Shark Sanctuary Palau has been on our bucket list for a long time. When things didn’t work out in Dominican Republic we had to make a decision: find straight away new jobs, go travelling and looking for work in Central America or fly to the other side of the planet to Palau where we should have gone in the first place. Few days we were thinking about all the different options and finally came to conclusion: it’s now or never. So we booked tickets DR – Frankfurt – Helsinki, spend in Finland a week celebrating my grandmother’s birthday, and continued the journey towards Palau.
I found cheap one way tickets to Palau with China Airlines. Helsinki – Amsterdam – Bangkok – Taipei – Koror and something around 35 hours later we arrived in Palau. All hotels, motels and guesthouses arrange pick ups and our driver with a kid on her lap took us to Koror, about 20 minute car ride from the airport.
At L.e.h.m.s. motel you get exactly what you pay for, fifty bucks for a small basement room, just enough space to put our things to the floor. Shower was good and there was small fridge in the room. All rooms are airconditioned. Usually we prefer fans but actually Palau was freaking hot place and aircon is a must. Read more travel information here.
First we needed to find cheaper accommodation. After a day it looked hopeless, all the apartments were either occupied or outrageously expensive, one shitty little room with old yellow wall papers, flaking paint, tv set from the 80’s, no kitchen, scruffy toilet cost $3000 a month! What?? Luckily we had Thai food that day and open our mouths in the right place in the right time and found ourselves a $250 per month room in a building which is meant for Philippino workers in Palau. Room was just renovated and everything was new and clean. Very basic but just perfect for us.
There are many high end resorts in Koror, like Palau Pacific Resort with gorgeous beach, rooms start from $250 a night, amazing beach bungalows are about $1600 per nigh. Koror also has many motel type accommodation, night starting from $80, websites are very difficult to find though. Most diving operators arrange package deals, check them out before booking your accommodation! AirBnB has almost nothing – yet. We also had camping gear with us just in case… 😀
We walked around a lot causing amusement among the locals: no one walks anywhere ever. There are no motorbikes and car rental starts from $40 per day. We underestimated the sun and burned completely. Even Mr. Thursby from Africa burned and peeled like the rest of us. Ouch, amateur hour. Beautiful scenery and loved every minute of it though. 😀
After all was settled we FINALLY went diving with Palau Dive Adventures, highly recommended operation. There are three huge operations: Sam’s tours, Fish ’n Fins and Neco Marine and bunch of smaller, mostly Chinese or Japanese, dive centers, all in Koror. Also many liveaboards such as Siren Fleet Palau, Ocean Hunter and Aggressor. Diving with daily boats cost $140 -$200 for two dives, rental gear about $65 per day. Plus all Marine Park fees starting from $50 per 10 days. Dive boats take you to the best dive sites: Blue Corner, Sieas Corner, German Channel, Ulong Channel… And they are all magnificent. The amount of sharks and tunas, jacks and barracudas, some sites the coral coverage is 100%, some sites less. Manta cleaning stations and feather + eagles rays too. Lots of divers in the dive sites though. With the liveaboards you can get to the dive sites first and that’s why I would recommend liveaboard if you are hard core diver and want too see as much as possible.
First dive we were anxiously waiting in the surface when Al put his head to the water to have a peak what’s coming. And the sharks were waiting! That was the first thing he saw and there was so many of them! We loved all dives, in the videos you can just hear me screaming from joy. It was incredible, loved every second. Some dives were obviously not perfect (visibility dropped down to few meters and currents interfered), some sites were freezing (temp dropped to 18 celsius!) but our 8 days of diving was pure joy. We dived only one wreck (Helmet Wreck) even though we requested more, and visited one interesting cave (Chandelier) with mandarin fish. One day we dived at Peleliu which was also great dive destination but not maybe worth the extra permit fee $30.
Palau is all about big stuff. There’s no time to look for the nudis when you’re surrounded by sharks. Some dives we searched for the small stuff but couldn’t find any. I bet there’s a lot of dive sites with macro but no one really dives there. Guides don’t really show you anything, they just keep the group together and help people who might struggle in strong currents. Group sizes are minimum 8 people, we were lucky to have also DMT and instructor on boat so we could split the groups little. Nitrox is recommended since you get more time with the sharks.
All in all, the best dive destination we have ever dived so far if judged just by diving only. Probably perfect holiday destination all in all if you have thick wallet. 🙂