You would hardly find someone in our modern society who doesn’t dream of travelling, discovering new places, cultures and environments and meeting inspiring people. Travelling indeed broadens our horizons and turns us into more tolerant beings. This trend is however taking its toll because civilization starts creeping into places and cultures previously untouched by it. There are only few places in the world that haven’t fully succumbed to lures of tourism yet and Palau in Micronesia is one of them.
This small country stretches across no more than 500 km2 in the south-western Pacific Ocean in Micronesia, around 800 km east of Philippines. High season all ear round with average 27 degrees Celsius, only scarce rain showers through July – October and the fact that Micronesia is outside the typhoon belt make it a safe destination throughout the year. Palau consists of 16 small states that form a chain of 26 main islands and a myriad of uninhabited small islands, called Rock Islands. These 300 mushroom-shaped volcanic and coral islands are located in a large lagoon surrounded by a barrier reef.
Palau gained independence from the USA in 1994 and stayed only freely associated since then. Unspoiled by industrialization, these picturesque volcanic and coral islands are housing countless underwater tunnels and ship wrecks and are proudly welcoming tourists from all over the world.
More than 1500 species of tropical fish, sharks, dolphins, manta rays, crocodiles and many corals inhabit the azure sea and make Palau known as the divine aquarium. Many of these islands build their own ecosystems and form lakes, such as the Jellyfish Lake which is home to thousands of huge jelly fish that are not dangerous to humans.
Sea waters are crystal clear even around the capital with visibility up to 40 meters and it is no wonder experienced divers count this destination to three best diving sports worldwide. Blue Corner and Ngemelis Wall are famous diving spots where the edges of reefs drop down 300 meters instantly.
The history of Palau is no less appealing. First Europeans that set foot on the islands were Spanish sailors in 16th century. Spain sold Palau to Germany in 1899 and control passed to Japan afterwards, until the territory was taken by American soldiers in 1944 during WWI.
Japanese imperial army prepared for the invasion and evacuated all civilians, but the battles resulted in 7000 Japanese and 8000 American soldiers killed in only months. The remains of these battles are scattered around Palau and make it resemble a WWII museum. Military vehicles, tanks, large Japanese cannons hidden in caves, US memorials and Japanese temples attract visitors from both countries, but there are other historical points of interest that aren’t stained by bloodshed.
Massive stones and rocks with carved faces, also known as monoliths, are attracting visitors just like their counterparts found on Easter Islands.
History of this place is palpable on every step of your way. When passing by the villages, the roads are lined with ancient stones, resembling miniature roads of Roman Empire.
Borobudur, man-made temples of the size of a hill baffle archeologists. Chelechui, located south of Babelthuap is the oldest one of them. Additionally, many Micronesian cultural imprints are to be found here, although the indigenous society adopted many habits of the conquistadores. In spite of having only around 10,000 inhabitants, island Koror, the capital of Palau, is home to many museums, a Japanese aquarium and a research center.
Local cuisine has been flavored by various tastes and smells from neighboring countries. Instead of fast food, restaurants offer Taiwan, Japanese and US dishes. There are several shopping malls and internet cafés in Kororu, divers will appreciate the abundance of diving centers.
Sparkling white sand, beaches lined with palm trees that hang over the ocean in unimaginable angles, lush tropical vegetation, blooming orchids, 50 species of colorful birds and above all, an incredibly diversified and fascinating underwater life that thrives because of three major ocean currents meeting in Palau, keep attracting travelers from across the globe.