weather conditions require it. It is a rigid hull, semi-covered chaseboat, 35 feet long, with VHF marine radio and equipped with twin 225 HP Yamaha four stroke engines.
Level of diving experience
Palau diving is for all levels of divers, from experienced to beginner. Our experienced instructors and divemasters will give you all the assistance and guidance you need. When your dive is over, you can climb back onboard and take a warm, freshwater shower right on the spacious dive deck before being offered a delicious snack such as cake or a fresh fruit smoothie. Where you live and where you dive is only a jump away.
Ocean Hunter III has two separate filling stations enabling both silver air tanks and yellow NITROX tanks to be filled at the same time. Our IANTD certified gas-blender crew will pump your tank to the required O2 content and then analyze it. Before the dive, you’ll analyze your own tank with a second analyzer and sign a sheet stating the O2% in your tank and your maximum depth. Then you’ll slip into the water with all the benefits of NITROX.
Pricing for Nitrox onboard Ocean Hunter depends on your requirements.:
Full Nitrox 32% for 7 day trip : …$199
Full Nitrox 32% for 10 day trip : …$285
Full Nitrox 32% for 12 day trip : …$340
Nitrox 32% per tank : …$10.50 per tank
The nearest hyperbaric chamber is in Koror, the main town of Palau. However, we maintain safe diving practices aboard the Ocean Hunter at all times. A divemaster will give a thorough briefing and get in the water with you on every dive. Our crew is highly trained and experienced in maintaining dive safety and handling diving emergencies. An Emergency Oxygen Kit is onboard the boat. We do require all guests to dive with a safety sausage, which can be purchased from our shop before boarding the boat. NITROX diving, available onboard, greatly enhances safety, increasing the bottom time as well.