Reef dives might well be regarded as the ‘bread and butter’ of Palau’s diving, but they are not to be taken lightly. The outer reef line around Palau is the reason people travel here from all over the world. Our pristine coral reefs are what makes Palau so famous in the diving community.
Names like Blue Corner, Big Drop-Off, and Peleliu Express make divers all over the world salivate. People who dive Palau always come back for more.
What draws people here? The ripping currents and fast drift dives? Fantastic shark action? The huge schools of barracuda, trevally, fusiliers, and Pyramid butterflyfish (to name just a few)? The sedate pleasure of the beautiful hard coral gardens? The breath-taking soft corals of the wall dives? Take your pick. When we say there’s something for everyone, we’re not kidding.
Dive trips typically run a full day with either two or three dives, depending on your preference. If you have an interest in particular dive sites, either email us in advance or simply let your dive guide know.
With over 60 wrecks, Palau has wrecks of all sizes and shapes. Some wrecks are so shallow that you can snorkel around them. Others, such as the famous USS Perry, are so deep that technical dive certifications are required. Many wrecks are, however, within reach of any diver holding an open water certification.
Many of Palau’s wrecks are the legacy of US air raids on the occupying Japanese forces during 1944, such as “Operation Desecrate.”
Many of the lagoons are littered with WWII wrecks, with the highest concentrations in the waters surrounding around Koror. You can dive everything from fighter seaplanes and landing crafts to cargo ships and destroyers. We have a few wrecks of fishing boats around Palau, and although not related to WWII, they are still definitely worth diving.
The most commonly explored wrecks are the Iro, which is a 14,050 ton, 470′ SHIRETOKO Class Fleet Tanker, sunk upright, and the Chuyo Maru, a 1,941 ton, 272′ Army Cargo ship, also sunk upright. And don’t forget Depth-Charge (or Helmet) Wreck, which is among the least salvaged of the wrecks, and therefore one that is on most people’s list.
Typically we dive wrecks as either the first or last dive on a three dive day, with the other two dives being reef dives. If your group charters the whole dive boat, then we can dedicate as many dive days as you desire to wreck diving.
Be warned that most of the wrecks have not been properly salvaged and as such may well still contain unexploded ordinance – so no touching.
Cave systems of all shapes and sizes litter the limestone Rock Islands of Palau, both above and below the water.
Chandelier Cave is a unique opportunity for divers of all levels to experience diving in an overhead environment. Blue Holes is a favorite with many divers and has been described as cathedral-like, with the four holes providing enough ambient light for photos without the need for special lights. Siaes Tunnel near Ulong Island and Virgin Blue Hole at Ngemelis are also two very popular cavern dives. Most of these are deep dives and descend far deeper than recreational limits, for this reason it is important to follow your guide and use a dive computer and monitor your depth carefully. Nitrox is also advisable to make these deeper dives safer.
For more serious cave divers, there are undoubtedly larger underwater systems, but they await discovery and exploration – it’s one of Palau’s great unknowns. Watch this space for further developments…
For a totally different perspective on the underwater world, night dives are not to be missed. Whether you simply enjoy the adrenalin rush of diving at night, or want to spy on all the creatures that hide in the reef during the day and come out to feed and play at night, night dives have something for everyone.
See basket stars crawl across the reef like something from a fantasy film. Watch lionfish hunt and corals feed. As your focus is on everything close at hand you’re more likely to spot the smaller critters, shells, crabs, and nudibranchs. Do not forget to cover your lights at some point during the dive to check out the bio-luminescence.
NECO Marine offers up a wide range of night diving options, from wrecks to reefs, and even wall dives for the adventurous.
Often called livings fossils, Nautili are thought to have remained almost unchanged for millions of years. The Nautilus species found in Palau is endemic.
Nautili live in very deep water, typically over 300′ (100m); therefore, we have to trap them in order for divers to interact with them. Using bait, they are trapped over night and brought up to recreational diving depths in the morning. This gives you a rare chance to see and photograph a live healthy animal.
The nautili are unharmed by the experience since the animals are able to adjust the pressure within their shells, and are subsequently released to swim back to the depths.
These awesome creatures are the largest rays in the ocean, reaching up to 22′ (7m) across. Their size belies their grace as they “fly” through the water.
The best chance to see manta rays is at the “cleaning stations” found in the channels on the outer reef line. Cleaning stations are communities of small fish who consume small parasites off of the mantas.
If mantas are a priority for you, then January through February is the time to come to Palau. The mantas become more numerous during this part of the year as they form large groups in and around the channels to mate. At this time, spectacular displays of synchronised swimming and underwater acrobatics can be observed.
These beautiful little fish are covered in stunning colours and patterns. The males in particular are wonderful to see, as they grow bigger than the females and possess an enlarged dorsal fin. Their elusive behaviour, however, makes them difficult to find and a “holy grail” for photographers and videographers.
Mandarinfish feed on small invertebrates found in the mud and silt at the bottom of shallow areas of Palau’s marine lakes and lagoons. For most of the day they crawl around inside corals making them difficult to spot. As the light drops in the late afternoon, they become more active, and at dusk they rise to the surface in pairs for courtship and mating displays.
By request, we can make an additional stop (3rd dive or snorkel) in the late afternoon to the aptly named Mandarinfish Lake. Or, if you like, we can arrange a dusk dive to catch these wonderful fish in the act of courting, mating, and laying eggs!
Mandarinfish can be also found near the entrance of Chandelier cave.
Palau offers diving in various natural and man-made channels. These channels are usually best dived on an incoming tide so that divers are able to drift through the channels. Incoming tides also bring clear ocean water from outside the lagoon, greatly improving visibility in comparison with outgoing tides. These dives usually have sandy bottoms and are relatively shallow dives.
Palau has several amazing “corner” dives, made special due to the strong currents sweeping across these reef corners which jut out into the ocean. The strong currents bring with them plankton (the base of the marine food chain) which in turn brings in all varieties of marine life in abundance. Strong currents also provide the opportunity to ‘hook-in’. Here in Palau we use reef-hooks to get the best view of the action without having to fight the current. Hooked in just back from the edge of the reef with a slightly inflated BCD, it’s possible to hang in the current above the reef with no effort and chill out while observing the action unfold before you.
Walls & Gardens
There are many wonderful wall dives around Palau which usually involve drifting with the (usually) mild current. There is often good visibility (30m / 100ft) and an abundance of healthy coral on these walls which drop off very steeply into the blue. Our beautiful gardens present themselves as more gently sloping coral vistas with pristine coral formations in every direction.