Diving in Perfect Palau | Sport Diver

Diving in Perfect Palau

Perfect Palau

Besides abundant marine life, Palau is also home to one of the world’s greatest collections of shipwrecks readily accessible to recreational divers.

Chuyo Maru

The colorful kingpost of the Chuyo Maru — although Palau’s natural coral reefs areits main attraction for divers, the collection of shipwrecks, most from World War II, also provide habitat for fish, and serve as flourishing artificial reefs.

Jellyfish Lake

A sea of jellyfish in iconic Jellyfish Lake.

Wreck

A fishing vessel in Palau’s inner lagoon sank during an intense storm three decades ago.

Sea Star

Afternoon sunlight illuminates a blue sea star clinging to a shallow reef.

Mandarinfish

Mandarinfish are easy to spot under cloudy conditions or at dusk.

Rock Islands

Uplifted more than 30 million years ago, the Rock Islands have eroded over time into a vast maze that surrounds an idyllic lagoon.

Rope Sponges

Vibrant rope sponges decorate a submerged mangrove root.

Palau Viz

Visibility is 60 to 100 feet here.

Tridacna giant clam

The warm, clear waters of Palau’s lagoon support habitats that are perfect for many species. Here, a detail of a Tridacna giant clam.

Palau

The sun sets over a tranquil sea.

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Mimicking a waterlogged mangrove leaf in color and pattern, a juvenile broadclub cuttlefish swims just below the surface of the lagoon.

Lagoon

Protected from wave action by the surrounding islands, healthy hard corals thrive in Palau’s shallow lagoon.

Every time I visit Palau is like the first time, and I become enchanted anew by the islands’ mystique, especially once my lens is focused on seascapes that shelter vibrant jumbles of chaotic marine life. As a biologist and photographer, the fusion of Palau’s limestone and volcanic islands has always presented a paradox — seascapes of ethereal beauty, bursting with marine life, that at the same time reflect the harsh realities of natural selection and the ravages of war.

Palau was formed from dark volcanic rock and the uplifted bones of ancient coral reefs. Much like other island nations in Micronesia, Palau above the waterline is swathed in luxuriant green vegetation, but below the surface, it really stands apart. Perched at the edge of the Coral Triangle, the islands shelter more than 1,500 species of fish, 700 species of corals and anemones, and countless other invertebrates. The archipelago’s extensive mangroves, sea-grass beds, marine lakes and coral reefs constitute a diving utopia. From giant, charismatic megafauna to micro invertebrates, there is always something new to discover in Palau’s waters.

Understandably, nearly all divers are most energized by the big shark dives and vertical walls of Palau’s barrier reef, but I also love investigating the secrets offered by the lagoon. In the end, I’ve found there is only one answer that solves the quandary of where and how to spend precious underwater time in Palau: Keep coming back. — Ethan Daniels

DIVER'S GUIDE TO PALAU

Average water temp: 83 degrees F

What to wear: 3 mm full wetsuit or shorty

Average viz: 60 to 100 feet

When to go: Year-round; high seaon is November to May

CAN'T MISS DIVES

Virgin Blue Hole
A wide, horizontal tunnel beginning at 90 feet leads to a wall riddled with winding canyons and swim-throughs. This beautiful but often-forgotten site sits just off Ngemelis Island.

Slaes Corner
A vibrant vertical wall adorned with soft corals and gorgonians drops precipitously into the abyss. Drift along the wall to a terraced corner where reef sharks and schooling fish aggregate.

Chuyo Maru
One of the prettiest of Palau’s many shipwrecks, the 285-foot Japanese freighter sits upright in 35 to 90 feet of water, covered in bushy black corals, oysters and small clumps of coral.

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