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Palau, an hour and a half southwest of Guam, has received its share of superlative labels: one of the Seven Wonders of the Diving World and The Marine Life Capital of the Western Pacific among them. Whatever it is called, the islands that make up the archipelago of Palau constitute one of the truly remarkable -and beautiful- places on the planet. Its rich waters, seemingly full of thousands of species of marine creatures, provide a diving experience unique in its complexity, variation and pure, adrenaline-filled excitement.

Palau consists of 343 islands at the southwest corner of the Western Caroline Islands. It is a part of Micronesia, which is made up of 2,100 islands--both mountains and coral atolls--scattered across the Western Pacific. Sunlight and rainfall have created lush tropical ecosystems above; below, nutrient-rich ocean currents feed an underwater environment unsurpassed in diversity anywhere in the world.

If one imagines a complex reef system, hundreds of miles in circumference, surrounding a gigantic lagoon filled with upthrust, jungle-covered islands of myriad shapes and sizes, that's a hint of the impression of Palau. Then add warm, clear water of varying shades of cobalt blue and bright turquoise visited by flocks of birds, such as cockatoos, terns and petrels, and the impression grows. With hot, sun drenched air stirred by a soft trade wind and a cloud-puffed blue sky that turns orange, violet and crimson at sunset in the mix, imagination begins to come close to the astonishing reality.

    The diving experience, however, exceeds the realms of imagination. The excitement, the numbers of fish and other creatures, and the richness and variation of the reef systems are impossible to anticipate. And Palau, as one of diving's wonders, is truly among the best the Pacific has to offer.

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