Diving Palau

Palau Dive Sites, Underwater Photography and Marine Life
By Scott Gietler

Often done in conjunction with Yap or Truk Lagoon, Palau offers big schools of fish, plentiful reef sharks, soft coral and a unique jellyfish encounter in Jellyfish Lake. Palau also has stunning topside scenery like picturesque tropical islands. A good selection of liveaboards, fairly easy access from the USA and a good amount of reef sharks ensures that Palau is one of more popular destinations for divers and one of Bluewater's best places in the world to scuba dive.




jellyfish lake, palau


Palau Marine Life


Reef Sharks - on many of your dives you'll see a few reef sharks below 50ft, such as whitetips, blacktips, and grey reef sharks. They can be difficult to photograph because they like to keep their distance.
Manta Rays - you might see a manta if you are lucky, but they will be more prevalent at Yap.
Macro life - not too much, although some shallow lagoon will have crocodile fish and other macro if you really ask for it
Jellyfish - you can see some jellyfish floating by on your safety stops, during your safety stops, and of course there is Jellyfish Lake.
Mandarin Fish – Palau was one of the first destinations well known for mandarin fish dives.
Eagle Rays - you will infrequently see eagle rays
Schools of Fish - lots of snappers, grunts, fusiliers and some large groupers.



manta ray seen underwater while diving palau

Manta Ray in Palau, photo by Mike Bartick



Typical Palau diving


Drift dives are common where the boat follows you along in the current. Reef hooks are common. A reef hook is basically a big fishing hook with the barb removed, and a 3ft length of rope. The rope hooks to your BCD, and hook goes into a dead part of the coral reef. Reef hooks are fairly well accepted in Palau because there's usually a good amount of dead coral to hook into. You generally drop down to 50ft depth, and either go with the current or hook in with the reef.

There's some healthy hard coral, and a good amount of wall diving.

You should be able to get in 5 dives a day with a night dive.


palau underwater photography


Best Dive Sites in Palau


Blue Corner


Blue corner has a lot of current, which brings in the big fish. Use of reef hooks is common. Sharks, Jacks, Tuna, and resident Napoleon Wrasse come by in the current.


Jellyfish Lake

Skip the cylinder for this photo oppotunity - diving isn't allowed - and snorkel Palau's jellyfish lake with your camera. The lake is filled with harmless picturesque jellyfish – the perfect underwater photography subject. For many photographers, this is the highlight of their Palau trip.



Palau underwater photo


Chandelier Cave

This site is a large cave with several “rooms”, and is imho for experienced divers only. You can enter the cave at 25ft, and surface in different “rooms” in the cage. You take underwater tunnels from room to room. This is a very cool place, and a good place to take a wide-angle photo with a diver. It's a very adventurous dive that must be done at the right time of day with an experienced guide that you feel comfortable with, and experienced divers - because, like all cave diving, visibility can drop to zero, and you can have trouble finding your way out. This is an overhead environment, there are places where you can't see any light, and it should be taken seriously. If they don't use cave lines you should check compass headings and have backup lights.


Read about a big lesson learned by an underwater photographer while diving this site.


palau underwater cave

Inside the Chandelier Cave



Getting to Palau


Flights from the USA stop in Guam, and then continue on direct to Palau. Once you land, you can basically get on the boat and start diving.


When to visit Palau

The best time to visit Palau is December to April.


Water Temps & Visibility

Water Temperature is general 81-84 degrees Fahrenheit.


Underwater Photography Tips


It can be difficult to get reef sharks to come close to you while you are hooked in at Blue corner. Unhooking and swimming down into the reef over the lip of the reef can get you closer to sharks, but you also risk the ire of other dive groups who fear your bubbles will scare away the wildlife. It's best not to chase sharks, but to find a good spot where they can swim by you in the current.


For Jellyfish lake, use a wide lens so you can get close to the jellies. Use a wide-angle lens and dome port to try to get some amazing split shots. If you get close to shore and stay shallow, you can also get the mangroves in the background – in either an over-under shot or an underwater shot. Most people visit Jellyfish lake for only 1 day, but it might be worth it to arrange for 2 days there if you are an avid underwater photographer.


Night dives are often the best time to put your macro lens on.


diving palau underwater photo with shark



Palau Liveaboard & Dive Resort Options

Interested in diving Palau? Visit  View the best Palau Liveaboards and Palau Dive Resorts on our sister website, Bluewater Travel. Read our new article to learn more about liveaboard diving in Palau.




Palau Topside Activities


topside scenery at Palau


The Palau Pacific resort is also convenient as a 1-2 day stop either before or after boarding a Palau-based liveaboard boat. It is a great way to arrange a tour of Koror and neighboring islands. Activities include a dolphin research station, waterfall hikes, rock island excursions, speedboat & kayak charters, city tours and more.

Kayaking in calm blue waters among the islands is a must-due activity during your no-dive day. There's also great World War II historical artifacts to see, such as rusted out tanks and Japanese caves. Non-divers can experience the wonders of Palau's underwater paradise while snorkeling its pristine waters.


Palau Underwater Photos


palau underwater photos

Napolean Wrasse underwater photo in Palau


palau macro underwater photography - crinoid

Crinoid (Featherstar) closeup, macro underwater photography in Palau


longnose hawkfish underwater photo in Palau

Longnose hawkfish, Palau


Further Reading


Diving Truk Lagoon


Best Dive Destinations for Underwater Photography

Diving Palau
Scott Gietler
Palau Dive Sites, Underwater Photography and Marine Life


Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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