PALAU DIVE SITES
You can dive the same site again and again and have completely different experiences each time.
Palau is made up of more than 350 islands, including the mushroom-like Rock Islands, situated at the biodiverse intersection of the Pacific Ocean and Philippine Sea. Palau’s waters boast more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 800 species of corals and sponges. You’ll find myriad dive experiences, including big pelagic encounters, tranquil coral gardens, current-swept drop-offs, and a collection of World War II wrecks that are a major draw in and of themselves.
For land-based divers wanting the best of both worlds, speedy boats zip to most of the major dive sites in under an hour. Most sites are located off some of the most photogenic islands in the world. Live-aboards also ply these waters, focusing on the southwestern section of the barrier reef to keep divers near the most popular sites.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE SITES
It would be a huge task to try and list all of the dive sites that Palau has to offer. What follows is a list of the most popular sites. Most of these dives can be dived on either an incoming or out going tide and will offer a completely different perspective either way.
Blue Corner – Palau’s most famous and popular dive site, deservedly so. Blue Corner has every thing a diver could wish for. Strong currents whip over the top of the plateau bringing with it a plentiful supply of food and nutrients. White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks cruise up and down the currents providing great close ups for divers hooked in along the edge of the wall. Napoleon Wrasse, Giant and Blue Fin Trevally, Dog Tooth Tuna and a resident Eagle Ray can all be found here. Drift along the top of the Plateau and find Lion Fish, Leaf Fish, Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and then it’s out into the blue for a safety stop, usually accompanied by a large school of Black Fin Barracuda. Diving doesn’t get more action packed than this.
Blue Holes – Located west and next to Blue Corner, Blue Holes is a huge cavern with 4 holes at its top, allowing the Sunlight to filter down. Divers descend down the holes and into the cavern where the silhouette shots can be amazing. Wrasse can be found inside cavern. Divers exit the cavern and travel along the wall where Grey Reef Sharks can be found cruising and occasionally an Eagle Ray.
German Channel – Divers descend down to a depth of about 20m / 66ft to a sandy bottom, where a Manta Ray cleaning station is located. Other regulars here, aside from the Manta’s, are, White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks, Spanish Mackerel, schooling Black Snapper and Trevally, Turtles, Clown Trigger fish and the occasional Feather Tailed Ray.
Big Drop Off – A vertical wall covered with soft corals and sea fans, divers can expect a pleasant drift dive, spotting Turtles, and a variety of reef fish along the way. The top of the wall is teeming with life and safety stops can often be shared with a Black Tip Reef Shark, or two.
Turtle Cove – Laser clams, Gobies and if you look really closely, Banded Pipe Fish can be found inside the cavern. Shark, Black Snapper and the occasional Ornate Eagle Ray, can be seen outside, along the wall.
Ngerchong Outside – A wall dive, drifting with the current. Divers can see White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks, Turtles, Bump Headed Parrotfish and if you look closely enough, a Crocodile fish.
Barnums Wall – Starts off vertically, then begins to slope out around 25m / 83ft to a sandy bottom. This can be a good place to spot Leopard Sharks. White Tip Sharks also frequent the area, as well as the occasional Eagle Ray. The wall it’s self is great for Nudibranchs, Sea Whips, Green and Hawksbill Turtles.
Virgin Blue Hole – Divers descend down a hole, on top of the shallow reef, into a huge cavern, 28m / 92ft deep. Light filters down from the vertical shaft above, providing excellent silhouette shots. The cavern is short swim from beginning to end, then opens out onto the wall. Divers will find the traditional White Tip Shark along the wall, as well as Turtles, Black Snapper and Eagle Rays. The dive ends on top of the wall, where there is a labyrinth of channels and swim-throughs.
Ngemelis Coral Garden – Ngemblis has a gently sloping wall that is covered with coral of all species. White Tip and Black Tip Sharks cruise by, as well as Batfish and Turtles. Nudibranchs, Fire Dart Gobys and Octopus can be found living amongst the coral.
