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The island nation of Palau could well be the most beautiful place you’ve never heard of, and therein lies its allure. Three major ocean currents feed this pristine archipelago in the western Pacific — making it a fertile marine garden whose turquoise waters boast quadruple the reef diversity of Caribbean waters.
As island idylls go, this tops our list for its secluded coves, marine lakes, and unmatched snorkeling among magical coral and sunken World War II relics. From full-service beach camps and resorts, Boundless Journeys reveals all the visions you would expect in paradise — swaying coconut palms, silky sand beaches, darting clownfish. And many you wouldn’t — lagoons filled with non-stinging jellyfish, groups of massive giant clams, and unusually social reef sharks. Explore inlets and mangrove forests by kayak and duck into magical sea caves and hidden bays. Never heard of Palau? After this trip, you’ll never forget it.
Arrival in Koror
Upon arrival of your flight to Koror, you are met by a Palau Pacific Resort representative and transferred to your hotel. As most flights arrive late in the evening, we will meet as a group on the morning of Day 2.
Palau Pacific ResortKoror, Palau
Palau Pacific Resort is nestled among 64 acres of lush gardens with exotic tropical flowers. Surrounded by the blue water of the western Pacific, this luxury hotel features a private 1,000-foot blanket of white sand beach with excellent snorkeling and a freshwater outdoor beachside swimming pool. Palau Pacific Resort rooms are all thoughtfully appointed with a range of modern amenities for a relaxing stay.
This morning after breakfast our guide meets us in the lobby of the hotel for an orientation to the week's activities. We begin with a day of cultural touring on the volcanic island of Babeldoab, with its jungle-draped hills. We visit the local aquarium to become acquainted with the fascinating marine life that we will be encountering during the tour. We then drive to a number of sites and walk to a hidden waterfall, and visit a traditional bais, or men's meeting houses.
Each village had a men's meeting house built on top of a raised stone platform. These houses were constructed from giant timbers reinforced with coconut fiber ropes, and assembled without nails in a timber frame design. The roofs were made by weaving mangrove palm fronds together. Bais were elaborately painted and decorated with carvings of traditional legends.
There were two types of bais. The first is the Bai ra Rubak (or old men's bai) where traditionally no women were allowed. These were used exclusively for the meetings and customs of the older men of the village. The Bai ra Cheldebechel (or clubhouse bai) was used for younger men and was the place where the older men would teach the younger generation the legends of the village and fishing lore. Women were only allowed to visit the Bai ra Cheldebechel. Today we see the few remaining bais in Palau, and they offer us a unique look at authentic Palau'an culture.
After enjoying a customary lunch of local foods served in hand-woven baskets, we visit the Ngchesar Waterfalls. This secluded tropical oasis is accessible via a gentle pathway which winds its way through an old growth forest canopy dripping with epiphytic mosses, ferns, and orchids. A short section of the hike will take us over rolling savannah leading to an abandoned road from the Japanese era. A series of white water cascades, ranging from 10-40 feet in height, culminate in clear water pools teaming with fresh water fish, mollusks, and curious shrimp.
When we return to our hotel, we may choose to relax by the pool or explore the white-sand beach at our doorstep. Dinner tonight will be at the hotel, as we get ready for our paddling and snorkeling adventures.
Nikko Bay to Blue Devil Beach
With immense biodiversity and beauty, Palau provides unrivalled snorkeling opportunities. From the surface, creatures such as turtles, barracudas, and multitudes of colorful reef fish can be observed gliding among dense coral formations sprinkled with giant clams, sea squirts, and varieties of anemone.
The sea around the famed Rock Islands, the destination for our first four days of kayaking and snorkeling, is dotted with the sunken remains of more than 75 World War II military ships and Japanese seaplanes. Located primarily in the lagoons around the Rock Islands, these relics have developed their own thriving ecosystems teeming with fish, corals, and other invertebrates not commonly seen along the outer reef. All of the marvels of Palau await our exploration in the coming days.
