Unless you are a seasoned diver or war buff, it's quite possible that the tiny republic of Palau will not have featured on your radar. Occupied by the Japanese from 1914 until the end of the Second World War, this stunning set of volcanic islands sits out in the Pacific, two hours east of Manila and three hours from Hong Kong. Located midway between the Philippines and Guam in the western part of the Caroline Islands (this eastern part is known as Micronesia), the nation's claim to fame is its world-class diving and stunning topography.
Palau is not the easiest place to get to, but perhaps it's the country's very remoteness that makes it so special. Its population of just 19,000 is spread over some 300 islands, many of which are uninhabited. As your plane approaches the tiny airport of Koror, Palau's capital, you can gaze down on a pristine paradise of volcanic emerald mushrooms clad in lush vegetation.
Palau offers truly world-class diving, with something for divers and snorkellers at all levels. With over 1,500 species of fish and 700 species of coral, the biodiversity here is truly enormous, and it is all carefully protected by the Koror State Rangers. Blue Corner is Palau's most well-known dive, but there are also plenty of shallow dives, including wrecks suitable for snorkelling.
Blue Corner has entered diving folklore as one of the world's greatest dives; seasoned divers come back year after year. Originally a fishing spot, the site is washed by powerful currents which bring with them the big stuff. With generally excellent visibility in season, you have a great chance of seeing large number of sharks, schools of barracuda, king mackerel, tuna, giant and blue fin trevally, all out in the blue. On a good day, this is your best chance to see more large pelagics and schools of big fish on a single dive than probably anywhere else in the world.
Palau is far from a one-dive pony however, and there are plenty of world-class sites to keep you occupied. So many of the dive sites here are simply unforgettable.
Palau's economy relies heavily on tourists, mainly divers, but it is surprisingly difficult to find stylish hotels. However, after a visit ourselves, we have found one so that once you have travelled all the way to this remote land, you can have great diving and a great hotel.