Experience one of the planets most incredible marine ecosystems as you explore the Pacific archipelago of Palau with National Geographic. Identified by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, explore the aquatic wonderland of more than 1,300 species of fish and some 700 species of corals. As a world leader in marine conservation, Palau is home to an impressive conservation program that includes the creation of a historic 193,000-square-mile marine reserve—one of the largest of its kind. Snorkel and kayak among emerald islets in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rock Islands, experience the “underwater Serengeti” of Ngemelis Island, hike to dazzling waterfalls, and meet Palauan people who strive to honour and protect their natural heritage.

Trip highlights

Explore the pristine paradise of Palau, experiencing the extraordinary undersea wonders where you can enjoy pristine reefs, corals, and marine species that the National Geographic Pristine Seas team documented on a 2014 expedition.

Snorkel over coral gardens teeming with fish, turtles, and reef sharks; kayak to a stalactite-adorned cave and a hidden lagoon; and swim among thousands of non-stinging jellyfish.

Discover private marine sites with our seasoned guides, who have spent years exploring the natural habitats of Palau.

Enjoy a traditional Micronesian feast prepared by local villagers and experience a fascinating island culture dating back some 3,000 years.

Itinerary - 10 Days

1 Koror, Palau

Arrive in Palau and transfer to our beautiful hotel overlooking a turquoise lagoon.

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

2 Risong Bay/Mandarin Fish Lake

After an orientation briefing with the guides who are experts in the region, meet with your fellow travellers and begin your Palau expedition and learn more about Palau’s marine ecosystems, geology, culture, and conservation.

Take a short speedboat ride to a spectacular lagoon where you can get your first snorkel experience in these pristine waters amongst vibrant corals and tropical fish, you may be lucky enough to spot blue starfish, blue-green chromis, and butterfly fish.

Later, cruise to Risong Bay, nestled among the mushroom-shaped limestone islets of Chelbacheb, also known as the Rock Islands—a World Heritage site renowned for its natural beauty and its extraordinary marine life. Swim your way to Mandarin Fish Lake an oasis named for the eponymous and elusive fish species that live here. In the shelter of rocky outcrops, snorkel among reefs swirling with diverse fish species including crocodile fish, pajama cardinalfish, and gobies. This evening, enjoy a poolside welcome reception, then head to a local restaurant for a welcome dinner. (2 hours snorkelling) (B/L/D)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

3 Koror/Nikko Bay

Head out on a speedboat to the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), which collaborated with National Geographic on the 2014 Pristine Seas expedition to Palau to document the biodiversity of the archipelago’s marine ecosystem. Get a better understanding of their work and the National Geographic Pristine Seas project that was launched by marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala to explore and help save the last wild places in the ocean. Visit the centre’s aquarium for an introduction to Palau’s marine habitats, conservation efforts, and geologic history.

Continue by boat to Nikko Bay, where we’ll learn more about a coral-spawning study that was completed here and enjoy a private snorkelling excursion in Rembrandt's Cove. Enjoy lunch on a perch overlooking a deep-water channel, keeping an eye out for tropical birds and terns soaring below; and view World WW II artefacts at a former Japanese bunker.

Head out exploring by kayak a stunning, stalactite-adorned cave, and paddle through a tunnel to a lake filled with delicate corals. (2 hours snorkelling, 2 hours kayaking, 1-2 hours walking/hiking) (B/L/D)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

4 Ulong Island

Continue your Palau exploration as we snorkel in the sheltered lagoons of Ulong—one of the largest of the Rock Islands. Witness magnificent species of fish and marine wildlife including the bumphead parrotfish who gather in their hundreds to spawn in the early morning.

After snorkelling, venture ashore to hike to an ancient village and learn how Palauans once lived in this remote paradise. Pitch in with a local conservation project by planting a giant clam in a marine sanctuary and witness the fruits of over a decade of planting efforts.