This morning after breakfast, we meet for departure by motorboat to the Rock Islands. Our first stop within Nikko Bay is at Disney Lake, which we enter by paddling our kayaks through a small marine tunnel exposed at low tide. In this hidden lake we discover multi-thousand year-old reefs, with cathedral-like protection from surrounding limestone walls, preventing wind and waves from disturbing the delicate marine environment. As a result of the complete cessation of physical force, the reefs have grown into spectacular old-growth coral gardens, where corals are literally climbing over one another, competing for space. Corals that would normally be constrained by pounding wave action are curled up in magnificent swirling baskets, which are so thin that light shines right through the fragile skeleton. To protect themselves from intense ultraviolet rays, many of the corals possess fluorescent pigments which create a multi-color glow radiating from the reef.
After our picnic lunch, we paddle to Lettuce Coral Wall, a nursery of sorts for small reef fish who will eventually make their way to Palau's outer reef. The remainder of the afternoon will be spent exploring marine caves, filled with hanging stalactites, botanical treasures, and an occasional sheath-tailed bat. These caves are some of Palau's greatest geological wonders, with names like Cathedral Cave, Rolling Rock Arch, and Skylight Cave.
In the afternoon, we make our way to our first island camp, Blue Devil Beach, to find our tents and the dining area already set up by our Palauan staff. Tonight's dinner will be prepared by our camp chef with fresh, local ingredients.
Full Service Island Camps, Rock IslandsPalau
Blue Devil Beach CampNgeremdiu Beach CampLoulomekang Beach Camp
Each night of our tropical island camping experience we enjoy the beauty of our natural setting with some of the finer luxuries of home: a dining table dressed in linen, a sheltering canopy, and safari-style tents with comfortable folding beds. Your camp staff will set up camp each day and your chef will prepare all meals with fresh, local ingredients.
With six isolated turquoise bays and two marine lakes, Risong Bay is a paddler's paradise. After kayaking through a marine tunnel we arrive to a quiet oasis known as Black Tip Lake, where the gentle calls of bush warblers and fruit doves permeate the surrounding forest. For centuries female black tip reef sharks have returned here to give birth to their young. The young sharks will frequently swim alongside boats in an endless quest for tiny fish.
Just outside of Black Tip Lake sits a reef flat known as Blue Devil Gardens. Sparkling blue devil damsels dance between the corals and are so numerous they can be seen from the decks of the kayaks. Black spotted puffers, threadfin butterflies, and cryptic honeycomb groupers liven up the reef with color and personality.
Each of the hidden bays within Risong holds a unique and distinctive habitat. The underwater walls of Kingfisher Bay are covered with multi-colored sponges, while Sunken City Lake protects miniature spires like castles of coral. Along the shore, white terns and collared kingfishers perch on overhanging branches looking down into the teeming waters for their next meal.
The grand finale of our Risong Bay adventure includes one of the most bizarre physical phenomena in Palau. As tidal waters flow out of an enclosed marine lake, they spill into Mandarin Fish Bay as a saltwater waterfall. The flowing falls can be heard before they are seen as we wind through a narrow limestone passage into this natural wonderland. The waters have been filtered by their artesian passage through the limestone and thus the bay becomes crystal clear for our final snorkel of the day. In shallow sunlit waters we search for pajama cardinal fish, sail-fin tang, and the enigmatic mandarin fish.
Long Lake, Milky Way & Einstein’s Gardens to Ngeremdiu Beach
Long Lake, an environment that hasn't changed for 10,000 years, awaits our discovery today. We gather our kayaks and head in the direction of the lake as our camp staff packs up for our move to a new island oasis. We paddle into a small channel opening to a thick mangrove forest. We are amazed by what we see as the channel widens and we ride the tidal current effortlessly in our boats. The kayaks move under a shaded mangrove canopy draped with hanging orchids and epiphytic ferns. This long saltwater lake is a tranquil habitat for baby eagle rays, turtles, and giant clams. With skies full of tropical birds — white-tailed tropicbirds, white terns, and white-breasted wood swallows among them — there is much to see.
