Palau (Belau) is a group of islands in the Micronesia area of Oceania, to the southeast of the Philippines.
Babeldaob Island- Largest Island, with a population of roughly 6,000 people. (Also spelled Babelthwap, Babeldoub, Babeldaub, etc.)
Koror- Palau's former capital and its largest city (with almost half of the population). Koror is on Oreor island, and is Palau's commercial hub.
Southwest Islands- Including the states of Sonsorol and Hatohobei, these islands have only about 100 people. Hatohobei State has only 30 people living there currently.
Rock Islands- Made up of almost 300 (mostly uninhabited) islands, the rock islands are home to Jellyfish Lake, a lake with millions of jellyfish with very weak stingers. Snorkelers can safely snorkel in this lake (SCUBA diving is not allowed in these lakes).
Melekeok - new capital (pop. 381) This is on the island of Babeldaob and is a pleasant drive from Koror along the new road constructed by Daewoo. Head out over the bridge and the road to Melekeok is clearly signposted.
Koror - the largest city and former capital. Koror is the place to go if you want souvenirs and some of the most economically priced Palauan story boards can be purchased at the prison behind the police station in the center of Koror. Try also Ben Franklin's shop located at the West Caroline Trading Company building opposite the Airirang Korean Restaurant
The South West islands of Palau are worth a visit if you have your own marine transport such as an ocean-going yacht. There are Sonsorol, Fana, Meriil, Hatohobei and Helen Reef, a conservation area. However be sure to take mosquito repellent if visiting Meriil as its local name is dancing island. Go there and you will find out why! If intending to visit any of these islands it is a wise idea to make the acquaintance of the governors at their offices in Koror itself. If you are lucky you just might be able to take a trip on the island supply vessel the Atoll Way. Sleeping is on a hard wooden platform along with the other souls who are either returning to their home islands or maybe the doctor from Peleliu island hospital who is making a routine visit to check up on the health of the islanders
After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. Palau officially became independent on October 1, 1994.
Plane is the only realistic choice. There is only one airport, Airai (ROR), in Koror. Most visitors arrive on Continental Micronesia's daily flights from Guam (~$600), which has good connections to Japan and the United States, as well as from Manila, Philippines.
Possible but not very easy.
Taxi and rented car. Lots of local taxis. If you rent a car, be prepared to drive real slow on some bumpy roads. Cars there are left or right hand drive. Takes a little getting use to if the steering wheel is on a side you are not familiar with. Also, you will have to drive about one hour north to find a beach dive site. If you drive south, to Ice Box Park, please note that the facility behind it is the sewage treatment plant. Any other diving will be from a boat, after an hour or more ride and cost around US$150 for a two tank dive. There are no dive spots or beaches on the main island - Koror. The road north was recently paved and is very nice... once you get past the airport.
Palau is most famous for scuba diving. One of the most famous dive sites - Blue Corner, with constant sharks and a high current - is located less than 1 hour's boat ride from most resorts. Many live aboards like Ocean Hunter operate out of Palau. There are also tours to WWII battle fields on Palau.
The Blue Corner, German Channel, Ulong Channel and Blue Holes are all amazing dive sites. You can dive the same site again and again and have completely different experiences each time.
Palau is also famous for its jellyfish lakes. These lakes contain jellyfish which have evolved away their stingers in the absence of predators. There are many tours which will go to the jellyfish lake to snorkel. SCUBA diving is not permitted, nor is necessary, in the jellyfish lake. Palau Jellyfish Lake is included in the category of natural phenomena and scientific mysteries.
Splash, the dive shop attached to the Palau Pacific Resort is recommended. The equipment available for rental is of high quality, and either new or well maintained. The dive masters are also very experienced, responsible and know the dive sites very well. Angelo at Splash is highly recommended as a dive master especially if you have not dived in stronger currents. It should be noted that Splash runs a rather large, wide diveboat, containing 20+ divers.
