Have fins, will travel.

In the bleak mid winter it’s always nice to jet off to warmer climes and emerse in some blue, clear tropical water. This year I set my sights on Palau, a small republic in the remote western Pacific. It also happens to be home to a marine reserve over 500,000 square kilometres and is known for a plethora of pelagics.

The flight connection in Manila was tight to say the least! We had stressed about missing it for weeks. We had to switch terminals and battle the crazy Manila mayhem on the roads. Using our most assertive voices we commandeered a taxi and with two young Latvian backpackers under our wing we duly hurtled through the traffic at warp 3. The driver was a demon, but the $20 tip obviously carried a lot of clout because we made it with time to spare for a beer. 

Our arrival in Palau went smoothly with Richard from Sam’s dive centre awaiting us at the airport. We got to know each other on the short transfer to our hotel on Koror and agreed time for a pick up in the morning.

The dive centre is fantastic, spacious and well set out with a great bar and restaurant. We did the paperwork and set up our kit, and loaded the boat ready for our first dive.

The Teschio Maru was a Japanese merchant ship sunk in WW2 and the second dive was the Chuio Maru. Both ships are close to the dive centre and very intact. There is plenty of life on them including a frog fish which was happy to pose for a photo. Nice checkout dives for the first day, kit fettled and working well, our appitites were whetted for the rest of the trip.

For the metal maniacs amongst you there are many many wrecks in the waters around Palau. Operation desecrate 1 began on March 30th 1944 and US forces sank 36 Japanese ships! I was very fortunate to dive a recently discovered Japanese patrol boat which only 30 people have dived so far! The wreck lies close against the reef on its port side. The contents of the boat are still intact as is the telegraph. 

The Imatsu Maru is the largest ship wreck in Micronesia and was a huge tanker with an impressive propeller! Inside the engine room it’s pretty mangled by bomb damage, but the bridge is in one piece and sports a safe and water bottle. 

However, as much as I might lust for rust I have to say it was the reef life that was most memorable. The fast currents attract large pelagics. Hanging on a reef hook at blue corner we watched a dozen or so sharks glide up and down and shoaling barracuda encircle us. The reef wall is spectacularly healthy and the drop off quite stunning. 

The crowning glory was our trip up to Peleliu island where the giant trevally were gathering to spawn. 50,000 trevally is a lot of fish in one place! Probably more than I’ll ever see again. Throw in a few sharks, turtles and a tuna the size of Tim, all back lit by perfectly blue clear water, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty awesome dive! 

Topside we visited the Peleliu memorial as sadly this island was the site of a bloody battle that killed 1794 US troops and 10695 Japanese troops. It’s hard to imagine such human catastrophe in the paradise that is Palau today.

The hotels are a little expensive for what you get, and the diving is the most expensive of anywhere I’ve been, but I’d say it’s worth it to dive such pristine reefs. If you are looking for a dream getaway start saving up. You’ll love it!

Star rating 5/5

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