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Palau: Snorkeling the Rock Islands

Explore the reefs amid the breathtaking Rock Islands and enjoy a visit to the famous Jellyfish Lake on this land-based snorkeling expedition to Palau—one of our most popular destinations.

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  • Daily snorkeling expeditions on a private boat to the best sites in the Rock Islands, such as Big Drop Off, Ulong Channel, and Turtle Wall.
  • A visit to the surreal Jellyfish Lake to snorkel with non-stinging jellies.
  • Learn about Palau's marine biodiversity, local conservation efforts, and unique cultural history as you explore the islands.

Palau is a snorkeler's paradise, and this 10-day land-based expedition takes you on an in-depth exploration of Palau both above and below the water's surface.

Lying at the southwest corner of the Western Caroline Islands, only nine of Palau's 343 islands are inhabited. Its giant coral lagoon, within one encircling barrier reef, consists of the exposed peaks of an undersea mountain ridge that stretches between Japan and New Guinea. Harboring more species of marine life than any similar-sized area in the world, Palau is one of the best snorkeling sites on the planet.

The abundance and diversity of Palau's marine life, its shallow water accessibility and excellent visibility reveal a dazzling array of rainbow-colored fish, sponges, and breathtaking corals. The scenery above water is equally spectacular. The famous Rock Islands are a maze of unsurpassed beauty—tropical gardens atop limestone ridges set in glass-clear waters.

From our base in Koror we take easy day-trips to the jungle-capped Rock Islands, to Turtle Cove, Soft Coral Arch, Ngemelis Wall, and the world famous Jellyfish Lake. Our naturalist accompanies all excursions, providing information on coral reef life, marine ecology, and the natural and cultural history of Micronesia.

Our itinerary includes spectacular snorkeling and marine life explorations, as well as leisurely island walks. Palauans excel in crafts, and some of your free time can be dedicated to visiting sites of cultural significance.

Wildlife Highlights

Our focus for this trip is on the underwater inhabitants of Palau's pristine coral reefs, including colorful soft and hard corals, sponges, anemones, sharks, sea turtles, giant clams, cuttlefish, octopuses, manta rays, colorful nudibranchs, the endemic Palau nautilus, abundant tropical fish including anemonefish, gobies, cardinalfish, wrasses, parrotfish, groupers, triggerfish, mandarinfish, and much, much more. We also keep an eye out for birds and may see kingfishers, Pied Cormorants, and other species.

Trip Dates & Cost

2016: November 11-19. From $3,300 per person.* Group limit of 14.

2017: February 10-18. From $3,300 per person.* Group limit of 14. Additional dates to be announced.

*Single supplement fee is $550. Trip prices do not include international airfare.


Wayne Sentman is our director of conservation travel programs and an Oceanic Society naturalist since 1988. He is an experienced guide with a diverse background in marine mammal, seabird, and marine debris research. Wayne also co-teaches undergraduate field programs in Kenya on human-wildlife conflict and on the use of social media and art to raise public participation in conservation. He recently received a Master's in Environmental Management from Harvard University.

Izzy Szczepaniak holds a M.S. from San Francisco State University and is a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences. He has conducted research on harbor porpoises in the Gulf of the Farallones for 35 years, and on humpback whales in California and Costa Rica. He has worked as a naturalist for Oceanic Society since 1983, guiding both Bay Area whale watching programs and international expeditions.


Day 1–2: Honolulu - Palau
Flights to Koror (Palau) depart from Honolulu and cross the International Date Line before reaching Palau the following evening. Upon your evening arrival, you will be picked up and transferred to your comfortable hotel. *Please note that international airfare is not included in the trip cost

Days 3 thru 8: Exploring the Rock Islands
The total reef complex of Palau—the fringing reefs, the outer barriers, and the varied communities within the tiny coves and marine lakes—has been described as one superorganism. The reef is riddled with hundreds of tiny mushroom-shaped islands dressed in tropical foliage that are known as the Floating Gardens or Rock Islands. These jungle coated limestone mounds rise straight up from the water, their bases eaten away by wave action and shellfish. Our days will be spent snorkeling and investigating the protected reefs of the Rock Islands, as well as the outer reef walls of the barrier reef by boat.

A typical day starts with early morning breakfast and a short, private bus ride to the dock to catch our private boat for the day's adventure. Weather will determine the order of our itinerary. Most snorkeling and natural history sites are within a 20 to 60 minute boat ride from our dock. We may visit as many as 6 different snorkeling spots in the course of a day. We will have daily lunch and siesta breaks at some of the many isolated beaches of the Rock Islands, and all the lunch spots do have bathrooms. We return to our hotel around 4:00 to 5:00 PM each day.

Day 9: Koror
On our final day we will explore the city of Koror, traveling by van on a guided excursion. Highlights will include visits to the Belau National Museum, a woodcarving center, and the only remaining traditional "bai," the ancient, men's meeting house.

Day 10–9: Palau - Guam - Honolulu
Catch your return flight from Koror (most flights depart at midnight) to Honolulu via Guam, crossing the International Date Line and arriving in Honolulu in the evening of the previous day. *Please note that international airfare is not included in the trip cost


On this expedition, we stay comfortably in double-occupancy hotel rooms while making day trips throughout the Rock Islands by private boat. Optional hotel/room upgrades are available. Our naturalist will be along to provide information on marine ecology, conservation, and the natural and cultural history of Micronesia.

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