Fish 'n Fins is the oldest dive center in Palau. They currently have two live-aboard vessels, as well as seven smaller (and faster!) dive boats, operating from the base in Koror. The guides are very professional and are more than willing to share their extensive knowledge of the ocean and the life in it. Divers can use Nitrox EAN 32 for the same price as air. Gas mixtures for technical divers are also available.
Sam's Tours is another dive shop in Palau that offers diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing and land tours. They have some great guides that provide educational and environmental information about the locales. Sam's Tours uses small, fast narrow boats which carry 4~8 divers.
English and Palauan are the official languages, although some islands also give official status to their own languages.
Palau uses the US dollar as its currency.
As you might expect from a remote island where tourism is the main industry, prices are comparatively high, and even a low-end daily budget would be around US$100/day.
Palauan storyboards are traditional wood carvings depicting Palauan myths and legends.
The Rock Island Cafe in Koror is a great place for a quick bit of American-style food. It is located a little west of the Court House on Koror Island. Always a good place to go is Kramer's - a bit hard to find for the first time but food is good and the nightlife always interesting. Several places of note in Koror are the Taj, an excellent Indian restaurant, Fuji, a reasonably-priced pseudo-Japanese restaurant or Dragon Tai on the way into Koror.
Bem Ermii is in a small trailer near the courthouse in downtown Koror, and makes great burgers and milkshakes.
Abai Ice in Koror is a small hut that offers fresh fruit smoothies -- highly recommended. Many licensed establishments in Palau -- from quiet little bars to "Japanese"-style karaoke bars complete with bar girls. For a decent affordable drink, try Sam's Dive Shop or High Tide behind Neco dive shop. Storyboard is good, but tends to be a hangout for many of the local expats. Storyboard has since closed; there is a hotel going in on the site. Alcohol is readily available at most stores. Public drinking is not allowed, and the local police are more than happy to inconvenience you if you are caught.
Palau offers a number of guest house style boutique accommodations. Some are close to or within Koror, some are not. These are available for international bookings via dive shops that offer holiday packages (such as Sam's Tours). Prices range from US$50 a night upward.
There are also a number of nice basic hotels available in Palau.
There are lots of reasonably high end resorts on Palau, most catering for scuba divers.
Palau Community College () offers both AS/AA degrees and occupational certificates. The campus library is open to the public, and offers computer terminals for community members and visitors to check email. The school is accredited through the Western Association of Colleges.
Palau is quite a safe country to visit. Walking in downtown Koror at night, even past midnight is quite safe. But as with any place in the world today, common sense prevails. Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks are limited even in downtown Koror.
Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) thankfully still exist in Palau's mangroves and in the beautiful Rock Islands and can potentially be found anywhere on the island. Despite their fearsome and, in some areas, very justified reputation, here they rarely grow to the immense size that they do in Australia and New Guinea. There was only one fatal attack by a crocodile in Palau within recorded history and that occurred in 1965. The biggest crocodile in Palau's history was 15 feet in length- large, but this is an average size for saltwater crocodiles in most other countries. The rarity of attacks probably stems from the fact that there are no more than 150 adult individuals currently on the island. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular in Palau and there has never in recent history been a report of an attack on a tourist. Judging from a recent survey, it appears crocodiles are quite unjustly hated by the locals, in harsh contrast to the worship they are given by the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The reasons for this are unclear.
Bull Sharks are common in the coastal waters and estuaries, so caution must always be taken while scuba diving or snorkeling
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|Area||458 sq km|
|Electricity||120V/60Hz (North American plug)|
|Government||constitutional government in free association with the United States|
|Population||20,579 (July 2006 est.)|
|Religion||Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 23%, Modekngei 9% (indigenous to Palau), Seventh-Day Adventist 5%, Jehovah's Witness 1%, Latter-Day Saints 0.6%, other religion 3%, unspecified or none 16%|