Leaving Koror, within in minutes you reach The Rock Islands’ Nikko Bay. (Most equipment providers will require you take transportation from Koror to Nikko.) The bay is home to one of Palau’s most treasured coral forests and one of Palau’s top kayaking and snorkeling spots. Protected by its natural barrier reef and sheer walls, for centuries Nikko’s corals have avoided competing against the savages of nature’s forces. As a consequence, snorkelers are treated to ancient corals that have grown to amazing heights, shapes and types. Kayakers are offered excursions through siphon tunnels, caves and arches. Going with an experienced guide may make a good vacation into a great vacation.
A short distance away, kayakers enter other world class snorkeling adventures in Palau, the Lettuce Coral Wall and Rembrandt’s Cove. The overhanging trees and vegetation shelter the shallow waters of the wall and the cove. Combined with the protection of calm waters, these areas have turned into pristine environments for a diversity of coral to flourish and serve as a reef fish nursery. Without the protected shade, the shallow waters would overheat and, thus, create an inhospitable environment for the coral to exist.
Continuing on, Disney Lake is just a short paddle away. Accessible through a tunnel at low tide or by scaling the limestone (wait for the tide) from Nikko Bay, you will enter the crystal azur waters and a place of Technicolor truly fitting its namesake, Walt Disney. You will see corals of amazing shapes and kinds and more stunning assortment of colors. Some places there it looks like little assortments coral dwarfs from The Seven Dwarfs.
Fitting of its name, entering Cathedral Cave seems to have the same sort of awing experience as entering one of the great European Gothic churches. Rather than man, Mother Nature takes the credit for this creation. Like the Gothic churches, the entrance into the cave is graceful and grand. Passing through a shallow tunnel at low tide you will enter a grand cavern, a cavern large enough to hold a whole congregation of kayakers. This cathedral is adorned with stalactites gracefully having the ceiling.
As a place of one of the most veracious WWII battles, Palau offers great a tour through the ghosts of the past. The German Lighthouse is a legacy of Palau’s history through its foreign control. The century old lighthouse sits atop the highest peak of the Rock Islands. Its name is a legacy to Palau’s German possession. Germany eventually ceded control of Palau to the Japanese. Japanese imperialism and expansionism used the Pacific Islands as stepping-stones and military fortresses and backstops in their ever ending desire to expand their supply lines and access to natural resources, particularly oil.
The legacy of the war is still felt on Palau. Many Palauans believe the ghosts of Japanese soldiers still haunt the German Lighthouse rock. The island serves as the combination of a natural and man-made history of the war. The climb from the water to the German Lighthouse peak traverses an old road that today exists an old trail, overgrown with tropical vegetation. Along the way you will see the residue of history with cannon and their barrels, pill boxes and the quarters that housed the Japanese soldiers.
With a gentle ocean current, placid azure water collects at Soft Coral Arch becoming the perfect host environment for coral growth. Like so many of Palau’s great snorkeling and scuba diving spots, the Soft Coral Arch’s plankton rich waters and coral become home to a plethora schools of yellow bar fusiliers, lion fish, black and scissor tails, juvenile harlequin sweet lips and angle fish, trigger fish and coral damselfish.
Kayaking to Long Lake offers a full day of adventure. Accessing the lake through a long meandering, crystal clear mangrove covered channel, you experience Palau’s life above the water line with the calls of tropical birds and the flora of ferns and moss accenting the rocks and tropical growth. Ancient plants like cycads are not seen anywhere else in Palau. You may even see a leafless orchid. The lake is home to two types of rays. The aptly named Einstein’s Gardens is home to thousands of the colorful brain corals. With the nutrient rich waters where coral flourishes there are usually tons of fish. Einstein’s won’t disappoint you. Save time for Garemediu Reef. Here a Japanese Zero rests almost fully intact in about 6 feet of water.
One of the most memorable days of kayaking in Palau will be the trip to Ngerchong Island. After reaching shore and taking a short hike, you arrive at Jellyfish Lake. Jellyfish This is an amazing experience of swimming with millions of stingless jellies. Read here. While you are on the island make sure to visit Giant Clam Beach. Here you will find dozens of 500 pound clams stacked upon each other.
The Ngemelis Island is home to some of Palau’s greatest scuba diving sites. Near the Big Drop Off (one of Jacques Cousteau’s top dive sites) and the German Channel is another great snorkeling area called Turtle Cove. For a hundred or so yards from shore the water is waste deep. All of the sudden you will reach one of Palau great sheer walls. The water make a sheer drop from waste deep to around 1,000 feet. Like the other near dive sites, Turtle Cove is home to Palau’s famous pelagics: grey reef and white tip sharks patrol the reefs edge, an occasional leopard shark can be caught resting, moorish idols, pyramid butterflyfish, yellow fusiliers and assortment of angel fish. Oh, and you may even see a few turtles.
Click here to return to Kayaking and Snorkeling’s Main Page.
Click here to see Other things you need to know for kayaking and snorkeling in Palau.