The Republic of Palau is inimitable. Most tourists who come here like to spend their time underwater, for Palau is among the world’s most spectacular diving and snorkelling destinations. It features coral reefs, blue holes, wartime wrecks, hidden caves and tunnels, more than 60 vertical drop-offs to play with, and an astonishing spectrum of coral, fish, and rare sea creatures. There are also some outright miracles of evolution: giant clams that weigh a quarter of a ton, for example, and a lake teeming with 21 million softly pulsating, stingless jellyfish.
But you don’t have to get wet to enjoy Palau. On land the republic embraces Micronesia’s richest flora and fauna: exotic birds fly around the islands, crocodiles slip through the mangrove swamps and orchids sprout profusely in backyards. The Palauan archipelago is incredibly diverse, encompassing the polyglot state of Koror; the marvellous Rock Islands; Micronesia’s second-largest island, Babeldaob (the land that Pacific standard time forgot); Peleliu, once war ravaged, now just ravishing; tranquil, tiny Angaur; the coral atolls of Kayangel and Ngeruangel; and the remote South-West Islands.
Toss into the mix some of Micronesia’s most sociable (and responsible) people, and it’s no surprise that parts of Palau are known as the ‘beginning of everything’, a template the rest of the world would do well to follow.
About that responsibility: Palauans love a good, socially aware acronym, and you can see them everywhere on signs and billboards, like ‘WAVE – Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically’ or ‘STARS – Start Treating Alcohol Related Symptoms’. You might find yourself playing this game, too. And perhaps you’ll come to the same conclusion we did, that the name of this country is itself an acronym: ‘Palau’s Archipelago: Lovely and Unique’.