Similar to “golf widows,” scuba diving enthusiasts often leave behind their loved one(s) to pursue their underwater passion. Acknowledging that scuba diving is not necessarily of interest to all adventure seekers, Palau, Micronesia is naturally suited to accommodate those that do and do not dive.
Known for its world-class scuba diving conditions, Palau tops the bucket list for most dive enthusiasts, but this Micronesian destination is also host to a whole range of land and above-water activities.
Options for those that do want to get their feet wet, but don’t want to go 20+ feet under include: beach bumming; snorkeling; Jellyfish Lake; and the Milky Way. Above water and land options include mangrove or sea kayaking; sport fishing; Jungle Riverboat Cruise; Palau Eco Theme Park; Palau Aquarium at the Palau International Coral Reef Center; Belau National Museum; Etpison Museum; Dolphins Pacific; bird watching; visiting the Badrulchau (stone monoliths) and other historic sites; and the World War II Museum on Peleliu.
In the southern lagoon just minutes from the diving sites is a tiny star-shaped island called Carp Island. Popular with divers, it features modest cabins, a calm lagoon and a mile-long beach. While the divers play, many of their companions enjoy having the island to themselves, either kayaking, snorkeling, reading in a hammock or beach bumming. Each day is filled with panoramic sunsets, rainbows, and warm sea breezes. For more information, contact Carp Island Resort at http://www.carpislandpalau.com.
In Palau, see-through waters bequeath underwater visibility beyond anyone’s imagination. A prism of colorful coral reefs and virtually limitless variety of sea life set the stage in this tropical paradise. From beginners to more experienced snorkelers, there are over 50 existing sites, each possessing distinct characteristics and individual personalities to appeal to everyone’s desires. Snorkeling is year-round in Palau and during the busiest season from January to April, spectacular sights such as migratory whale sharks passing by, sharks or mantas mating, and large schools of fish spawning can be seen.
The best locations for snorkeling in Palau are accessible by boat. Often, dive centers can accommodate divers and snorkelers on some of the same routes. These might be the best options for couples or families that want to spend time together on the water and yet fulfill the divers’ needs as well as the non-divers’ interests. There are several dive centers that offer dive and snorkeling equipment for rent. For more information on dive centers and snorkeling options, visit http://bit.ly/1i6zHnZ.
One of the most spectacular adventures in Palau is the unusual Jellyfish Lake, where visitors can safely swim with jellyfish. This intriguing lake and its “residents,” namely the golden jellyfish (known as Mastigias) and the moon jellyfish (known as Aurelia), is a true rarity and has earned its distinction as the only place in the world where humans can safely swim with these typically dangerous creatures. Why is this possible?! Over the course of millennia, the formation of the lake transitioned from a bay, connected to the ocean, to an enclosed body of water wherein the resident jellyfish have become virtually stingless because they are no longer threatened by any enemies. Due to this evolution, adventure seekers have the rare opportunity to swim amongst these unique water creatures. For more information about Jellyfish Lake, visit http://bit.ly/1nNhKdw.
The Milky Way
A special cove that the locals call the “Milky Way,” is Palau’s natural spa. The bottom of this little bay consists not of sand but of white limestone mud, which gives the water a milky sheen. Rumored that the mysterious chalky mud makes an excellent rejuvenating facial, guides dive off, head down to the shallow floor of the cove and return with a huge handful of the white muck, for which they instruct their passengers to cover themselves. After soaking in the sun, while the clay dries and the minerals work their magic, it’s time to jump in, rinse off and relish in the benefits of the natural body scrub. Typically, tour companies combine the Jellyfish Lake experience with the “Milky Way” since these attractions are both located in the Rock Islands. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1i8jhff.
With well over 500 emerald islands set in crystal clear, turquoise lagoons, kayaking tours provide the perfect medium to explore Palau's hidden network of marine lakes, untouched mangrove channels, marine tunnels, tropical beaches and marine caverns. No experience is necessary as tours begin with paddling instructions. Speedboat shuttles bring guests to and from the kayak sites in order to maximize the adventure while eliminating long, tiring paddle distances. For more information on kayaking options, visit http://bit.ly/1i6zHnZ.
Sports Fishing - Catch Your Dream!
While the diving spouse is enjoying underwater life, it’s a good opportunity for the “widow(er)” to try their luck at catching dinner. Many tour operators offer sports fishing tours, from trolling for big game like marlins, wahoo and tuna to bottom fishing for tasty reef fish. Night fishing is also a popular activity, especially on a full moon. For a list of tour operators that offer sport fishing tours, visit http://www.visit-palau.com/thingstodo and look up sports fishing. As well, annual fishing derbies are listed on the www.visit-palau.com events - a great way to test your skills against the locals.
Jungle Riverboat Cruise
The Jungle River Boat Cruise is one of Palau’s most modern eco-friendly tours, providing visitors with an ideal way to relax and see nature firsthand. Located in Ngchesar State, the Jungle River Boat Cruise takes passengers on a one hour journey that starts at the main dock and goes upstream to the ocean. During the tour, passengers get a chance to see crocodiles up close as well as indigenous birdlife and other local animals. The Jungle River Boat Cruise facilities include a gift shop and two “summer houses” resembling Palauan “bais.” The facilities offer barbeque set lunches with entertainment, basket weavings and a tour through Micronesia’s second largest landmass, Babeldaob, in order to guide guests through local history, culture and nature. For more information about the Jungle Riverboat Cruise, visit http://bit.ly/1yeDkNw.
