Palau – Micronesia
A High-Voltage Water World and First-Class Island Life
One of many island constellations in the Pacific galaxy that is Micronesia, Palau’s 343 islands are surrounded by spellbinding waters that many cognoscenti say offer the best diving in the world.
The meeting place of three major ocean currents, these waters support more than 1,500 species of fish and four times the number of coral species found in the Caribbean, and are known for their extraordinary drop-offs and wall diving: the Negemelis Drop-off is widely considered the world’s best, a technicolor reef that begins at 2 feet and plummets vertically to more than 1,000 feet.
The legendary Blue Corner is one of the planet’s most exciting sites for the sheer abundance, variety, and size of its fish life – and those schooling gray reef sharks! More than fifty WW II shipwrecks – the remnants of an aircraft carrier attack – rare and exotic marine species, and visibility that can exceed 200 feet add to divers’ wonderment.
Sprouting like emerald mushrooms along a 20-mile swath of transparent turquoise waters, the 200 Rock Islands are Palau’s other crowning glory. Covered with palms and dense jungle growth, some of these low limestone mounds are rimmed with white-sand beaches and are home to a rich bird life, including cockatoos, parrots, kingfishers, and reef herons. Beach potatoes will find the perfect place to lose the rest of the world, and snorkelers will find the surrounding waters teeming with fish. The islands are uninhabited and have no electricity, but campers are rewarded with star gazing that is second to none.
In Palau, the world-class Palau Pacific Resort offers a first-class land-based dive operation called Splash. For nondivers, the island’s best snorkeling is just feet from the hotel’s chaise lounges. Carp Island Resort, on one of the outer Rock Islands, has rustic but welcoming beach cottages that are filled mostly with young international divers who appreciate its proximity to Palau’s famed dive sites.