From this secluded saltwater lake, we move on to the Milky Way, a lovely pale-water nook nestled in the shallows between two islands. The sea floor here is covered in soggy milky-white clay which can be used as a natural exfoliant. From here, we pass through a tunnel to the secluded Secret Lake. Underwater attractions include cuttlefish and exquisite sponge life of every imaginable shape and color. Upon exiting the lake, we come to the nutrient-rich and multicolored Einstein's Gardens, so named because of the giant "brain" corals found here. The serenity of this protected salt water lake is powerful, as we are surrounded by high limestone walls, lush tropical vegetation, and the sights and sounds of myriad exotic birds.
We glance over the sides of our kayaks, into the perfectly clear water of the lake, and find enormous boulder corals of green, red, blue, and yellow, all packed together along the sloping wall of the reef. The sheltering protection of the high limestone walls around us, combined with the overhanging trees that soften the light falling on the corals, and the constant tidal flow of water through surrounding tunnels deliver a continual supply of nutrients to these living corals. Tonight we camp at spacious Ngeremdiu Beach, lined with swaying coconut palms and an open grassy field.
Stingray Bay to the Patch Reefs
We start our day with a snorkel over the stunning patch reefs of Fantasy Island. Massive table corals, delicate bottlebrush corals, and multi-color stag horns dominate this luxurious reef. Hiding within this coral forest are a number of enigmatic beasts such as the stunning long nose filefish, which travel together for life in monogamous pairs. Many coral obligate species dine on this reef to include the ornate Meyer's butterflyfish.
Our support boat will then shuttle us to Palm Bay where we embark on a gentle paddle to Stingray Bay. The shallow sand flats are home to swarms of bait fish which are pursued by blue fin trevally, plunge-diving terns, and kingfishers. Whiptails and feather tail stingrays cruise the sand flats to bask in the warmth of the sun and to hunt for buried worms and molluscs.
Next we venture into the kayak-exclusive Crocodile Hollow and paddle beneath epiphytic orchids and ferns within the canopy covered jungle. After a picnic lunch on Klo Mariar Beach we kayak and snorkel over Palau's world famous Rainbow Reef. We finish our day with a gentle paddle to Dreamland Beach where we rendezvous with our boat for a shuttle back to our camp.
Jellyfish Lake & Giant Clam Beach
Our adventure today will no doubt be among the highlights of the trip as we venture from colorful Rainbow Reef into the secret and surreal Jellyfish Lake, where we encounter thousands of non-stinging jellyfish. Their existence in Jellyfish Lake is a fascinating evolutionary story, tracing its origin back 35 million years to the time when the Rock Islands were first created. As a result of colliding tectonic plates, erosive forces slowly ate away at the exposed sea bed, carving away what are now hundreds of islands with pockets in the limestone. These pockets continued to carve deeper and deeper into the rock until they reached through to salt water. Over time, the sea water percolated through the porous limestone to create a number of salt water lakes.
With this sea water came microscopic organisms, including a particular variety of jellyfish. Trapped inside the lake, with little plankton to prey upon, the jellyfish were forced to evolve away from their predatory ways to an existence based on photosynthesis. In the end, the stingers became extraneous and were lost. As witnesses to this evolutionary phenomenon, we float gently in the water of the lake, equipped with just our masks and snorkels. It is incredible to feel the delicate bodies of the jellyfish swimming against us — truly a special experience; one you will only find in Palau! Other highlights of the day include snorkeling in Cycad Lake and visiting Giant Clam Beach — a place whose name will be obvious when you see its inhabitants.
