Yap, with its traditional Micronesian culture and vibrant shallow reefs filled with a wealth of diverse Western Pacific marine species will be the first stop on our journey. We then travel to the remote archipelago of Palau where we find some of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems on earth. From its prolific mangroves, vast sea grass beds, and unique marine lakes, including the exotic Jellyfish Lake, to its intensive patch, fringing and barrier reefs, Palau offers a wide variety of snorkeling opportunities.
Covering an area of over 3 million square miles just north of the equator, Micronesia consists of three major island chains, the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall Islands. We will visit the westernmost islands of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau and the state of Yap, known for their rich diversity of marine life.
Yap will be the first stop on our program. Here we will enjoy both the colorful elements of Micronesian culture, and an introduction to the vibrant shallow reefs containing a wealth of diverse Western Pacific marine species. Our second stop will be the remote archipelago of Palau, home to 586 islands and some of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems on earth. Over 400 species of coral provide habitat for approximately 1500 species of fish (with new species still being discovered) and literally thousands of invertebrates. Traditional management of marine life, along with new scientific research and marine protection policies has made the Republic a model of marine conservation. Though the country is relatively westernized, Palauans still rely heavily upon their reefs and surrounding environments for food, so they are careful to protect these resources.
Using the private boats that we have reserved at each resort, we will be able to take full advantage of the many rich underwater environments Yap & Palau have to offer. On most days, following breakfast we will meet our boat at the resort’s dock and head out to one or two snorkeling sites, eating lunch back at the resort or on a sandy, shady beach. We will snorkel again in the afternoon. On several occasions, evening presentations will be given before dinner at the resort.
Whenever possible, we plan to co-ordinate our snorkeling activities with the tides, allowing us calm, protected conditions, and the chance to observe and compare fish behavior at different times of day. During the program we hope to venture into a variety of marine habitats, from seagrass beds, patch, fringing, and barrier reefs, as well as the unique marine lakes hidden in the famous Rock Islands. We will also be able to learn first-hand about current research by visiting marine labs on the main island of Koror.
Palau offers the snorkeler opportunities to see more species of fish and invertebrates than almost anywhere I know. Several anemonefish species are conspicuous reef inhabitants, along with Napolean wrasse, parrotfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, anthias, groupers, moorish idols, and the list goes on and on. The reef fishes here are highly specialized, occupying predictable niches, like the beautiful mandarinfish that thrives in shallow inner lagoon habitat. Although not as profuse, we may also encounter hawksbill and green turtles, sting rays, and harmless reef sharks.
Surrounded by the steep Rock Islands, the sheltered lagoon reefs of Palau harbor many delicate species that could not survive anywhere else. We will also reserve time to explore Palau’s outer barrier reef where we may have the opportunity to observe sea turtles and reef sharks. Here shallow reefs are are flanked by dramatic vertical walls of coral that may extend thousands of feet deep. Depending on conditions, we may also be able to do some drift snorkeling, a slow, effortless “flight” over vibrant coral reef teeming with color and life.
In Palau, one unique snorkeling experience will be a visit to Jellyfish Lake. Surrounded by lush limestone forest and mangrove trees in the heart of Palau’s mushroom-shaped Rock Islands, along with an endemic anemone species, and other fascinating fauna, it is estimated that over 15 million jellyfish inhabit this lake. What makes this a truly unique experience is that due to the lack of competitive pressure in the lake, these jellyfish have evolved into a variety harmless to humans. It may sound a bit spooky, but the jellyfish aren’t slimy or aggressive.
Despite it being a far away and “foreign” destination, Palau offers many of the creature comforts we expect in the United States. With U.S. dollars, English and even a zip code, it feels more like a U.S. protectorate than the independent nation it has been since October 1, 1994.
Over the past century, Palauans have adapted to shifting international influences and pressures (German,
Japanese, and American), making their small country a Pacific crossroads of culture and knowledge. Rather than isolating themselves from the 21st century, they have embraced the global economy, and have become involved in international environmental and social issues.
In contrast, the Yapese provide visitors with an opportunity to become better acquainted with Micronesian culture. Longstanding, traditional ways of life are still maintained and it’s common to find men wearing thu’us (a type of loincloth) and women with grass skirts in the island’s small villages. It is also home to the world’s largest currency, rightfully known as “stone money.” These “coins” are huge round circles of rock, some over ten feet in diameter–definitely not “pocket change”! Yap will be our first stop during this program where we will enjoy both the colorful elements of Micronesian culture, and the vibrant shallow reefs containing a wealth of diverse Western Pacific marine species.
Palau and Yap’s recent history will serve as backdrop for our travels. As American forces island-hopped their way across Oceania towards the Philippines and Japan, Palau’s southern island of Peleliu was the site of one of the fiercest battles in the Pacific campaign. It is likely that as we explore Palau’s many islands and bays, we will pass gun emplacements, sunken planes, and shipwrecks from WWII. We may even have a chance to snorkel among some of these sunken relics.
Our program begins once your flight from Guam on April 1st arrives in Colonia, Yap. We then transfer to the nearby Manta Ray Bay Hotel that will be our home for the next four nights. While a detailed itinerary follows, be aware that our itinerary will be heavily dependent upon the daily tides and currents so that we can offer the optimal times to visit particular sites.
