It has been a little over two years since my last big, international dive trip (Grand Cayman for a KISS Crossover Course and some deep wall diving in Feb 2020). I had originally planned to dive only wrecks in Palau but I have the opportunity to return in August for “once-in-a-lifetime” rebreather speciality wreck diving expedition so on this trip I was going to dive a variety of different sites.
I ended up diving four wrecks, two caves, and countless reefs and deep walls. Interestingly enough, the wall dives in Palau reminded me quite a lot of those in the Cayman Islands.
This post will be an overall review of the trip and then I will post individual entries for the caves & wrecks and revise this post with the link for each post once they are complete.
Covid and Travel
It takes about a day of non-stop travel from Los Angeles to get to Palau.
I flew LAX-HNL, HNL-GUM, GUM-ROR to get there. I left home about 7:30am PDT and got to the hotel at about 9:00am PDT the following day (plus a “lost day” for crossing the date line going west).
At the time I flew (Mar ’22), Palau required a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travel so I got that completed and uploaded all of my documentation to the United website. Travel was relatively easy but I had a 3+ hour layover late at night in the GUM airport with basically nothing open.
Upon arrival, I was adorned with the “green strap” to show that I hadn’t had my post-arrival Covid test.
During that 4-day period, you are under “Restricted Movement” which did allow me to eat at the restaurant at hotel I was staying at. Most importantly, it also allowed me to go diving (or at least I interpreted that it did)!
Palau requires a witnessed, self-administered nasal swab Covid test after being in-country for four days. This is done at the hospital in Koror. Note that the line can get rather long and it is unsheltered outdoors. The line can build up because outbound travelers also need to get test. You generally get the results later that day or early the next day. My test was negative and the green bracelet was removed and I was free to roam around (not that it made much of a difference in my case).
On my last day in Palau, I had to get a rapid nasal swab test to return to the US. They provide the results while you wait after the nasal swab. It took about 20 minutes and then they gave me the printout. My return trip left Palau at 3:10am (ugh) and once again reversed my path by going ROR-GUM, GUM-HNL, HNL-LAX. It took about 23.5 hours door-to-door.
Overall, the experience wasn’t bad. Wearing a mask for that long during plane travel wasn’t great but it is a small price to pay for the freedom to travel internationally and dive new locations.
Hotel & Dive Operation
The resort is nice but a little bit of a drive from “downtown” Koror and the dive shops. However, every morning at 8am somebody from Fish N’ Fins would pick me up for diving and then drop me back off after the end of a day of diving. The hotel has been very quiet up until now as Palau is just staring to open back up. There is a buffet style breakfast and then there is only one restaurant currently open.
In terms of diving, Fish N’ Fins was great.
We would usually do three dives a day and they ran everything efficiently and included a bento lunch box of your choice and Nitrox 32 was included. I did almost all of my dives with Ogie the divemaster. Occasionally others would join and I met two nice guys from Holland who I dove with the last 3-4 days of diving. But, things are still a lot slower than they used to be but I’m confident they will pick back up.
There is also a restaurant on the site of the dive shop that has great food.
I highly recommend diving with Fish N’ Fins if you are in Palau (note: I paid for my trip fully).
Other than a few dives on my recent trip to Kona, this has been the most open circuit, single tank diving I have done in probably 4-5 years and it was fun. I wore a 3mm wetsuit and rarely got cold. We had a couple days near the end of my trip where the weather really turned bad and it was pouring rain and cold out on the water during our dives. I did a total of 25 dives across 9 days of diving.
A typical dive day would have us leaving the dock at 8:30am for the first dive followed by some hot coffee during the surface interval. We would then do a second dive and they would typically take us to a nice beach for our bento lunch and surface interval.
We would then do a third dive and head back to the dock and rinse our gear. We generally returned between 3pm-5pm for a full day of diving.
If you haven’t been to Palau and enjoy diving, I highly recommend it. There really is something for everyone whether they are into wrecks, reefs, drift diving, wall diving or even some cave diving.
Below are some of the highlights of the trip (I will update these each with links to blog posts as I publish them):
|Temple of Doom Cave|
|IJN Iro Wreck|
|Jake Seaplane Wreck|
|Teshio Maru Wreck|
|Chuyo Maru Wreck|
|Reef & Wall Diving|
Cover photo credit: By Luka Peternel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90513467