Today we have the pleasure of snorkeling along the Outer Reef. Big Blue Drop Off is a sheer vertical wall that runs along the whole length of Ngemelis Island, providing some of the most impressive snorkeling in the world. Amazingly, the edge of the reef drops down 900 feet. Pyramid butterflyfish, square anthias, Moorish idols, sargent majors, and yellowtail fusiliers are among the plethora of fish found along the top of the reef. Blue face, regal, and emperor angelfish are also easily spotted. Dwarf angelfish, such as coral beauty, keyhole, and gray's dart in and around coral heads, and clarki and blue striped clownfish, with their host anemones, are also scattered here. Hawksbill turtles even like to feed and rest at the top of the reef.
Palau's most popular dive site, Blue Corner, is recognized as one of the best in the world due to its concentration of marine life. It is the most highly-rated site in Micronesia, and features a shallow coral shelf that projects out into the ocean with vertical walls on both sides. An upwelling created by the currents attracts schools of fish to the top edges of the walls. Napoleon wrasses, dogtooth tuna, eagle rays, manta rays, white tip reef sharks, turtles, schooling barracudas, and groups of other reef fish populate the area. At least some of these species will make an appearance during our snorkeling here.
In case we haven't seen enough on our adventure today, we make a final stop at the Blue Holes, a series of four large holes in the top of the reef that converge to form a gigantic underwater chamber. The chamber, with its large opening in the wall, is home to soft corals, sea fans, sea whips, and hard corals. Large pelagics often encountered here include tunas, jacks, grey and white tip reef sharks, barracudas, and eagle rays. Groupers, napoleon wrasses, triggerfish, Moorish idols, butterflyfish, anemones, and turtles are also common at this site.
We return for one more peaceful evening at our seaside camp, and enjoy a well-earned meal before drifting off to sleep with the breeze from the ocean.
Ulong Island; Return to Koror
Our last day in Palau is no less incredible than the previous eight. We depart our stunning camp at Loulomekang for a 20-minute speedboat ride to the island of Ulong. White sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and turquoise bays define this picturesque island. Ulong also hides some fascinating historic treasures including a village site, hidden pictographs, stone terracing, and myriad artifacts from a lost culture of ancient Palauans.
Upon arrival we kayak from Turtle Bay to the Ulong Arch for a refreshing snorkel and a peek at all four of Palau's colorful anemone fish. An easy 30-minute paddle through a diverse assemblage of tropical flora will lead us to the historic site where Palauan's had their first contact with the Western world. We'll enjoy lunch on the sandy shores of this protected cove before paddling on to the reef named Wilson's Channel. Colorful clams, spider conchs, and dancing damselfish grace this pristine coral garden.
Our grand finale paddle will lead to Ulong's most beautiful stretch of sand. It is here that we'll review the epic drama of Palauans' history, and how their ancestors managed to cross vast distances to reach these remote shores. We then hike through a thick tropical forest to a UNESCO World Heritage village site, that was mysteriously abandoned more than 500 years ago. Our return to Koror by boat will take us through breathtaking scenery as we cruise through a labyrinth of islands, bays, and arches on our return to the comforts and amenities of the Palau Pacific Resort.
With most departing flights leaving tomorrow morning at around 2:00 a.m., we have time to indulge in some of the luxuries of the resort and share a celebratory meal before our late night transfer to the airport.
Return Flights Home
You will either be transferred to the airport in time to check in for return flights home, or you may opt to continue traveling independently, or extend your stay in Koror.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Sep 17-26, 2020
Nov 17-26, 2020
Take over a date for your group! See "Make It Private" on Dates & Prices tab.
From $6,195 Per Person
First two reserved:$295
See single supplement policy below.
6+ Guests: $6,195 per person
5 Guests or fewer: from $6,695 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Palau: Snorkeling & Kayaking Odyssey is rated 2, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). No prior kayaking experience is necessary for this trip. Our guides will provide basic paddling instruction for anyone who needs it, as well as more advanced paddling tips for guests who already have some prior experience.
The sea kayaking and snorkeling, while not technically difficult, will have you active for good portions of each day. Daily paddling duration is likely to be 4-5 hours, with breaks each hour or so for snorkeling and other activities. On a few of the days you will have the opportunity to do short hikes to inland sites. These excursions will be relatively easy trail hikes in the rainforest.
