This tropical island paradise is famous for its floating rock islands, stunning coral reefs, impressive shark populations, and “Jellyfish Lake”, an isolated marine lake that is home to millions of harmless jellies. Its pristine coral reefs are featured is scientific journal articles and travel magazines worldwide. Palau sets the bar for environmental conservation and recently scientists have discovered entire communities of resilient coral that are thriving in the face of climate change and elevated levels of ocean acidification.
Location ~ 7° 30' North, 133° 30' East
Palau is located approximately 450 miles (740 km) east of the Philippines, 800 miles (1,330 km) southwest of Guam, and 500 miles (804 km) north of New Guinea. With only 180 sq miles of land (466 sq km) there are 12 inhabited islands and more than 340 islets in the Palauan archipelago. Palau has numerous island and reef types, including volcanic islands, atolls, raised limestone islands, and low coral islands. A barrier reef surrounds much of the main island cluster, merging into a fringing reef in the south.
Palau's most characteristic geological features rise in strange mushroom-like formations.
These are known as the “Rock Islands” and this is where tourists delight in a visual cornucopia
of colorful marine life.
Palau is a tropical paradise with an average rainfall of 150 in/yr (380 cm) and a humidity range of 77 - 84 %. Temperatures are consistently in the low 80s °F (28 °C). Rainfall occurs throughout the year, with the majority July thru October, and there is still plenty sunshine. Typhoons are rare, as Palau is outside the main typhoon zone.
Biodiversity & Conservation
Palau has the most diverse coral fauna of Micronesia and the highest density of tropical marine habitats of comparable geographic areas around the world. Contained within the tiny area of 180 sq miles (466 sq km) there are over 1500 species of fish, 400 species of hard corals, and 300 species of soft corals, thousands of marine invertebrates, 7 out of 9 of the world’s species of giant clams, shark populations numbering over 130 species, the world’s most isolated population of dugongs, and Micronesia’s only saltwater crocodiles. Terrestrial species include 1260 species of plants (including almost 200 endemics), 141 resident and migratory bird species (including 11 endemics), 5000 species of insects, and 40 species of freshwater fishes, including at least 4 endemics. Palau has the largest undisturbed forest and largest freshwater lake in Micronesia, and 70 unique marine lakes, including the famous “Jellyfish Lake”.
In addition to its extensive coral reefs, Palau hosts expansive mangroves, lush seagrass beds, deep algal stands, magical white mud basins, turquoise lagoons, and rich tidal channels. Palau’s remarkable abundance can also be attributed to its geographic location, being the meeting point of the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea. Three of the worlds major currents come together here, creating a mixing zone that drives productivity. These currents bring large amounts of nutrients, feeding the reef-building corals, and supplying larvae of various fish, coral, and invertebrates from the Indo-Pacific.
It is this wide array of habitats and circulating ocean currents that enable Palau to host such incredible biodiversity.
Pioneers in Conservation
As the first nation to ban shark finning and the only nation to declare its federal waters a Marine Sanctuary, Palau sets the precedent for marine resource conservation. This destination provides the perfect setting for a truly altruistic adventure. Here the SCUBA enthusiast can explore pristine coral reefs while participating in long-term research and promoting conservation efforts.
Timeline of Conservation Efforts:
2006, Palau bans bottom trawling
A practice not unlike strip mining in which fishing boats drag large weighted nets across the ocean floor to catch the fish in the waters just above, killing virtually everything else in their path.
The government of Palau was instrumental in establishing a regional marine conservation initiative to protect more than 30% of the marine ecosystems of the region through the establishment of local protected area networks (PANs) and 20% of terrestrial resources by the year 2020.
2009, Palau National Shark Sanctuary
Bans commercial shark fishing in its waters, creating the world’s first shark sanctuary
~ A reflection from President Tommy Remengesau Jr. ~ 2018
“I had to make the economic argument. I had to translate the value of conservation into
dollar signs,” explained President Remengesau “So for sharks, we had to come out and
say research and studies show that one shark is worth 1.9 million dollars over a 60 to 70
year life span. And a dead shark for a shark fin soup makes a couple of hundred dollars.
This is grassroots information that is important for the stakeholders. Because they may
not understand the scientific data and the interpretation of it.”
