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Palau Diving

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Hi, just wondering where to do our dive trip in Feb or March and wondering if this is good time to go to Palau and any recommendations on where to stay or anything related to diving here (or recommendations for other places Micronesia that might be good but less expensive?)

Thanks!

Karen

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    Congrats on your trip best info below.
    Welcome to ScubaBoard, ... also bought "WWII Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon" and been reading up on the different options. ... Planning 3 dive days Truk, 2 Palau, ...
    www.scubaboard.com/forums/pacific-islands/329892-chuuk-truk-palau

    Good experience on a liveaboard in the distant past there.
    Not in micronesia cheapest diving I have done in Asia
    Kohtao.com Lotus Resort $14/nt as I recall.

    Happy Planning!

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    Just finished a 10-day trip to Palau (and 5 more days in Pohnpei). I'm not a diver, but I did lots of snorkeling (15 different times in the water) and kayaking. The snorkeling was awesome at the end of December, and locals in the tourist business told me that the next 3 months are high season for the islands, so I assume that means it's a good time to visit. It's not a cheap place to travel to or stay in, but it's memorable!

    I had heard that Palau is one of the best dive sites in the world, but some of the divers I spoke to were a bit disappointed--they felt there were too many people at some of the best-known dive locations. (When I asked where they had found better diving, one named a remote island off the coast of Baja California.) However, the snorkeling was so fine that I can't imagine being disappointed with the diving. Beautiful clear water, gorgeous coral of all kinds, turtles, black-tipped reef sharks, and tropical fish galore. We saw an eagle ray while we were kayaking, but the divers were able to see manta rays as well (which we saw up close while snorkeling in Pohnpei). And then there was Jellyfish Lake--a real "National Geographic" experience where we snorkeled out to the middle of a marine lake and swam with thousands of pale orange jellyfish (they have no predators in the lake so they have evolved to have no stingers). Unforgettable.

    The kayaking was great too--the best we've ever done. We didn't reserve with a tour outfitter until we arrived on Palau, though most people seemed to make their arrangements in advance. When we arrived we walked to several dive shops/outfitters (Sam's Tours, Neco Marine, Impac, Fish 'n' Fin) and talked to them about what kinds of things we could arrange. We ended up going with Sam's for 2 kayak/snorkel days and 1 additional full snorkel day. Each day cost $115 for each of us but involved transfers from and to our hotel, transportation by speedboat to the snorkel and kayak sites, picnic lunch on a beach, kayaks, snorkel gear, and excellent guides. Diving is a somewhat higher price.

    We stayed 6 nights at West Plaza Hotel by the Sea, which I can't really recommend. Our room had a water view but there was nowhere outside to sit and enjoy the view. The restaurant is no longer in operation, and the hotel is pretty basic. The rooms were clean enough and OK if you only want a bed to sleep in and a shower. If I were staying in one of the West Plaza hotels (they have 5) I would probably choose the Malakal branch, which is close to Sam's. Our room was about $95 a night. If you can afford it, Palau Royal Resort was pretty nice (we stayed there our final night after returning from the island of Peleliu), and Palau Pacific Resort is probably the best accommodation on the island, though it's even more expensive. There are several other hotels/motels on in Koror, nothing special but serviceable, I imagine--especially if you're diving all day.

    After 6 nights in Koror (the main town of Palau, where the dive shops are located), we took the public ferry to the island of Peleliu, which is in the southern part of Palau. That boat trip was fun--almost all locals, 2.5 hours, $5 each plus a couple of dollars if you have luggage. We stayed on Peleliu for 3 nights and had an awesome time. We stayed at the Dolphin Bay Resort, which has an associated dive shop, Peleliu Divers (you can find them on the Web). Dolphin Bay was really nice--only 7 bungalows, next to each other facing the sea (the reef where the waves break is about 400 meters out from shore), home-style cooking (you eat what they serve you, though they do ask you when you arrive if there's anything you can't eat). A beautifully kept property. We took a full-day snorkeling trip with Peleliu Divers (just us, the boat driver, and a guide). Went to a couple of the same snorkel sites we'd gone to with Sam's, but since they're closer to Peleliu than to Koror, we spent only about 10-15 minutes getting to them (as opposed to 45 minutes or more from Koror). I thought the guides we had from Sam's were better than at Peleliu, but the boat driver was very knowledgeable about the sites so we had all the advice we needed. Really fun. Dolphin Bay was $195/night but included 3 meals each day for each of us as well as free transfers from and to the boat. Very nice people, highly recommended.