Palau Eco Theme Park
While Palau is renowned for its water activities, the destination is also home to a relatively new sky adventure with a three-course zip-line over the Taki Waterfall Park in the State of Ngardmau. Opened just a few years ago, the Palau Eco Theme Park features a zip-line course that soars 250 feet above the ground, with platforms that take adrenaline seekers along paths that are between 300 meters and 340 meters. For more information about Palau Eco Theme Park, visit http://bit.ly/1slW4KF.
Palau Aquarium at the International Coral Reef Center
The Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) is Palau’s leading research and aquarium institution with a mission to be an international Center of Excellence to support conservation and management for the perpetuation of marine and associated environments through research and education that is significant to Palau and relevant to the world. The facilities include the Palau Aquarium, an interpretive center that is a unique attraction to both visitors and locals alike. In addition, PICRC is equipped to host visiting marine researchers and has conducted renowned studies such as coral spawning research. For more information, visit http://www.picrc.org.
Belau National Museum and Etpison Museum
In existence since 1955, the Belau National Museum is the oldest museum in the Micronesian region. With indoor and outdoor exhibits of history, art, genuine artifacts and natural history, the museum still continues to further develop its programs and activities. Only a short walk from downtown Koror, the Belau National Museum also features a traditional bai, amphitheatre, restaurant and gift shop, Ulekdubs, where you can find carved hardwood sculptures and storyboards, local jewelry, books on Palau, T-shirts, woven bags and other handicrafts. There is also a research library and media archive. For more information, visit www.belaunationalmuseum.net.
Opened in 1999, the Etpison Museum is dedicated to the late President Ngiratkel Etpison and features two floors of Palauan and Micronesia artifacts, displays, photography and a gift shop. Exhibits and information are continually updated. The Etpison Museum is located about a fifteen minute walk from downtown Koror. For more information, visit http://www.etpisonmuseum.org.
Dolphins Pacific’s "Dolphin Bay" is a natural park that is the largest of its kind in the world. Nestled amongst the beautiful rock islands and just minutes via boat ride from the main town of Koror, Dolphins Pacific is a non-profit organization that is committed to environmental education. Additionally, the attraction offers a variety of dolphin encounters, which aim to enlighten visitors of Palau while providing entertainment as well. A popular activity for visitors to Dolphins Pacific is weddings at the park site, where dolphins salute celebrating couples. For more information, visit http://www.dolphinspacific.com.
Birdwatching in Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary
The dense forest of Palau’s largest and Micronesia’s second largest island, Babeldaob, as well as the outer islands of Peleliu and Angaur, contain approximately 186 species of trees from more than 50 different families. Living in these forests are 153 species of birds and nine-12 of these are endemic - only found in Palau. The Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary, located in Ngaremlengui State in Babeldaob, is a part of Palau’s protected area network that is exclusive for bird watching and hiking. For more information, contact the Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary at email@example.com.
Day Trip to Badrulchau
Completed less than ten years ago, Palau’s Compact Road encompasses Babeldaob Island, opening up opportunities to visit sites of cultural/historic importance, such as the Badrulchau (Stone Monoliths), Japanese lighthouse, stone paths, stone faces and stone platforms. Just one hour south of Koror to Ngarchelong in the north, the highway runs through forest and savannah. One exciting feature of the highway is the experience of both the east and west coasts of Babeldaob with stops at markets for local food and refreshments. There are several rental car companies in Palau and many tour operators offer land tours in the various states. For those that prefer off-road adventures, Fish n’ Fins offers all-terrain vehicle rentals. For more information, visit www.fishnfins.com.
World War II Museum on Peleliu
Known as the site for the bloodiest battle of World War II, Peleliu is full of war memorabilia, historical sites, buildings and memorials. Visitors can take a self-guided tour as there is plenty of World War II relics, but a guided tour quickly brings the history and battles to life. A number of tour companies based in Koror offer day trips via boat to Peleliu (one hour ride each way). Once on the island, visitors will want to visit the Peleliu WWII Memorial Museum, which is a moving experience. It examines in detail through photos, articles and relics how war affected the island from the perspective of both the Japanese and American soldiers. In addition the museum provides exhibits on the island’s recovery once the war was over.
Located in the westernmost corner of Micronesia, Palau is an archipelago of more than 586 islands with about 20,000 inhabitants. Consistently ranked as one of the world's best dive destinations, Palau is the ultimate paradise for the adventurous traveler, boasting some of the most spectacular water features and beaches as well as the world famous Rock Islands and Jellyfish Lake. With 1,450 species of fish and more than 400 species of coral, some have called Palau the "8th Natural Wonder of the World", while others have identified Palau as "One of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World." Palau has had the vision to preserve this rich biodiversity. In 2009, Palau became the world’s first Shark Sanctuary and in 2012, the Southern Lagoon Rock Islands were entered into the World Heritage List by UNESCO. For more information about Palau, visit www.visit-palau.com.