2015, Palau National Marine Sanctuary
Preserves 80 percent, 193,000 sq. miles (500,238 sq.km), of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and creates a domestic fishing zone in the remaining 20 percent (85,896 sq. km). Within the EEZ all export fishing and all foreign fishing for tuna and other pelagic fishes is strictly prohibited, along with any drilling or mining. The national pelagic fishery would focus on supplying fresh fish to the domestic market, including in support of tourism.
2018, Palau Pledge
Palau is the first nation on earth to change its immigration laws for the cause of environmental protection. Upon entry visitors nee to sign a passport pledge to act in an ecologically responsible way on the island, for the sake of Palau’s children and future generations of Palauan.
2020, Harmful Sunscreen Ban
Palau implements a new law will ban the sale and use of all harmful sunscreens begining January 1, 2020
More About Palau
The two official languages of Palau are Palauan and English, which are spoken by almost everyone on the island. Japanese is also widely spoken.
Languages commonly encountered by service staff include Palauan, English, German, Japanese, Mandarin, and Tagalog.
(UTC+09:00) Osaka, Sapporo, Tokyo.
110 Volts 50/60 Hz with U.S. type flat 2-pin plug or 3-pin (two flat pins and a rounded ground pin).
Banking & Currency
U.S. dollar is the official currency of Palau. Traveler's checks and all major credit cards are accepted at most businesses. There are several banks (Bank of Hawaii, Bank of Guam, Bank Pacific), with limited currency exchange (Euro coins are NOT accepted) and plenty of automated teller machines (ATM) around town. Fair wairning, around pay day, the ATMs run out of cash so plan for that or bring extra cash.
Internet and Communications
Internet and E-mail access is available, but being satellite connection, it is slow compared to most countries. Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC) offers Wi-Fi Hotspots, using a prepaid Internet Card or a regular PalauNet dial-up subscription. Hotels and most restaurants offer Wi-Fi, using a prepaid card which can be purchased at your hotel, most dive shops, or the PNCC office.
International direct dialing is readily available using calling cards from PNCC. Mobile phone service (GSM 900) is available on the island; however, international roaming is not available and phones will not operate without a local SIM card.
Palau is a tropical island and a very casual place when it comes to attire. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are appropriate at all times with very few exceptions. Short shorts and swimsuits are acceptible at the beach, pool and around the dive shop but not appropriate around town. Keep in mind that many restaurants are heavily air-conditioned.
Dining & Food
Palau has a good choice of reasonably priced restaurants: American, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Palauan and more!
There is no public transportation system in Palau. Tour opperatorss provides guests with complimentary round-trip hotel and downtown shuttle service, and some restaurants, provide free transfers. Taxi service is readily available until 10:00 pm and fares are very reasonable. Arrangements are easily made in advance for taxi services after 10:00 pm.
Car rental is available from a choice of several companies.
All visitors must have a passport valid not less than 6 months from the date of expiration and proof of return arrangements at entry into the country. Entry visas are not required for most passports. Citizens of United States of America, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Common Wealth of Northern Marianas Islands with valid passports are issued a 1-year visa upon arrival. For most other nations, a 30-day Tourist Visa will be issued upon arrival and may be extended within 7 days in advance with approval of the Chief of Immigration for a fee of US$50.00 before the expiration date of the visa, for a maximum of 90 days' stay (30 days + 2 extensions).
One bottle of liquor and up to 1 pack of cigarette containing up to twenty (20) cigarettes can be brought into Palau duty-free. Importation of controlled substances and weapons are strictly prohibited and any traveler in possession of any controlled substances will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law of the Republic of Palau.
As Palau's unique island ecosystem is very susceptible to invasive species, there are tight restrictions on fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, meats and other possible sources of contamination. Do not bring these items to Palau as they will be subject to immediate confiscation.
Anti-drug laws are strictly enforced. Prescriptions should be carried for any special medicines or drugs in your possession.
Cholera and Yellow Fever immunizations are required for those arriving from infected areas.
Palau has two private medical clinics and pharmacies on the island and a public hospital, Belau National Hospital, with a modern recompression chamber. Local supermarkets carry most common over-the-counter medications.
Palau is in Zone 8 of the U.S. Postal System, and U.S. domestic rates apply. International mail is slightly higher. The post office is located on the main road in Koror, across from the Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC) office. Palau's stamps are favored by collectors worldwide. Palau's zip code is 96940, except for the Palau National Capitol in Ngerulmud, Melekeok, which is 96939. Palau's state postal code is PW. Address format is the same as for U.S., e.g.:
Box Number XXX
Koror, Republic of Palau