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Micronesia: Palau, Family Vacation Ideas – Kayaking, Dolphin Encounters, and Snorkeling.371PalauSnorkel Imagine a spot on the planet where one can safely interact with sharks, crocodiles, jellyfish, dolphins; see firsthand World War II memorabilia; go kayaking into inner lagoon wonderlands and snorkel above awesome coral reefs. The destination described is the North Pacific destination of Palau, Micronesia, which is a natural, ecologically-responsible habitat worth a visit.

Palau doesn’t appear anywhere near the top of mainstream family vacation lists which is precisely why I was intrigued by the information that crossed my desk. I am passing on some very cool family vacation possibilities. From the US it’s a long flight but why not cash in the frequent flyer miles and go for it.

Snorkel or dive among old growth corals. Anyone’s who’s ever wondered through an old growth forest of Douglas Fir or California Redwood can immediately appreciate the ancient beauty of ancient timber. Palau, interestingly enough offers snorkelers the same feeling of timeless scenery in the form of our old growth forests. While many species of sun loving corals grow with amazing speed, those corals found within the shade of overhanging limestone islands are limited to imperceptible growth. The vertical walls of Palau’s rock islands serve as cathedral like walls, protecting ancient corals from seasonal winds, waves, and even typhoons. As a result, the corals within the rock islands are often hundreds and even thousands of years old! Without any physical disturbance to limit their growth, the rock island corals can form massive boulders, delicate branches, or even absurdly giant baskets. These protected habitats are akin to the “high rent district” of a bustling city.371PalauCoral In this case, multi-colored corals are literally climbing over one another competing for every inch of available real-estate.
While the divers flock to the vertical walls of the outer reef, the snorkelers have discovered the profusion of life around the patch reef habitats. These current swept environments are bathed in nutrient rich waters and tropical sunshine. The combination of food sources creates an ideal habitat for giant table corals and multi-colored branching or stag-horn corals. Competing for sunlight, these corals create mutli-level tiers, in order to block their neighbors light! Living within this coral city are an uncountable number of reef fish swimming the protected maze of their coral home. These coral habitats may be enjoyed on both speed boat and kayak/snorkel excursions. (Contact the following for more information: Sam’s Tours at (680) 488-1062 or
In Palau sharks have their own week. Shark enthusiasts are invited to enjoy a shark themed week full of adrenalin-packed activities as the Micronesian Shark Foundation (MSF) holds it 7th annual shark week at the Fish ‘n Fins dive shop, in Palau between March 8-15, 2009.

The Micronesian Shark Foundation is a Palauan-based, non-profit foundation whose goal is to research and monitor the many sharks of Palau as well as scientific shark data collection. Between February and April, hundreds of grey reef sharks migrate to the waters of Palau to mate. This generates a fabulous opportunity for shark lovers to dive with the world famous sharks of Palau and to participate in data collection, which is invaluable in the study of migration and behavioral patterns of the sharks in these waters.

Special packages for this week start from $1250 per person and include the following: 5 days dedicated shark diving (2 tanks per day) with lunch provided on a beautiful sandy Rock Island beach; seven nights hotel accommodations (double occupancy including transportation); evening shark seminars; diving newly discovered shark locations around Palau; shark week T-Shirt; DVD containing footage of the entire weeks events; information pack containing 3D dive site information together with information about guest speakers and the weeks itinerary. (For more information contact, or Alternatively, visit or www. or

Go croc spotting on a jungle cruise. One of Palau’s newest attractions, the Jungle River Boat Cruise, put crocodiles are at center stage. Located in Ngchesar State, the Jungle River Boat Cruise is one of Palau’s eco-friendly tours, providing visitors with the ideal opportunity to relax and enjoy the island’s natural attributes firsthand.

The River Boat Cruise is the brainchild of Mr. Billy Takamine, who is a native of Ngchesar State. The River Boat Cruise takes about one hour on an all-aluminum boat that can carry up to 40 passengers at a time, depending on the tides of the river. The five-mile tour starts at the main dock and goes upstream coming out to a beautiful ocean vista. During the tour, visitors will get a chance to see crocodiles; Palauan Fruit Dove Bird, or Biib; Palauan Fruit Bats; Kingfishers; Archer Fish; and several other wildlife and fauna. Additionally, passengers might get a glimpse of locals collecting their catch of the day, big mangrove crabs, along the river banks.

The River Boat Cruise facilities include a gift shop; as well as two “summer houses,” resembling Palauan bais’ adorned with colorful local paintings, which are used as resting areas, and in the future for entertainment and basket weaving demonstrations. Packages are available, including BBQ lunches with entertainment, basket weaving demonstrations and Babeldaob tours. (For information, contact Billy Takamine at or call (680) 488-1188.)

Swim with friendly jellies – really!
Under normal circumstance no one would knowingly swim in water inhabited by jelly fish. But things are slightly different in Palau. Too cool - like Jellyfish Lake, is the home to two types of jellyfish - the golden jellyfish known as Mastigias and the moon jellyfish known as Aurelia. This intriguing lake departs radically from convention for it is an enclosed body of water wherein, over the course of millennia, resident jellyfish have completely lost their sting because they haven’t had to fight off predators, allowing adventure seekers a rare opportunity to swim amongst these truly unique water creatures.

