The island nation of Palau in the western Pacific Ocean has always been known as a diving and snorkeling destination, a thing that would not come as a surprise given that its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is many times larger than its land size.
With an EEZ of 603,978 km2 and a land area of only 459 km2, what awaits tourists of the country who are not so keen on exploring the depths of the oceans? A lot of exciting adventures actually lurk somewhere if you just know where to go. Here are some of them:
1. Airai Cultural Tour
The Airai Cultural Tour of Palau's Airai State had recently won the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold award for its community-based tourism initiative and is set to officially receive the accolade on September 19, 2019, in Nur-Sultan (Astana), Kazakhstan.
Travel buffs who are into cultural immersion will find themselves interacting with locals who know the twist and turns of their traditions, heritage, and history through a guided tour.
Airai State is home to Palau's oldest traditional men's meeting house called Bai Ra Rengarairrai, the island nation's iconic architecture that is over 100 years old.
The structure, which is made from thatched roof and wood, is remarkable as it is built based on ancient wisdom where every material was put together without the use of nails. It is also adorned with symbolic motifs that depict local legends.
As Palau follows a strict traditional rule, no one is allowed entrance into the building unless you get fortunate enough to bump into one of the traditional chiefs who will give you permission to do so. The Bai Ra Rengarairrai is so special and treated with reverie that so far, other than the traditional chiefs and a few locals, only one foreigner with highest national standing had been allowed inside its walls.
The best part of this tour, however, is being served the sumptuous local dishes and desserts that you could not just easily buy from the restaurants.
2. Angaur State: The Only Monkey Haven in Micronesia
Angaur is one of the outlying islands of Palau that is distinctly known for the Macaque monkeys that freely roam its jungles. What makes this island unique is that it is the only place in Micronesia where monkeys live and thrive.
The Macaque monkeys came to Angaur's shores around 100 years ago through foreign contact and had since been reproducing exponentially, hence making it one of the invasive species on the island. The locals, however, had found a way to turn this problem into an advantage by building a Macaque Sanctuary Park for the tourists to visit. The construction of the sanctuary is still in the works but tourist could still visit the island to do monkey-sighting, visit historical sites, and trek in the jungles.
3. Peleliu Tour: World War 2 Relics
Historical sites have always been a go-to place for tourists as these ignite nostalgia for the past. If there is one place in Palau that has so much history then that would be Peleliu island.
Palau was never spared from the horrors of one of the most remarkable events in history - World War 2. The Peleliu island of Palau had been the great theater of one of the bloodiest battles between Americans and Japanese during World War 2.
A tour around Peleliu gives one a view of what remains from old Japanese headquarters and structures, battle tanks that have now become rusty through time, a cave system built by Japanese soldiers during the war, and war memorials, among others.
Japan lost a lot of soldiers on the island in a fierce battle against the Americans that lasted three months. Some 10,000 Japanese troops and over 1,600 US soldiers died in the battle.
So many Japanese lives were lost during the battle on Peleliu that even the Japan Emperor Emeritus Akihito visited the island in 2015 to pay tribute to the men who died in the war. The gesture was greatly appreciated by the locals on Peleliu that they designate a holiday to celebrate the anniversary of the former Japanese Emperor's visit.
Other than its historical value, the island also offers picturesque views that it is hard to imagine a tragic event once occurred on its shores.
4. Jungle River Boat Cruise
Palau has taken crocodile sighting into another level through the Jungle River Boat Cruise in Ngchesar State which is located in the heart of the country's biggest island, Babeldaob.
The 30-minute ride from Koror to Ngchesar will be worth the journey as it is far from the idea of seeing crocodiles locked up in a cage. Instead, visitors will enjoy the view of the crocodiles "live" in its natural habitat.
Tourist will then have a short trek through the jungle towards a river where a small dock and a boat is stationed.
The boat will carry the tourists for a cruise around the river to look for crocodiles. While on the cruise, sight-seers will also enjoy the view of mangrove trees and other flora and fauna.
5. Japanese Lighthouse or Todai Tour
Locals had a renewed interest in this World War 2 relic in Ngarchelong State as its historical and potential values as a tourist destination are now given emphasis.
The state government through the collaboration of the national government's tourism arm had developed the site that was once a home to the Japanese Lighthouse (Todai in Japanese) used by the Japanese troops in World War 2.
Remains of the structure still sit on the Eleos hill in Ngarchelong State. Evidence of the bombardment that the structure suffered during the war is quite visible on its walls. Being the highest peak in Ngarchelong, the site also gives the tourist an impressive view of the sunset.
6. Trek to Ngardmau Water Falls
This trip to one of Palau's popular waterfalls requires a bit of stamina. The 30-minute trek to the waterfall in Ngardmau State will be rewarded by the picturesque view of the jungle and the therapeutic sound of falling water at the end of the trail. If one is in for it, tourist can also take a dip in the natural pool and enjoy the freshwater.
7. Visit the Belau National Museum
A visit to the Belau National Museum in Koror will not only enlighten one about the history of Palau as a nation, but it is also a doorway to the different forms of Palauan arts and artifacts. It was established in 1955 and boasts of being the oldest museum in Micronesia.
8. Drive around Babeldaob and visit the National Capitol
Palau is such a small country in terms of land area that if you want to visit as many places as you could, it can be done so by driving around its biggest island, Babeldaob, where most of the country's states are situated. Driving around Babeldaob island will offer one a scenic view of the island's natural landscape. Some tour companies in Palau offer cars for rent for this kind of activity.
A tour around Babeldaob island will give one Instagram-worthy pictures but perhaps the most remarkable of this is a stopover at the National Capitol in Melekeok State.
The National Capitol is a head-turner when you drive North of Palau as it is the only giant structure in Babeldaob that is visible even from a distant. Palau's National Capitol's design was inspired by the United States Capitol. Some tourists go there to take photos of the building.
9.Palau Aquarium: A Glimpse of Palau's Rich Ocean Resources
A visit to the Palau Aquarium is like a peek into the richness of Palau's water resources. Without having to wear a diving mask, your eyes will be in for a treat. In it, you will see golden jellyfish, Blacktip Shark, and other wild sea creatures. It is also easily accessible as it is situated in Koror State, Palau's commercial hub.
The Aquarium is open from 9 am to 5 pm during Saturdays and Sundays and 8 am to 5 pm during weekdays.
10. Aerial Tour and Skydiving
"Pristine Paradise" is Palau's tourism slogan but one does not have to be a swimmer or a diver to experience its unspoiled environment. Take it to the sky instead to have a bird's eye view of the islands and see its crystal clear oceans. Some tour companies like the Palau Helicopters and Fish n' Fins offer aerial tours but if you're feeling brave enough, maybe your stomach can also handle the great bucket list - skydiving.
With a carefully laid out itinerary and some stash of cash, you will surely be able to try some of these tourist activities and enjoy Palau without having to take a dip in the water.