Enjoy a barbeque lunch on the beach and explore the labyrinth of islands comprising Ngeruktabel. Snorkel among a myriad of colourful soft corals, and swim through a spacious tunnel leading to a hidden lagoon. (3 hours snorkelling, 1-2 hours hiking) (B/L)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

5 Mecherchar/Jellyfish Lake

Wake up for an early start as you head to the island of Mecherchar, home to one of Palau’s most famous natural wonders: Jellyfish Lake. The saltwater lake is home to up to 20 million non-stinging golden jellyfish, whose ability to sting has been weakened after the lake was cut off from the ocean and the predator level was diminished. Due to the early start, we will be among the first visitors to the lake and can enjoy a serene snorkel experience amongst these majestic creatures.

Later, hike back to our speedboat, which whisks us along the coast to discover a treasure of Micronesian history: a two-ton relic of the world’s largest—and heaviest—currency. Enjoy a private visit to the site and examine the enormous stone money that was created by the ancient people of neighbouring Yap—who travelled more than 200 miles by canoe to quarry the stone from the limestone-rich Rock Islands.

Later, visit the pristine Ngchus Cove and enjoy lunch on the beach, then snorkel over a sunken Japanese fighter aircraft that was shot down in 1944. Cap off our day with a special visit to a secluded bay that harbours fragile yellow sea horses and other marine life. (3-4 hours snorkelling, 45 minutes hiking) (B/L/D)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

6 Long Lake

This morning enjoy a kayak excursion beneath a canopy of mangroves before entering a mile-long saltwater lake that is home to the ancient Micronesian cycad plant and endemic Palau fruit doves. Search for r juvenile eagle rays and endemic plants found nowhere else on Earth and ride the tide back out of the lake to enjoy a white-sand picnic lunch.

Later, explore the Milky Way lagoon, where visitors can enjoy a white mud bath made from the lagoon’s limestone and calcium clay, which is believed to have healing powers. Finish our day with a snorkel among the multi-coloured brain corals that thrive in the nutrient-rich waters of the Rock Islands. (2 hours kayaking, 3 hours snorkelling) (B/L)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

7 Patch Reefs

Our first snorkelling site of the day is home to dozens of “super mollusks,” including giant clams that are more than a century old and weigh over 500 pounds. Next, explore Rainbow Reef where you will have the opportunity to snorkel among shoals where fish drift on gentle currents while feasting on plankton.

Enjoy lunch on Ngeanges island and spend the afternoon enjoying a walk in the forest, searching for chicken-like megapode birds and their enormous nests. Cool off with a refreshing snorkel, watching dazzling damselfish dart in and out of a colossal turbinaria coral formation. Snorkel at a cave where local conservation efforts have helped protect the cave’s corals from the predatory crown of thorns starfish. (4 hours snorkelling, 30 minutes walking) (B/L/D)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

8 Ngemelis Island

Renowned as the ‘underwater Serengeti’, discover one of the world’s greatest snorkelling sites at the outer reef of Ngemelis, which the National Geographic Pristine Seas team identified as one of the most vibrant marine protected areas in Palau. Snorkel amongst untouched reefs, magnificent fish, turtles, garden eels and white-tipped reef sharks.

After nearly 20 years as a "no-fishing zone," the Ngemelis Conservation Area allows for close encounters with Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, and clown triggerfish. We’ll snorkel spectacular sites including German Channel, where the Pristine Seas team filmed majestic manta rays and waters vibrating with vast schools of fish. Later, enjoy lunch on the water, venturing out a few miles to spot spinner dolphins and whales. (4 hours snorkelling) (B/L)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

9 Babeldaob Island/Koror

Start the day with a light hike on Babeldaob—Palau’s largest island, known for its botanical treasures. Find a pair of remote and rarely visited waterfalls and relax by the tranquil pools before enjoying a Micronesian feast prepared by women from a local village.

In the afternoon, drive to an ancient bai, or meeting house, where community elders once gathered. Take in the ancient pictographs carved and painted on the trusses, depicting ancient Palauan history and legends, and learn more about the past and present politics of the region.

Return to Koror and toast our adventure at a farewell dinner this evening. (1-2 hours hiking, 1 hour swimming) (B/L/D)

Accommodation: Palau Pacific Resort

10 Koror

Transfer to the airport and depart on homeward-bound flights.

Please note that flights from Koror generally depart in the early morning. Homeward-bound flights should be booked for the morning of day 10 and not the following morning. (B)

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