Ulong Channel – Grey Reef Sharks gather in Abundance as well as White Tip Sharks, Big Eye Trevally and also very possible to see a Manta Ray or Hammerhead Shark. Drift with the current up the channel, and spot Sharks and Tuna along the way. Divers will come across one of the largest forms of Lettuce coral in the world. Also a sandy basin, with Tuna and hunting Sharks gathering in abundance. Visibility is always good and the coral is vibrant.
Siaes Tunnel – This is a dive down a section of vertical wall, to the entrance of a large tunnel that cuts straight through the reef. Divers can often find a large school of Big Eye Trevally circling below them, just inside the entrance. Once inside, there is enough light, but if you’d like to make the most out of the soft corals and small fish that can be found, bring a flash light. Upon nearing the tunnel exit, sleeping White Tip Sharks can be found, as well as plenty of small marine life, Fire Dart Gobys, Long Nose Hawkfish and Lionfish. Along the wall you may see Grey Reef Sharks cruise past.
Siaes Corner – A drift along the wall amongst schools of Pyramid Butterfly fish, leads to a section of reef that juts out. Napoleon Wrasse, Grey Reef Sharks and schools of Red Tooth Trigger fish gather here in the gentle currents. The shallow plateau is covered in coral. Clown Triggerfish and small grouper can often be found amongst the corals.
Turtle Wall – A wall dive where Napoleon Wrasse, Turtles and Sharks are commonly seen, as well as an abundant supply of Pyramid Butterfly fish and Yellow Tailed Fusiliers. Current depending, the dive usually ends as a drift dive along the plateau on top of the wall where White Tip Sharks can commonly be seen.
New Drop Off – Grey Reef Sharks are found in abundance at this dive site, as well as, large Napoleon Wrasse, Snapper, clouds of Pyramid Butterfly fish, and Emperor Angelfish can be found along the wall. On top of the Plateau, Yellow Margin Trigger fish and Barracuda gather. A number of shallow gullies are on top of the reef and if you look closely enough, Leaf Scorpion fish can be found here. New Drop Off can have very strong, unpredictable currents however, which makes it quite an advanced dive.
Chandelier Cave – Named after the stalactite formations growing down from the caves ceiling, Chandelier Cave consists of four water filled accessible chambers, each with a breathable air pocket. Air naturally filters through the porous Limestone and it is perfectly safe to breath. Visibility is usually excellent, unless the silt layer on the bottom, lying at approximately 15m / 48ft, has been disturbed. Light comes from the small entry / exit point at the beginning of the cave system, so flashlights are a must.
Short Drop Off – A favorite for check out dives. This is a gentle wall dive with mild currents. Grey Reef and White Tip Sharks can be seen here, as well as a variety of reef fish and the occasional Eagle Ray.
Iro Wreck – Sunk on March the 31st, 1944, the Iro was a Japanese fleet oil tanker, and is arguably the most popular wreck Palau has to offer. The bow is at 20m / 66ft, whilst the stern drops to 36m / 125ft. She lies upright and is a massive 140m / 462ft long. Her shear size and numerous points of interest make it impossible for divers to get bored. The ship is covered with coral and is teeming with life. Other than a large variety of small reef fish, divers can often see Trevally and Barracuda cruising around the wreck, as well as a number of Batfish, who seem to like hanging around the descent line. Visibility can vary greatly on this wreck.
Helmet Wreck – Sunk on March the 30th, 1944, the Helmet wreck was an unidentified Japanese cargo ship, and was only discovered in 1990. Her stern lies at 15m / 50ft, whilst her bow drops to 35m/116ft. She only measures a modest 58m/191ft, but don’t let that put you off, for she’s simply filled with fascinating artifacts. Sake bottles, ammunition shells and explosive charges litter the deck. Machine guns, rifles, old boots, boxes of shells and even a frying pan can be found near the stern. Gas masks stare back at you. Down in the holds, boxes of depth charges, helmet stacks, webbing and 3 large aircraft engines can be found.
