Must Snorkel Destination-Palau

Written By Wayne SentmanThe original article is available here

Here Are 6 Reasons Why Palau is a ‘Must Snorkel’ Destination:

© Keoki Stender

1. Vibrant, Healthy Corals

Palau boasts an impressive list of 400+ hard coral and 300+ soft coral species—the most diverse coral fauna in Micronesia. In the water, your eye is constantly engaged with the colors and textures that these amazing animals create. Many snorkel sites offer easy and safe access to healthy coral gardens at depths of only 3-5 feet. And while coral reefs worldwide are declining due to global warming and ocean acidification, many of Palau’s reefs have been found to be naturally resilient to these forces due to unique environmental conditions. Snorkeling healthy, diverse reefs such as these is a rare treat today!

© Keoki Stender

2. Abundant Fish

Palau’s decisive efforts to ban commercial fishing, to create a shark sanctuary, and to set aside fully protected marine areas are combining to help fish populations thrive. With more than 1300 species of reef fish, from large, prehistoric-looking schools of bumphead parrotfish, to cryptic leaf fish and colorful and elusive mandarin fish, a snorkeling trip to Palau will undoubtedly add many new sightings to your reef fish life list! And while in most areas of the world it is becoming increasingly rare to see sharks, Palau’s approach to conservation means that it is not unusual to see four or more shark species on your expedition.


3. Snorkel Site Diversity

One of the most impressive aspects of snorkeling in Palau is its wide diversity of microhabitats. From tranquil, protected mangrove-rimmed lakes and bays, to limestone swim-throughs lined with soft corals, to blue holes into which you can free dive, to shallow water drop offs that go from 3 feet to over 900 feet, Palau’s snorkel sites offer seemingly endless variation. For example, in wondrous Ulong Channel you can snorkel areas where large groupers spawn and gray reef sharks congregate, and then explore the shallow table coral edges for nudibranchs. It is easy to visit 4 to 5 different coral reef ecosystems just in one day in Palau. And given Palau’s role in WWII, you can also snorkel over downed Japanese Zero fighter planes and other wrecks in the shallow water.

© Keoki Stender

4. Great Conditions

The primary snorkeling areas of Palau are found within the Rock Islands, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of nearly 300 jungle-covered limestone islands that jut out of turquoise waters. The islands create a multitude of protected, shallow snorkel sites with calm and inviting waters that boast 50-70 feet visibility for most of the year. From within the Rock Islands’ protected lagoons, it is easy to access reef drop-offs and current confluences just outside the islands that attract large schools of fish.

© Keoki Stender

5. Breathtaking Landscapes

One of the often-unmentioned characteristics of snorkeling in Palau is the breathtaking landscape that you traverse each day. With bright white sand beaches and mushroom shaped islands that jut dramatically out of crystal waters, one can easily fill up a memory card with only above water pictures! While traveling to snorkel sites, we often see elegant White-tailed Tropicbirds frolicking on the surface of the water. Some of the islands where we jump out to snorkel have walls covered in carnivorous pitcher plants that attract lively birds like Fantails as well as colorful Fruit Doves.

© Keoki Stender

6. Easy Access

Snorkel and dive tourism is well developed in Palau and, as a result, the boats available for snorkel outings are modern and comfortable, with new and well-maintained engines. This makes access to snorkel sites and transit between them a breeze. On our expeditions, we typically depart at 8:30 am and return at 4 pm or after, enjoying a picnic lunch on one of the many white sand beaches. Transit time to the outer reefs and snorkel sites takes a maximum of 50 to 60 minutes, and that time is usually broken up by multiple stops en route to snorkel at shallow reefs harboring giant clams, soft corals, and massive landscapes of table corals. Most people travel a long way to visit Palau, and the easy-to-access reefs help you make the best use of your vacation time.