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Marble Ray


Diving Palau

10 April 2024
Palau offers world-class diving with sea walls, sheer drop-offs, caves and an exuberance of marine life.

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Palau (or Belau) is a 100-mile long archipelago, southeast of the Philippines. It hosts around 20 dive centres that use mainly small speed boats. Many liveaboards also traverse her seas. Researchers estimate that approximately 41,000 divers visit Palau each year, of which around 8,600 come specifically to dive with sharks.1

Sharks, Mantas and Spotted Eagle Rays in Palau by Matthew Moore
Mantas were mostly in the 20-30m range, in German Channel. Sharks in strong current at Peleliu.

Palau became a nation state as recently as 1994. It is the world's first nation-wide marine reserve, designating its entire ocean territory as an underwater sanctuary.

Officials hope that the new reserve will boost sustainable tourism revenues as well as fish populations. Palau is by a deep trench and attracts large pelagic species like silky shark, manta rays, bigeye tuna, marlin and swordfish.

White tip reef shark by Tim Nicholson of SCUBA Travel
Whitetip reef shark, Triaenodon obesus. Tim Nicholson

Best time to dive Palau?

The wet season is May to November. March and April are the best time to see sharks, with fewer turning up in May, October and November. Current and temperature are the key environmental factors affecting shark numbers, with more sharks the faster the current and the cooler the water. Visibility, moon phase and number of divers in the water have little influence on the number of sharks sighted. 2

Manta ray
Manta ray. Criso/DepositPhotos

Where in Palau to Dive?

Most of the popular dive sites are southwest of the barrier reef that surrounds Babeldaob, the main island of Palau. The famous dives, like Blue Corner Wall and Ulong Channel, have high visibility (over 30 m) and a rich diversity of marine life with loads of large pelagic species. Many of these dive sites host aggregations of reef sharks, which are composed mainly of resident grey reef (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus). Dives at these sites are usually in strong currents when the sharks swim just off the edge of the slope. Divers enter the water up-current and, on arrival at the sharks, attach themselves by a hook and line to the reef crest so that they can remain stationary to view sharks and other large fish. Palau is also known for huge spawning aggregations of Bohar Snapper (Lutjuanus bohar).

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Divers Welcomed

The marine reserve will mean Palau loses revenues from fishing licences sold to the foreign longline fleet. To counteract this, the government is planning to double the exit fee that tourists pay at the airport to $100. They hope to thus increase income and decrease the numbers of tourists who don't come to dive (currently estimated at around 96000), relieving the tourist pressure on coral reefs and infrastructure. Divers currently contribute around 40% to Palau's economy.

Palau. DepositPhotos

Only Ocean-Friendly Sunscreen Allowed

In 2020 Palau banned environmental pollutants that threaten juvenile stages of corals, fish and microalgae. The banned substances contain sun protection factor (SPF) chemicals used in sunscreen lotions or fragrances that absorb ultraviolet sunlight. These include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor and parabens. The parabens triclosan and phenoxyethanol are antimicrobial preservatives also used in shampoos, moisturisers, liquid soaps and hair conditioners. Sunscreens which are safe to use include: Suntribe Sunscreen , Lovea Natural Sunscreen Spray, Alba Botanica, Bio Solis. Read more on Sunscreens that are safe for sealife and ingredients to avoid.

Diving Palau Palau Dive Shops and Liveaboards Further Reading Your Comments

Dive Sites of Palau

Blue Corner Wall Peleliu Express Ulong Channel Devil Fish City Blue Holes Condominium

Reviews: 5 stars

The underwater life of Palau is the best that I've seen anywhere in the world, outdoing Bali, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Bahamas...
There is a ban on fishing for sharks in Palau (though the sad sight of a few sharks with a hook and line streaming from their mouth showed it still happens).
Still, this leaves Palau with large numbers of grey reef sharks, as well as a variety of other big critters.
In a week, we saw the following, in no particular order: 6 mantas that we snorkelled with, a giant hammerhead, a silvertip shark, possibly a young bull shark, grey reef sharks on basically every dive, white tip sharks, black tip sharks, a nurse shark, a leopard shark, 2 marble blotched rays, 2 eagle rays, a feather-tailed ray, an octopus, chevron barracuda, yellow-fin barracuda, turtles, pleurobranchs, lobsters...
There's a great variety of dive sites. Currents can be strong at times but this seems to bring the most action.
Blue Corner, German Channel and Peleliu Express are deservedly world famous. Palau has the best diving I've seen anywhere in the world, both on variety of dive sites and the large amount of marine life. It is particularly good for sharks. I haven't dived the Galapagos, but I gather the two spots are comparable."

