Palau is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land mass, ranking 197 out of 249 countries and territories. What it lacks in dry land, Palau compensates in wet variety, offering some of the most biologically diverse waters in the entire world.

Palau's marine ecosystems include barrier reefs, fringing reefs, inner lagoons, sea grass beds, marine lakes, and mangrove forests. Palau's pristine marine habitats support some of the richest populations of corals, fish, and other invertebrates. With over 1,500 species of fish, abundance of large pelagic animals and over 700 species of corals, Palau is one of the most diverse tropical zones.

Palau is located at a cross road between the enormous Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea, just outside a geographic region of the world known as the "Coral Triangle". Palau's remarkable biodiversity is mainly attributed to:

  • Its geographic location, being the meeting point of large bodies of water.

  • Its wide array of marine environments found in its warm, tropical waters.

  • The large amounts of nutrients, brought in from the ocean by circulating currents, feeding marine creatures and keeping the reefs vibrant.

  • The abundance of larvae of various fish, coral and invertebrates, brought in by currents from other locations in the Indo-Pacific.

Palau falls strategically in the path of transient pelagic creatures, such as whale sharks, whales and dolphins, and is home to the world's most remote and isolated population of dugong, an endangered marine mammal. Within the diving community, Palau is famous for its shark population, numbering over 130 species! In 2009, Palau became the world's first Shark Sanctuary, prohibiting commercial fishing operations from catching sharks.

Palau has the largest abundance of marine lakes in the world, a unique ecosystem containing small, isolated populations of organisms. One of those lakes is Jellyfish Lake, with millions of non-stinging Golden Jellyfish.

Given the size and locations of the islands in Palau, the number of endemic species in Palau is surprisingly high. The Palau Nautilus, an extremely rare creature worldwide, is one of Palau's endemic marine creatures. Palau has over 1,260 species of terrestrial plants, including over 800 that are endemic, and twelve species of birds found only in Palau.

Home to Micronesia's largest resident populations of terrestrial bird, animal and plant species, Palau's terrestrial biodiversity makes Palau an absolute treasure trove for avid birders and terrestrial naturalists. See our Land Tours and Daily Kayak Trips pages to seize unique opportunities to explore Palau above water.

Palau was declared by National Geographic Society as the first Underwater Wonder of the World, and was featured on Discovery Channel's “Living Edens” series as one of the world's last living Edens.

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