An untamed paradise for divers and snorkellers, Paula is an archipelago of more than 500 islands, which sprout like giant mushrooms from the crystalline waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The island of Koror is the beating heart of the country and the entry point for most visitors. Home to most of Palau’s inhabitants, it is far from the prettiest island in the archipelago and few choose to linger here. Those who do, however, can grab a slice of Micronesian life in the local bars and restaurants, where charismatic natives take pleasure convincing foreigners to try the local delicacy: fruit bat soup.
Palau is also home to some of the world’s healthiest and most impressive UNESCO-listed reefs. Iridescent corals swirl around the islands, their marine populations teeming with a bounty few other places can match. Indeed, not a list exists that doesn’t rank Palau’s Blue Corner amongst the planet’s top dive sites.
It isn’t just in the tropical seas where strange creatures thrive, for Palau is also home to one of the most ecologically sensitive and unique evolutionary phenomena: Jellyfish Lake. Cut off from the sea millions of years ago, the lake’s predator-free inhabitants have evolved to lose their poisonous sting. To snorkel slowly amongst these gentle creatures is to float through an alien world.
While it’s easy to see Palau's beauty, a closer look will reveal scars from ferocious battles that took place on these shores during WWII. Ship and plane wrecks remain buried in dark lagoons, while long-forgotten bunkers and rusted machine guns are peppered across the islands. This is testament to Palau’s tumultuous modern history, which saw it swap hands from Germany to Japan and, finally, the Untied States, before achieving independence in 1994.
While Palau may be remote and untamed, it is precisely these attributes that make it one of the world’s last unspoiled natural beauties. The archipelago endures as a marvel of Mother Nature, stands proud as a centre for Micronesian culture and offers a haunting memorial to battles once fought in its turquoise waters.