Most Convenient Airport:Koror International Airport, Palau (airport code: ROR)
Meeting Time and Place: Upon your arrival in Koror you will be met by a representative from the Palau Pacific Resort (our first hotel) and transferred to the resort. Because of the late arrival of flights from the U.S., you will meet the group and your guide at 9:00 a.m. on the morning of Day 2 in the lobby of the Palau Pacific Resort.
Departure Time and Place: Most flights out of Koror leave very early in the morning (at around 2:00 a.m.). We have made arrangements to check into the Palau Pacific Resort on the last day of the trip, to allow guests time to rest, freshen up, perhaps do some last minute shopping and packing, as well as attend a farewell dinner.
It is hard to accurately rate the difficulty of a sea-kayaking trip as much of the challenge is determined by the weather. We plan our daily schedule and routes to avoid strong wind and to correspond with the tides. With the support of a speedboat, we have the option to motor through any difficult conditions and therefore ensure gentle and pleasant paddling. Still, it is important on a sea kayaking and camping trip that you travel with a spirit of flexibility and an openness to enjoy nature and all it presents.
Sea kayaks, especially the type we use, are very stable vessels. We offer both single and double kayaks, of the open cockpit, sit-on-top style. All kayaks offer dry hatches, adjustable seats, and thigh straps. The double kayaks come equipped with rudders.
This trip is appropriate for both those with previous kayaking skills, or for those who are new to the sport; no previous experience is required. Sea kayaking skills are quickly learned, and our expert guides provide paddling instruction and tips throughout the trip.
This trip offers a combination of both camping and resort accommodations. Our island camps are designed to bring as much comfort as possible into the beauty of Palau's natural surroundings. Our staff will set up camp and take care of all the details. Our tents are safari-style with folding cots. Trip members will need to bring their own sleeping sheet or very light sleeping bag, but all other camping equipment is provided, including sleeping pads.
The dining table is set with linens and covered by a protective canopy to shelter us from either too much sun or a bit of rain. Our camp chef will prepare all of our meals, sharing some Palauan dishes and always using fresh, local ingredients. A freshwater solar shower and toilet tent are provided at each of our camps. We don't use generators in camp, though we do provide a transducer on the boat, which can recharge batteries for cameras and tablets on a limited basis.
Palau enjoys a pleasantly warm climate all year, with an average annual temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Given the tropical climate, rainfall can occur throughout the year, though sunshine is still prevalent. Palau is located outside the typhoon zone, so severe storms are generally not a concern.
You can obtain more detailed weather information on www.weatherbase.com.
Given Palau's consistent weather patterns, any time of year is good for visiting. Boundless Journeys has chosen dates to maximize the potential for the best weather. And, no matter what the weather brings, the kayaking routes we follow are well protected and there are many options for snorkeling. Palau's water temperature averages 82-85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Palau has an assortment of restaurants. Many of the best restaurants in Palau are Asian, specializing in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean food. Palau'an food is typically comprised of seafood, chicken, and pork with tropical fruits and vegetables such as mango, papaya, watermelon, bananas, peppers, breadfruit, and taro. Sweet potato and tapioca are also important staples of the Palau'an diet.
Macstyl grew up in the Republic of Palau with his early childhood spent climbing palm trees, catching land crabs, and paddling his outrigger canoe. At age 7 Macstyl went to live with extended family in the United States, but returned to Palau after graduating from high school. Once back in Palau, Macstyl began snorkeling and scuba diving, becoming an expert in identifying the native flora and fauna and gaining invaluable knowledge of the native marine life.
When not guiding tours and sharing his love of Palau with our guests, Macstyl can be found honing his skills as a talented underwater photographer and traveling throughout Oceania as a competitive outrigger canoe paddler.
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work—the mark of a truly great leader—our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own. Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Easy sea kayaking and snorkeling, 4-5 hours per day with access to support boat; easy, short, optional hikes.
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
By: Katya d'Angelo
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