After a late breakfast we receive an overview from our trip leader(s) about the geographic region of Micronesia as well as a detailed itinerary for the Yap portion of our program. Lunch will then be served. Following that, it will be time to board our private boat and introduce ourselves to the colorful inhabitants of the Western Pacific’s warm tropical waters. Distances to most snorkel sites in Yap are quite short, ranging from 5 to 30 minutes by boat. B,L,D
These days will be spent in and on the water, visiting sites such as Mi’l Channel where reef fish and hard corals thrive. In addition, we will have the opportunity to snorkel the gently sloping fringing reefs of Gabach Garden Walls, where the variety of marine life seems endless. On our final afternoon we will participate in a historical and cultural tour of the island. After dinner on our last day, we transfer to the Yap airport where we’ll take the 40 minute flight to Palau. Upon arrival in Palau, we will transfer to the nearby Palau Pacific Resort, our home for the next seven nights. B,L,D
Following breakfast, we plan to visit the Palau International Coral Reef Center which will provide an excellent introduction to Palau’s varied ecosystems and inhabitants. Lunch will be at a local restaurant in town. This afternoon, there will be time for a snorkel off the resort’s lovely beach. Dinner will be served at our hotel overlooking the lagoon. B,L,D
Following breakfast each day, we will meet our boat at the resort’s dock and head out to the Rock Islands and the surrounding environments, visiting inner lagoon reefs such as Soft Coral Arch and Lighthouse Channel. Winding our way through the mushroom-like islands, we’ll spend time snorkeling in several hidden marine lakes, home to unique marine life. “Mandarinfish Lake,” home to its elusive, yet beautiful, namesake, will most likely be on our list of snorkeling sites. We will also likely snorkel the one-of-a-kind “Jellyfish Lake,” an experience of a lifetime. Another highlight will be a drift snorkel through Lighthouse Channel. On several days lunch will be served on a sandy beach where we can relax in the shade of coconut trees. Other days we will return to the resort for lunch. Each afternoon, we will head deeper into the limestone maze of islands, snorkeling over WWII wrecks, lovely sea grass beds, as well as patch, fringing, and barrier reefs. This area holds countless snorkel sites, including Iro Lake and Honeymoon Beach. Evening presentations will be given on several occasions before we sample the fare at the resort. B,L,D
Our last full day amongst the islands of Palau will be spent visiting one of the most dramatic tropical reef walls in the world. We will return to the resort for lunch. After one last snorkeling opportunity, we will head back to our resort where we’ll pack and prepare for our farewell dinner. We will leave for the airport late this evening. B,L,D
Flights back home depart early in the morning.
This trip is limited to 16 participants, with a minimum of 10. Due to the limited space available for this tour, reservations will be accepted in the order deposits are received. You will be notified when your space is confirmed.
The costs for this travel experience are $6690 per person, based on double occupancy. For those requesting a single room an additional supplement of $1490 will be added to the tour cost. Please be advised that single space is limited and subject to availability. If you wish to share a room, we will do our best to find a roommate for you. If, by the time of your final payment, a share cannot be found and space is available, you will be charged a single supplement.
Deposits & payments
A deposit of $850, plus a signed, completed reservation form confirms your registration for the trip. You will be notified when your space on the program is confirmed. Final payment, plus single supplement, if applicable, are due 120 days prior to departure.
The tour fee includes
Tour fee is based on land package only. It includes all bus and boat transfers in Palau and Yap, meals as indicated in the itinerary, accommodations in hotels as specified, all snorkeling activities, guided cultural excursions, local taxes, group gratuities to hotel/resort staff, services of the trip leader including any needed snorkeling lessons, biology lectures, and explanations of Palau and Yap’s cultural and natural history.
The tour fee does not include
International and domestic flights, flights within Micronesia, increases in international airfare rates and departure taxes, SCUBA activities, rental gear, medical immunizations, passport fees, accident/baggage/cancellation insurance, individual transfers, excess baggage charges, medical expenses, meals not specified in the itinerary, dishes and beverages not part of included meals, laundry, telephone, internet or fax charges, room service, and other items of a purely personal nature.
International and/or domestic airfare
Sea for Yourself does not issue airline tickets. Trip participants are responsible for making their own air travel arrangements. Please do not purchase airline tickets until your reservation for the program has been confirmed and you have reviewed your travel schedule with our office.
This program will be enjoyed by all snorkelers, from novice to expert. Our trip leaders will gladly provide any needed snorkeling instruction, from floating to free-diving. Whenever possible, we will seek out protected waters for our snorkeling excursions, but at times the surface may be choppy due to wind.
While Sea for Yourself considers snorkeling the top priority, Palau also provides certified SCUBA divers with some of the world’s best diving opportunities. Although not included in our program, SCUBA diving is easily accessible through local dive operators.
Climate and weather
We have scheduled our departure end of March, which historically has offered the ideal blend of comfortable
water temperatures, relatively calm conditions, and less rain than other months. Daytime temperatures in the areas
we will be visiting range from the mid-80’s to the low-90’s. Although we have selected this month because of low
rainfall, in the tropics, there is always a chance of rain. Water temperature during this period ranges from the low to
Thermal tolerance obviously varies with each individual. As a guideline, many people wear a thin wet suit when in
the water longer than 30 or 40 minutes. Please remember that some kind of covering (such as a Lycra suit or even
pajamas!) when in the water is highly recommended as protection from sun, occasional stinging zooplankton, and
to prevent coral abrasions. In the water individuals will best know their own “comfort zones” which can be
extended with the use of a lightweight wetsuit which will help conserve body heat and add comfort and buoyancy
while in the water. We wear wetsuits and recommend that you seriously consider wearing one as well.
After you have reserved space on a trip and the program is confirmed, you will receive information to help you prepare for departure, including airline information to arrange for your international and/or domestic flights, optional supplemental travel insurance information, a complete packing and a reading list and other useful information about our destination.
Sea for Yourself provides participants who are U.S. or Canadian citizens with limited medical, accident and evacuation coverage under our group travel insurance policy. We highly recommend the purchase of optional baggage and trip cancellation insurance; information will be sent to registrants. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions may be waived with the prompt purchase of travel insurance.