Palau is an archipelago of over 500 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean. Koror Island is home to the former capital, also called Koror, and is the islands’ commercial center. Larger Babeldaob has the present capital, Ngerulmud, plus mountains and sandy beaches on its east coast. In its north, ancient basalt monoliths known as Badrulchau lie in grassy fields surrounded by palm trees.
Population: 20,918 (2013) World Bank
President: Tommy Remengesau
Currency: United States Dollar
Official languages: English, Palauan
Top 10 things to do:
1. Jellyfish Lake – An isolated dive site.
Located on an uninhabited rock island off the coast of Koror in Palau, Jellyfish Lake is one of 70 saltwater lakes on this South Pacific archipelago that were once connected to the ocean, but are now cut off.
The isolated lakes became the perfect setting for a jellyfish explosion, which some speculate were trapped in the lake 12,000 years ago after a rise in sea levels post-Ice Age. Feeding on quick-growing algae and with no predators to keep them in check, the jellyfish now completely pack the small lake. Though the jellyfish do have stingers, they are too small to be felt by humans.
Swimming in the lake is safe and permitted, but scuba diving is not as it may disturb the ecosystem. Also, you will want to stay away from the dangerous layer of hydrogen sulfide that hovers between 15 and 20 meters deep.
During the day, the jellyfish migrate from one side of the lake to the other to follow the path of the sun, which feeds the algae they survive on.
[caption id="attachment_23176" align="aligncenter" width="500"] An undated handout photo received on October 28, 2015, shows a Napoleon Wrasse fish on the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau, who on October 28, created one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries, saying it wanted to restore the ocean for future generations. At 500,000 square kilometres (193,000 square miles), the sanctuary is the same size as Spain and covers an underwater wonderland containing 1,300 species of fish and 700 types of coral. AFP PHOTO / THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS / Richard BROOKS —-EDITORS NOTE —- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT ” AFP PHOTO / THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS / RICHARD BROOKS” NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSRICHARD BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images[/caption]
Image from: http://www.livemint.com
2. The Rock Islands of Palau
Palau is an archipelago of about 250 islands, located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is its own country – the Republic of Palau, although geographically it is part of the larger island group of Micronesia. For over 30 years it was a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific under United States administration. It finally gained its total independence in 1994.
Palau is a beautiful tropical paradise, and one of the true unspoiled destinations on the planet. Most of the 100-plus islands are small low-lying coral islands, ringed by barrier reefs and uninhabited. The country’s population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands.
The most famous of Palau’s sights are the Rock Islands – a group of green islands covered in foliage with a few bright white sandy beaches. Formed by ancient coral reefs, the bases of these limestone formations have been slowly eroded over millennia into quirky mushroom shapes. There are between 250 to 400+ islands in the group, according to different sources, with an aggregate area of 47 square kilometers and a height up to 207 meters.
The islands are for the most part uninhabited and are famous for their beaches, blue lagoons and the peculiar umbrella-like shapes of many of the islands themselves. The Rock Islands and the surrounding reefs make up Palau’s popular tourist sites such as Blue Corner, Blue hole, German Channel, Ngermeaus Island and the famed Jellyfish Lake, one of the many Marine lakes in the Rock Islands that provides home and safety for several kinds of stingless jellyfish found only in Palau. It is the most popular dive destination in Palau. In fact, Palau offers some of the best and most diverse dive sites on the planet. From wall diving to high current drift dives, from Manta Rays to sharkfeeds and from shallow and colorful lagoons to brilliantly decorated caves and overhangs.
Although presently uninhabited, the islands were once home to Palauan settlements, and Palauans continue to use the area and its resources for cultural and recreational purposes. The islands contain a significant set of cultural remains relating to an occupation over some five thousand years that ended in abandonment. Archaeological remains of former human occupation in caves and villages, including rock art and burials, testifies to seasonal human occupation and use of the marine ecosystem, dating back to 3,100 BC and extending over some 2,500 years.
3. Belau National Museum & Bai
This little museum features exhibits from all eras of Palauan life, including artworks, photography, sculpture, storyboards and more. As you move between floors it is fascinating to trace the history of colonial occupation on the island. The museum grounds also contain a striking wood-and-thatch bai (men’s meeting house), carved and painted with depictions of Palauan legends.
Although the bai is a recreation of an older one that burnt down in 1979, it’s built in the traditional manner, constructed of rough planks with notched jointing and set above the ground on stone stacks.
4. Palau Aquarium and International Coral Reef Center
The Palau Aquarium is the interpretive division of the Palau International Coral Reef Center. It’s goal is to stimulate interest, increase knowledge and promote stewardship of Palau and the world’s coral reefs and marine environment. Exhibit themes reflect Palau’s diverse eco-system. The indoor exhibits take you deep into the ocean depths. Observe stingless mastigia jellyfish, rare and exotic creatures that use camouflage for survival, amazing and rare deepwater creatures such as the deepwater butterflyfish, colorful dartfish and fan corals, Palau’s own chambered nautilus and cave dwellers that can produce light. Or, observe the symbiotic relationships that exist between sea anemone and anemone fish, corals and coral crabs and shimp goby and pistol shrimp.
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