Alex Frew McMillan
There's no argument that the diving in Palau is fantastic. The vis was good but the quantity of pelagics really made the dives memorable, and the exceptionally strong currents added a new dimension.
Also of note is Dolphins Pacific where you can swim with dolphins in a beautiful setting nestled between the characteristic forest covered limestone islands.
While accommodation is normally very expensive there is a hostel had opened for around $15 per night - sorry I can't remember the name but it is beside the bridge 10 minutes walk downhill from the main street of Korror. Enjoy. "
Leon Ebbelaar, Australia
Dolphin by Tim Nicholson of SCUBA Travel
Dolphin. Tim Nicholson
"Palau is paradise, not place on earth like it. The diving is amazing, the people gracious and endearing.. heaven on earth!"
"Best overall diversity encountered anywhere to date with large grey reef sharks swooping around you in equal numbers in Ulong, Peleliu and Blue corner, the latter 2 with fast currents and huge shoals of fish to accompany the shark experience. Pristine coral can be expected also with unusual macro but the mantas were absent but for 1 solitary encounter."
Dean Evans, 2012
The Blue Corner Wall

At the northwest of Ngemelis Island, the Blue Corner Wall is rated as one of the best dives in the world. Strong currents attract impressive schools of fish and large pelagic species. The dive starts at a triangular coral plateau poking out into the ocean. Its sides drop steeply down forming the beautiful walls.

Reviews: 5 stars

" The overall diving in Palau is very good. I have gone there twice and would like to go there again."
Kino, 2024
" We saw a school of barracuda of at least 200... REALLY. We also saw many many sharks that swam by at their leisure. The amount of wildlife was amazing.... BEST DIVES of my life .....I have logged over 300 dives .... "
Martha Bayorgeon, 2020
Barracuda by Andrew Reay-Robinson of SCUBA Travel
Barracuda. Andrew Reay-Robinson
Doug Ruby, 2016
"Sadly Palau has really gone down in the last few years. With over fishing and too many people my last few dives have only seen shark and baracuda. Diving here is not regulated at all now. 23 full dive boats at Blue Corner Wall one day. ( I live in Palau so dive at least once a month)"
Angie Johns, Palau, 2016
"A parade of large pelagics swim past in a strong current, while huge schools of barracuda and triggerfish wander by."
Doug, USA, 12 July 2015
"It's like there is a parade director somewhere off to one side saying, ok, now reef sharks, now spanish makerel, now a napolean wrasse. Constant stream of amazing life. "
Jay, USA, 2012
"Simply splendid. Many sharks, very friendly buffalo fish (very big), snappers (big), schools of baracuda and all other reef fish."
HIdemi Chizuka-Kemp, 2012
"Amazing! Exciting diving. Strong current takes you onto the reef, where you hook up and enjoy the sharks playing around you! Lovely huge Neopolean Wrasse too. "
Samantha Turner
"Sharks, Turtles, Napolean Wrasse, Humphead Parrots and Mantas. At any given time you can find the big five right here in one spot. Beautiful dive."
Robert, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
"Like an underwater dream of epic proportions, ten times better than the Yongala, scores of grey reef sharks cruise by as thick schools of GTs, barracuda and jacks hang in the air. Eagle rays and Napoleon Wasse check you out as white-tips and black-tips scout for food. Turtles float past as a family of bumphead parrot fish demolish the thick coral. If you can be bothered to look down, morays, nudibranches and mantis shrimp decorate the area, but with the 40 odd sharks cruising by you probably won't even look. Underwater heaven."
"Teaming with schools of fish of all kinds, a couple of friendly napolean wrasse, so much action that while you are hooked in you have to keep looking a 360 degrees or you will miss something. "
Chrisse Harwanko
"At the turn of the tide there were so many sharks doing their dandy acts right in front of us. There were small cleaner fish just off the nose of a few and who would dash inside the predator's mouth to clean up then in a flash would scurry out as mr. shark closed his mouth. "
Chrisse Harwanko
"Absolutely stunning. Looked like a drive through at McDonald's for sea life. Turtles, Sharks, Napolean Wrasse, Anemones, etc were everywhere. Best of all, my 11 and 13 year old kids were right there with me. "
Shane Gray, USA
"Absolutely amazing shark life, schools of baraccuda, turtles, napolean wrasse, bumphead parrot fish. "
Anita Light, UK
"An amazing aray of colorful coral and fish. A huge amount of sharks, sleeping and active. It blew Australia out of the water. "
Paul Windell, USA
"Wall dive, schools of snapper, jacks...resident Napoleon Wrasse, eagle rays. Movie theatre of reef sharks! Much much better than Thistlegorm, and told by buddys that its much better than Yongala!"
Del Henderson
"At this underwater paradise, I finally found peace and solitude while diving. I found myself swimming among countless sharks, barracudas, and many other marine species. The beauty that illumnated from this place cannot be beaten. Of all the dive sites I've been to, this one is truly the best."
Nikki Dasani, 2006
"Awesome current swept corner where schools of barracuda and sharks swim along the wall. Divers use "reef hooks" to catch the wall and hold on for a breath taking view of fish and sharks, swimming in the current. Sort of like watching a movie! A must do dive."
Anita Floyd
Outstanding quantity and diversity of life.
Michael Rodriguez
"The Blue Corner Wall dive offers the greatest variety and quantity of sea life from sharks, pelagics, cuttlefish, wrasses, turtles, orcas, shellfish, etc...this is truly the best in the world. The warmth of the sea gives you a relaxing and enjoyable time in the water. As I said, this is truly the best dive site in the world: better than the Yongala, Australia. Palau is like mother-nature untouched."
Sumang Seid
"Huge schools of barracudas, spotted eagle rays, napoleon wrasses and many white tip sharks..."
"All of Palau above and below is a journey of a lifetime. "
"Palau's most popular dive site, Blue Corner, is recognised as the best in the world due to its concentration of marine life. Dogtooth tuna, resident Napoleon wrasses, wahoo and other large fish float on the rapid current of this underwater promontory. At slack tide, schools of triggerfish and butterflyfish come up off the reef to form a multicolored kaleidoscope against the rich ocean blue. This site is literally an underwater wonderland. This is a must do dive site because it is so fabulous! "
Frances Santoy
"Blue Corner definitely deserves to be at or near the top of your Top 10. Hook your reef hook in and watch the action, with grey reef sharks by the dozen, white tips, dogtooth tuna, king mackrel, barracuda, giant jacks, black jacks, even a silvertip shark if you're lucky. "
Alex Frew McMillan

