Palau – day 1

We spent our first day in Palau mostly diving. After being amazed by its ocean, we also visited the National Museum of Palau.

When planning our trip to Palau, we had decided to spend the first three days diving. The Neco Marine team picked us up at our hotel at 8 am, from where we headed to the dive center located on the island of Malakal (Palau’s main city and state, Koror, actually occupies several small islands connected by bridges).

It is one of the best dive centers we have seen. Its spacious offices include a large shop with dive gear and souvenirs. In addition, they have a pool area where you can relax after each day’s dives. Next to the pool is Drop Off, the restaurant and bar of the center, serving a selection of local and international dishes (all of which are superb).

Once there, we filled in the required forms with our information, and prepared our diving equipment. You can request the use of tanks with nitrox (air enriched in oxygen) if you have the appropriate license (which we recommend since the dives in Palau are usually carried out at depths greater than 20 m). After buying some cookies for breakfast at a nearby supermarket, we boarded the boat to start our first day of diving.

During the boat trip you will pass between the small islands of Palau, including the famous Chelbacheb Islands, better known as Rock Islands. These are limestone islands covered almost entirely by thick tropical vegetation that formed on a partially emerged coral reef. They are currently uninhabited, and make up a unique landscape difficult to find elsewhere. Our captain made an effort to follow each day a route that would allow us to see the most impressive points. Don’t miss the chance to photograph these unique formations! As we went out to open sea, we were amazed by the stunning colors of the ocean in Palau.

Crystalline waters of Palau

Our first destination was Sandy Paradise, as it is one of the less difficult dives in Palau. It is a large garden of hard corals where you can see a wide variety of fish, and sometimes gray reef sharks. The presence of sharks at the dive sites of Palau is very frequent, sometimes in large numbers. Do not be afraid, as they are usually peaceful creatures, and as long as you follow the instructions of your dive guide you will not have any problem. In any case, it is useful to know that if they are beginning to feel threatened, they begin to swim quickly from side to side, and adopt a hunched position.

We were in awe during our first dive in Palau. Visibility was excellent (several tens of meters) and the amount of healthy coral on the seabed is impressive. We were able to see plenty of tropical fish and sharks, and even a big blue octopus! This species of octopus, which lives in the coral reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, is the only one that hunts during the day. In the corals and rocks you can also find abundant encrusted giant clams.

One of the most interesting points of this dive site is a coral island that works as a cleaning station for doctor fish. These small fish bite the skin of larger fish, which provides them with food while removing parasites and dead tissue from the larger fish (thus establishing a mutually beneficial relationship). When divers approach the cleaning station, if they stand still they are also bitten by the doctor fish (we could check it first hand!).

Next we went to Ulong Wall. This dive site is located near the island of Ulong, where English captain Henry Wilson shipwrecked in 1783. During the dive, you pass through both a large vertical wall and a flat area, both full of coral reefs. During this dive we saw an impressive magnificent sea anemone inhabited by pink clown fish. This is another example of symbiosis: the anemone provides protection to the clownfish with its poisonous tentacles (against which the fish is protected by a mucous layer), and the clownfish defends the anemone from other reef fish that could devour parts of the anemone.

On this dive we saw gray sharks again, this time even closer, and next to a large school of barracudas!

Pink clown fish in a magnificent sea anemone

After the first two dives, we took a lunch break (lunch is included, and you can choose from several options the day before diving). There are options for all tastes and all the ones we tried were very good. We also had time to rest and snorkel in the shallow waters around the ship.

For the last dive of the day, we went to Siaes Corner, also close to Ulong Island. It is a dive site similar to the well-known Blue Corner (which we will visit in future posts), but much less visited. The currents can be quite strong on this site, even requiring the use of reef hooks to anchor to the rocks. On this dive we were able to see large groups of gray sharks, and even swim among barracudas.

After an incredible day of diving, we made our way back to the port of Neco Marine. Along the way we enjoyed again some of the best views of the islands of Palau, including one of the most iconic Rock Islands, known as The Arch for its shape.

Rock Islands and The Arch

To make the most out of the last sun rays, we decided to ask the Neco Marine team to drop us off at the National Museum of Palau (Belau National Museum). This small museum, the oldest in all of Micronesia, houses a collection of handicrafts, photographs and other objects related to the culture and history of Palau. In addition, on its grounds there is a traditional Palauan house or bai, which served as a meeting place. It is a reconstruction of the original, which suffered a fire in 1979, but was built using traditional techniques and decorated with typical paintings depicting different Palau legends. The museum also has a souvenir shop. After finishing our visit, we returned to our hotel on foot.

We concluded our first day in Palau having dinner at Elilai (they have a free shuttle service for dinner). It is one of the best restaurants in the country, although the prices are somewhat expensive. It is located next to the sea, with excellent views. They have an international gastronomic offer (including Japanese, American and Italian cuisines) with great influences from the traditional recipes and ingredients of Palau. On this occasion, we opted for a set menu (Rainbow’s End Course), priced at $68 per person. Among the many dishes on the menu, we were able to try the Ukaeb, a Palauan dish consisting of land crab meat mixed with coconut milk, and sometimes served in the crab’s own shell. We were very happy with the entire menu and the excellent service received.

After returning to the hotel, we wrote down the details of our dives in our log books and decided to take a break after a very complete day.

Summary

Visited places:
  • Neco Marine
  • Sandy Paradise (dive 1)
  • Ulong Wall (dive 2)
  • Siaes Corner (dive 3)
  • Rock Islands and The Arch
  • National Museum of Palau
  • Traditional bai
Seen sea creatures:
  • Hard corals
  • Giant clams
  • Doctor fish
  • Grey reef shark
  • Big blue octopus
  • Humpback grouper
  • Lobster
  • Bigeyes
  • Pink clown fish and magnificent sea anemone
  • Barracudas
  • Dogtooth tuna
  • Napoleon wrasse
  • Yellow-edged moray
  • Bluespotted grouper
  • Royal angelfish
  • Abundant tropical fish

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Lara and Rafa

Lara and Rafa

2 thoughts on “Palau – day 1”

  1. You make me dream beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with me. I will never forget our time together in this paradise. Love to you both.

    All the best,
    Zel

    1. Hi Zel,

      We are very glad to hear that you have enjoyed remembering such nice memories! It was indeed an unforgettable time in paradise and we hope to have more times like this in the future!

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