In order to access this unique adventure, visitors will need to enlist the transport of a local tour guide, both Fish ‘n Fins and Sam’s Tours offer public access. It’s recommended that visitors sign up for the full day excursion, which includes snorkeling, lunch in the Rock Islands and a trip to nature’s spa the Milky Way. Visit or for more information and package prices, which may vary during high season.

Swim with dolphins in Dolphin Bay. Dolphins Pacific is a local outfit that was created to preserve the integrity of these popular mammals, educate visitors about their unique place in the environment and to study their behaviors and abilities. The facility, located in an enclosed bay within the Rock Islands, offers several public encounters, including everything from a basic one-hour interactive program to fantastical wedding ceremonies. One favorite is the Dolphin Symphony, which is priced at only $80 and provides the opportunity to swim with several dolphins in the clear blue waters of "Dolphin Bay."

Additionally, Dolphins Pacific recently introduced the Dolphin’s Ocean Blessing for those interested in a less conventional wedding ceremony. The package starts at $1,600 (8 person maximum) and includes: private ceremony at Emerald Lagoon, alongside the dolphins and surrounded by the beautiful Rock Islands; decorated boat transportation; round trip land transportation from Palau Pacific Resort to venue; Judge-officiated ceremony; mar mar, lei & bouquet; VIP red carpet and flower and candle arrangements; hair and makeup “Bridal Beauty Package”; photo services; coconut Champagne welcome drink; dolphin activity at Dolphins Pacific for couple to enjoy (good for up to one year). (For information, call (680) 488-8582, visit, or email

Grandpa, what did you do in the War? While it may seem like a bit of a disconnect, Palau’s World War II/Peleliu Excursion is also an integral part of Palau’s truly unique history, rounding out the varied interests and attractions found within the destination’s natural “habitats.”

Peleliu Island was the scene of one of the Pacific's bloodiest battles when U.S. Marines made an amphibious assault on the beaches of Peleliu in 1944 to liberate the island from Japanese forces. Peleliu was heavily fortified with massive concrete bunkers and over 300 man-made and reinforced natural caves used to shelter the Japanese forces during massive naval bombardments prior to the assault. Remnants of Japanese headquarters buildings, incredible cave systems, gun emplacements, tanks, planes and weapons can still be seen today. Sam's Tours works closely with Peleliu Adventures, a small locally-owned tour company based in Peleliu that offers professionally guided tours to battles sites, tanks, shrines, historical monuments and the Peleliu WWII Museum. (For more information, contact Sam’s Tours at (680) 488-1062 or or Fish ‘n Fins at (680) 488-2637 or

Kayak around the islands. Palau’s uplifted limestone islands are studded with marine caves, natural archways, tropical beaches, emerald bays, and even siphon tunnels leading into inner lagoon wonderlands. There’s no better way to explore this labyrinth of limestone than with the eco-friendly kayak. Freed from the noise of outboard motors, the kayaks let us explore this Micronesian maze at leisure. Guided by professional local naturalists, the subtle beauty of the multi-colored reefs, tropical flowers, and endemic birds comes to life. 371PalauClownFish

Among the myriad of hidden treasures are the world famous marine lakes and lagoons. Accessible only via kayak at precise tides, we weave through crystal clear mangrove forests into isolated wonderlands. These natural marine preserves are filled with nesting sea birds, fragile corals, and enormous clams which can be hundreds of years old. The ultimate high for paddlers is however slipping through the siphon tunnels and spilling into the calm water oasis within. Protected from winds, waves, surf, surge, and current, these protected habitats are home to reef fish nurseries, shark & stingray pupping grounds, and perhaps most impressively, giant baskets of multi-colored coral. Marine Biologist Ron Leidich says that “each isolated lake is like an evolutionary laboratory. Much like the individual islands of the Galapagos, the creatures found within the confines of the lake are unique to each individual habitat.” Nowhere else on earth do you find so many species in such unique assemblages in such a protected environment.

Many visitors to Palau choose to enjoy a kayak day tour as a grand finale to their diving experience. Several dive shops offer guided day tours. For guests interested in more intimate experiences, only Sam’s Tours / Planet Blue Sea Kayak Tours offers custom guided kayaking and camping safaris. Varying in length from 2 to 10 days, each trip is designed to cater to the guests’ abilities, interests, and experience levels. They’re even offering luxury kayak and camping safaris, where a hand-picked crew sets up a safari-style camp with walk in tents with beds, dining tent complete with linen and china, and even hot showers and a gourmet chef. (For more information, contact Sam’s Tours at (680) 488-1062 or

Location on the planet. Visitors to Palau arrive on Continental Airlines by way of daily flights from Guam – the gateway to Micronesian. There are daily connections to Guam from Tokyo, USA, and other metropolitan centers around the world. Continental Airlines provides daily flights from Guam to Palau and twice a week from Manila, Philippines. From the western seaboard of the United States, hop to Hawaii, skip to Guam then, jump to Palau. From Europe, fly via Emerates direct to Manila, Philippines and onwards with Continental Airlines to Palau. This is possible without an overnight stay in Manila.

Content and images provided by Palau Tourism. Copyright 2012.