Diving Palau
Photo credit: Tim Nicholson

"Best dive site I know: fantastic currents with schools of sharks and barracudas. "

Strong currents mean this is for experienced divers. The reef is a vertical wall running from a plateau at 8 m to around 40 m.

"This is less well-known than Blue Corner but equally exciting. It is infrequently dived because it is further to the south of Palau, and many dive operators don't want to take the time or use the gas to get there. But the current will push you along a sloping wall at about 25 meters. You can hook on with a reef hook at the corner, much like Blue Corner. On our dive, we saw a nurse shark, plenty of grey reef sharks, a huge dogtooth tuna, small barracuda and a giant hammerhead, which the grey reef sharks mobbed to chase it away. Amazing. "
Alex Frew McMillan
"I fully agree with Alex McMillan comment on Peleliu (Palau)"
Reviews: 5 stars

"Blue Corner is crazy with sharks, but Ulong channel gives so much more: the huge lettuce coral garden crawls with fishes, schools of jacks and white tip reef sharks are everywhere. Simply loved it!"
Roberto Spanghero, 2016
"Great wall to hook into for watching the big stuff then Fly down a channel at the end of the dive, passing a lettuce coral "fish condo" along the way."
Jay, USA, 2012
"Better than Blue Corner, ask any dive guide in Palau"
Danny Mispelblom, 2007
"At the turn of the tide there were so many sharks doing their dandy acts right in front of us. There were small cleaner fish just off the nose of a few and who would dash inside the predator's mouth to clean up then in a flash would scurry out as mr. shark closed his mouth. "
Chrisse Harwanko, 2007
"Sharks, sharks and more sharks, very fast currents, bait ball of fish being circled and entered by grey sharks - fantastic. "
Anita Light, UK, 2007
"Amazing underwater scenery and shark action."
Dale, 2006

Manta Ray
Photo credit: Tim Nicholson

"Channel dive with 5 cleaning stations. Mantas lining up like aeroplanes at cleaning stations. Good dive, if you like Mantas! "
Del Henderson, 2006
"Beatiful entry into holes, head east along the wall towards blue corner and its like an aquarium.... stacked with fish life, corals and lots of sharks! "
Del Henderson, 2006
Reviews: 5 stars

" Diving the condomindium in Palau is incredible. They call it the condominium because it looks like a set of apartment bocks. A cabbage coral wall that just is so big (can't really remember how big) and each piece of cabbage coral has a fish that lives in it and ferociously defends its home. All of Palau is great, but the condomindium sticks in my mind the most. "
Tina, Australia

Palau Dive Shops and Liveaboards

Add a review or list your dive shop.