    In Koror we had good meals at Fuji (Japanese) and Taj (Indian). Tried Carp Restaurant, which some local recommended, but we weren't impressed. You can buy good bento meals at Yano's Market on the main street in Koror (everything's gone by noon), but if you're diving the lunches will be provided by your dive operation.

    If you ever get to Pohnpei, I highly recommend The Village as the best place to stay and eat.

    One last thing: Truk Lagoon is on the island of Chuuk (aka Truk). Didn't go there (except to the airport), but we did spend time with someone who has worked on Chuuk the past few months. He said the diving was pretty good but it takes a long, bouncy boat ride to get to the dive sites. He hated everything else about Chuuk. Palau sounded so so so much nicer.

    Hope this is helpful. If you want to read my blog posts about my time in Palau, Peleliu, and Pohnpei (illustrated with a some pictures), check out http://aprilaroundtheworld.blogspot.com . The island posts are from December.

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    I totally recommend diving on Chuuk if you like wreck diving.

    We went diving in Chuuk a number of years ago. It was awesome! There are so many options for wreck diving as there are 70 or so downed Japanese planes and ships in the lagoon. You can swim with sharks and go cave diving too. We got our PADI certification there with instruction from the Truk Stop hotel's dive shop. Our first dive was on a Betty Bomber. A later one was on a ship that had 4 Zero fighters in the hold. We even sat in them because there was a big hole that went down 4 or so decks. The joysticks still move too. There were dishes, corked sake bottles, bullets... everything was still there because you cant steal something and get it out through Customs. Between dives we snorkled over a zero fighter that dropped off the end of the former runway and into the lagoon. We saw partially submerged planes too. There weren't many people there either. We never saw anyone at the same site when we were diving and never shared our boat. I didn't notice the water being very choppy but I'd expect that has to do with the weather while you're there.

    When we went the only option was Continental Airlines that left Guam on certain days of the week. They used to offer an Island Hopper fare that would allow you to start at Chuuk then go to Pulau or Yap or wherever along their route.

    There wasn't much to do on the island and don't expect high class accommodations and dining. When we went, there were two hotels and those were pretty much your restaurant choices. On our decompression day before flying we took a land tour of the island organized by the Truk Stop - which is where we stayed. There are a lot of WW2 sites to see that are still standing. I liked it, but I have done lots of reading about WW2 in the Pacific. We spent some time talking to the owners of the Truk Stop and they had some very interesting stories.

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    Had the trip of a life time to Palau in March. No other dive spot in the world matches all that Palau offers. Diving with the sharks, lined to a drift cord, mantas galore some of the absolute best dive spots of any place in the world. The mass of colors and the amount of pelagics is like no place else in the world.

    I ended up finding an amazing resource on Palua after I got back, http://palaudiving.wordpress.com/. What's cool about the site is has so much information on everything you would want to know. The only thing is, they are not selling anything. Almost every major dive site has its own page with a video so you don't have to go hunting around at different places to see the same thing. Anyways, I wish I had seen this site before the trip. It would have saved me hours of research.

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    The kayaking we did while on Palau was not what I would call strenuous. The Sam's boat took us and the kayaks to wonderful spots from which to launch the boats--they determined where to go based on the weather and wind conditions. One of the trips included a beautiful paddle through a mangrove swampy area with crystal clear, shallow water--that's where we saw the eagle wray; on the same trip we paddled up to a low arch in the cliffs that we limboed through on our kayaks, leading us into an enclosed lake where we paddled around. So stunning. On another trip we hugged one of the Rock Islands til we came across a cove where we left the kayaks tied to the chase boat and snorkeled in a beautiful area, looking for a special tiny, colorful fish whose name I can't remember (found it though!). We were there in December, so can't comment on how it would be in April, but if April and may are ideal for snorkeling they are ideal for kayaking as well.

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    March would be a fantastic time for diving in Palau. When we were there this August they told us that is considered "high-season" and where you get the bigger fish coming in.

    I would highly recommend Sam's Tours to get everything taken care for you. The hotel I would recommend is Sea Passion. Book this in advance because when we tried to book last minute this was sold out so we ended up with a crappier hotel in West Plaza Malakal.

    Check out my blog from my adventures this summer to learn more about my trip to Palau! Lots of detailed information with specifics on itinerary and tips & tricks I learned about my stay in Palau. Hope it's helpful for you!

    http://goingawesomeplaces.com/category/blogs/travel/epic-summer-2012/

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