Southwest of Koror in Palau, the snorkeling in the Rock Islands is popular for diverse marine life and extensive coral species.. The Rock Islands - Southern Lagoon Management Area is a protected collection of 200 limestone seamounts that are jungle covered. It is located just southwest of Koror and the main airport. A popular way to explore the Rock Islands is via sea kayak.
Within the Rock Islands marine reserve, the best snorkeling can be found in the Ngemelis Island Complex, which is known for turtles, sharks and rays. The edge of the Ngemelis wall has beautiful coral, giant clams and plenty of marine life. In the depths below the wall edge, you can usually see sharks circling around. This is a popular drift dive site where you can be dropped at one end of the wall and drift in with the tides to the pickup site.
The Nikko Bay snorkeling is known for its protected ancient coral forests. The coral has grown to truly incredible heights.
The Turtle Cove snorkeling offers a very shallow and protected dive experience. The water depth in Turtle Cove is only 3 feet deep all the way out about 300 feet offshore. During Turtle Cove snorkeling, you may encounter near shore grey sharks, white tipped reef sharks, leopard sharks, butterflyfish, angelfish and moorish idols. The sharks are attracted to the congregation of reef fish due to consistent feeding by the tour groups.
One of the more popular snorkeling dives is at Jellyfish Lake on Macharchar Island (aka Mecherchar Island). Located on a steep ridge above the ocean waterline, the land-locked, saltwater lake is filled with millions of stingless-jellyfish, which snorkelers love to observe. Make sure you have purchased the specific permit to snorkel in Jellyfish Lake.
Off the northern end of Macharchar Island, there is another popular snorkeling spot called Giant Clam Beach (aka Clam City). The waters in this protected cove are known for the 4 foot diameter giant clams. The water depth ranges from 3 to 30 feet deep and the water clarity is 15 to 35 feet. Some of the Giant Tridacnas Clams are 100 years old and weigh up to 250 pounds. When snorkeling above giant clams, make sure not to block the sunlight to them by casting a shadow since that will make them close. The clams have black-eye pores over their mantle which synthesize solar energy. During Clam Beach snorkeling, you may also encounter moorish idols, chromis and sergeant majors among the staghorn coral formations.
The Republic of Palau consists of 343 islands located in the western Pacific Ocean but only 9 islands are inhabited. They form the southwestern end of the Western Caroline Islands in Micronesia. The country is in a free association with the United States, which provides defense and use of the US Dollar as currency. The islands of Palau are the exposed peaks of an under-sea mountain ridge. These peaks have a protected coral lagoon with an encircling barrier reef. The lagoon waters are known to have excellent water clarity and exceptional marine diversity, which results in Palau archipelago being rated as one of the best snorkeling dive destinations worldwide. During Palau snorkeling, you may encounter colorful pristine coral reefs, giant clams, anemones, sponges, wrasses, parrotfish, triggerfish, cuttlefish, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays and manta rays.
To reach the snorkeling in Palau by air, fly into the Roman Tmetuchl International Airport which is located on Babelthuap Island just north of the town of Airai. It is about 6 miles northeast of Koror. The airport is served by direct flights from Guam, Japan, Phillipines, Taiwan and South Korea. The flights from Guam are served via United Airlines and occasionally stop in the Yap Islands on the way. To reach Guam, there are United Airlines flights from Honolulu. Keep in mind that most flights arrive and depart very early in the morning.
Note: While in the marine reserve, all snorkelers are required to have a valid Rock Island Use permit from the Koror State Rangers Office (680) 488-2150. Some tour operators also resell these permits. Keep in mind that there are designated Tourist Activity Areas on specific islands and tourists are not allowed outside of those specific areas, which are reserved for Palauan residents.
Overall, Rock Islands is the 2nd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 2 snorkeling dives in Palau.