Palau Siren Liveaboard

Palau Siren Liveaboard

Built in 2012, a 49 m yacht with space for 16 divers.


Palau Aggressor II Liveaboard

Palau Aggressor liveaboard

Nine cabins accommodates up to 18 passengers.


Tropic Dancer Liveaboard / Rock Islands Aggressor

Rock Islands Aggressor Liveaboard

Tropic Dancer Liveaboard is now called the Rock Islands Aggressor. Nine cabins accommodates up to 18 passengers. All cabins on board have one double bed and one bunk-style bed, and are equipped with air conditioning and private showers.


Ocean Hunter I Liveaboard

Three cabins with private bath and accommodates up to 6 divers.


Big Blue Explorer liveaboard

Big Blue Explorer liveaboard
Makati City
(MCPO Box 2815, Makati City, Philippines)

" I really enjoyed my week on the Big Blue Explorer liveaboard. It is fairly pricey. But diving in Palau is not cheap. The boat includes all food and soft drinks, plus up to five dives a day. A week of diving from shore with two dives a day plus an occasional night dive would probably cost the same (with a lot fewer dives) because accommodation is expensive in Palau.
Big Blue will give you five dives a day, visiting the best dive sites in Palau. The dive staff tries to time the dives so you avoid the shore-based divers and the crowds. The Palau Aggressor also looked good, but I think more expensive.
Big Blue Explorer's cabins are pretty small. My other criticism is that the dive staff tended to mother the divers a little too much, diving very conservatively despite the fact that all of us were fairly experienced. But I guess it's better to have more attention than you need than too little.
Moderate value for money "
Alex Frew McMillan
Fish 'n Fins

Fish 'n Fins Palau
PO Box 964
Tel: 680-488-2637
Fax: 680-488-5418

" Fish fins are good dive operators. I've dived in many places in the Far East and they are the first company to check my qualifications. Really good operators, very professional. I stayed in the Royal Palau Resort Hotel, good value and clean with good food.
This is one of the best. I've dived in Bunaken National Park in Manado, Indonesia; Bali, Indonesia; Tanjung Karang, Indonesia; Samal Is, Philippines; Cebu Philppines; Balicasag Is. Philippines; and Phuket, Thailand. Palau beats them all"
Clive Treweek, UAE, 2012
Splash Dive Center

Palau Pacific Resort.
P.O. Box 847
Palau 96940
Tel: (680) 488-2600
Fax: (680) 488-1741


Sam's Tours

Malakal Harbor
Tel : + 680 488-7267
Fax : + 680 488-5003

Neco Marine

Neco Marine
P.O. Box 129
PW 96940
Tel: +680 488- 1755 or + (680) 488- 2009
Fx : +680 488- 5245

Review Neco Marine…

References and Further Reading

Coral Reef Fishes, Indo-Pacific and Caribbean
by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Harper Collins, 400 Pages, Paperback
An excellent, comprehensive guide to reef fishes, which is small and light enough to pack regardless of amount of diving equipment. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to identify the fish they see whilst diving the tropics.
Read the full review...
Dive Palau : The Shipwrecks
by Rod Macdonald
The wrecks of Palau are revealed by Rod Macdonald. Each wreck is covered in detail and is supported by underwater photography and great illustrations by renowned artist Rob Ward.
Dive Atlas of the World
by Jack Jackson
Guide to the best dive sites in the world, including Palau.

Shark-counting divers become citizen scientists, SCUBA News

1 Vianna GMS, Meekan MG, Pannell DJ, Marsh SP, Meeuwig JJ (2012) Socio-economic value and community benefits from shark-diving tourism in Palau: A sustainable use of reef shark populations. Biological Conservation 145: 267277. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.11.022

2 Vianna GMS, Meekan MG, Bornovski TH, Meeuwig JJ (2014) Acoustic Telemetry Validates a Citizen Science Approach for Monitoring Sharks on Coral Reefs. PLoS ONE 9(4): e95565. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095565

Republic of Palau National Government Tourist Statistics. Accessed 17 November 2015.


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