Alice’s Coral Garden – A mellow dive, ideal for check out dives and novice divers. Alice’s has very little to no current at all. Cruising along the gently sloping wall, divers can spot White Tip Sharks, Crocodile fish, Green and Hawksbill Turtles, as well as a variety of reef fish.
Mandarin fish Lake – Boats moor outside a small channel that leads to the salt water lake. Divers then have a short snorkel to reach the lake. Once there, descend to a depth of about 5m/17ft and start looking for the elusive Mandarin fish that hides out amongst coral rubble. The best time of day to spot these guys is at dusk, when they come out to mate. Aside from Mandarin fish, divers can also find Triggerfish, Butterfly fish and Pajama Cardinal fish in the lake.
Peleliu Express – So named because of the raging currents that can be experienced here, and the way the sharks stack up on top of one another, resembling an express train. No dive trip to Peleliu would be complete with out a trip to Peleliu express. A mere 5 minutes by speed boat from north dock takes you to one of the most action packed dives in Palau. With the wall, graced by soft corals, racing past your right hand shoulder, divers can spot numerous sharks, stacks of Sweetlips, and huge Bump head Parrotfish. A huge school of Giant Trevally can also be found. Tuna, Silky sharks, even Hammerheads and a Bull Shark have been spotted here.
Peleliu Cut – The reef here extends a long way out from the island, and like Peleliu Express, is another site that has strong currents. Strong currents eddy here, having a kind of washing machine effect. Sharks aggregate and surf the currents, along with King Mackerel and Yellowfin Surgeonfish. The cut is a popular hook in point for divers to stop and watch the action. Unhook and the current takes you up and over the plateau. Turtles and Giant Grouper can be seen as the reef whizzes past. Giant Trevally can be spotted as well as the possibility of a “resident” Bull Shark.
Peleliu Wall – One of the most beautiful wall dives Palau has to offer, Peleliu Wall can be dove either on the left or right hand side, depending on the current. Soft corals, black corals and sea fans are abundant as well as sea whips that have grown to almost impossible lengths. Grouper, Redtooth Triggerfish, Snapper, Grey Reef and White Tip sharks are found in abundance. Lionfish, Turtles and even the occasional Sea Snake can be found along the top of the plateau.
Orange Beach – Situated near to where the American forces stormed Peleliu Island on September 15th, 1944, divers can find bullets, shells and amphibious am-tracks among other military remnants found on the sandy bottom. The sea life is fantastic here. Nurse Sharks hide amongst the boulders, as well as Turtles, Scorpionfish, Crocodilefish and Nudibranchs have made Orange Beach their home. Snapper, Bumphead Parrotfish and Blackspot Barracuda are commonly seen.
Yellow Wall – Named after the small, yellow soft coral that is literally plastered all over this dive site, Yellow Wall is a vertical section of reef, with a shallow plateau on its top. As well as the yellow soft coral, Lettuce coral and Sea Whips scatter along the wall’s length. Grouper, Angelfish, Black Snapper, Sweetlips and large Bumphead Parrotfish can usually be found as well as the occasional Eagle Ray.
Sting Ray Point – An interesting section of wall that has a number of channels along its length, that are great to explore. The sandy bottoms of these channels are usually a good place to find hiding Rays. Numerous small reef fish can be found along the walls length and the coral growth is exceptionally healthy.
Peleliu Pocket – Coral growth here is outstandingly colorful and numerous reef fish can be found at this this dive site. Turtles, Angelfish and Lionfish are regularly found hiding amongst the coral here.
Jelly Fish Lake – This is a snorkel only site, but a must see! Due to the lack of predators and abundance of sunlight, the jellies can safely propagate. Their numbers have reached over 20 million. Because of their confinement in the lake and use of photosynthesis, golden jellyfish have almost completely lost their tentacles and completely lost their sting. They are actually quite tiny, being the relative size of a teacup.
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