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Liveaboard Index is for scuba divers who prefer to experience diving on a liveaboard dive boat. A liveaboard allows one to dive up to 5 times per day in generous comfort and explore remote locations that day boats cannot reach.

Table of Content


This is adventure travel at it’s best. For the more adventurous SCUBA diver, the polar regions offer a truly unique experience. Dive amongst steep walls, kelp walls, majestic fjords, ice floes, towering icebergs, and underwater ice formations, such as arches an ice caves. This unspoiled and little explored frontier provides excellent opportunities for underwater photography. Generally, arctic diving is reserved for advanced divers, having completed at least 20 dry suit dives. Buoyancy characteristics can change quickly, as melting fresh water runs into sea saltwater. Also, as a icebergs melt, their center of gravity can tend to shift, causing dangerous eddies and whirlpools. Some of these regions are so remote that liveaboard dive boats are the only way to get there.

Arctic – Northern Polar Regions

Although the water temperature is near freezing, there is an abundance of colorful soft corals. Areas covered: Greenland, Norway, White Sea, Barents Sea.

Antarctica – Southern Polar Regions

Antarctica is the highest, coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth. While the Antarctic continent is quite barren, it’s coastal seas are home to a complex food web, with over 120 species of fish. Apart from the deep sea, it is the largest and deepest self-contained ecosystem in the world, and contains the greatest quantities of animal protein in the world. Diving is best in Antarctica November through March, when wildlife is most active and visibility is better before the plankton blooms arrive. Departure points: Argentina, Chile, alkland Islands, New Zealand or Tasmania.

Baja California

The Baja California peninsula is the westernmost portion of Mexico. It is bordered to the north by the American state of California, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, and to the east by the Sea of Cortez. The northern half of the peninsula is known as the Mexican state of Baja California, and the southern half is the Mexican state of Baja California Sur.

The Diving

Baja California Sur is an often overlooked destination for a SCUBA diving vacation, yet the diving here is amongst the best to be found anywhere on the planet. Together, the Baja peninsula and Southern California offer many types of diving, including vast quantities of large pelagic fish, mammals and invertebrates, several endemic and rare marine species, great white shark cage diving, and expansive kelp forests. The 4 main places to dive in this general area are the Sea of Cortez, the Revillagigedo Islands (Socorro), Guadalupe Island, and the Channel Islands of Southern California. The liveaboard dive boats that serve these places are generally based in either Baja California Sur or Southern California. The cities of La Paz, San Jose del Cabo, and Cabo San Lucas are located close to the best diving action, and as such, ideal jumping off points for SCUBA liveaboard diving trips. A liveaboard trip is an all inclusive vacation package on a crewed luxury yacht charter. This site is dedicated to all liveaboards that offer shared charters, which allows people to reserve an individual berth on a dive boat. This option offers the most value and the opportunity to meet fellow SCUBA dive travelers from around the world. However, most liveaboards also allow the entire boat to be chartered, for ultimate privacy and flexibility.

Sea of Cortez

Skill Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Depth: 3 – 30 meters (10 – 100 feet)
Ports: Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, San Diego

Also known as the the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is a narrow, but very deep, strip of water which separates the Baja California Peninsula from the mainland of Mexico. The water temperature varies quite significantly from summer to winter, thus hard corals are somewhat limited here. Nonetheless, these plankton-rich, fertile waters are teaming with life. It is an incredibly diverse and abundant sea, and has a larger variety of whales and dolphins than found anywhere else in the world. Jacques-Yves Cousteau once called it the “aquarium of the world”. The Sea of Cortez is home to more than 850 species of fish, including many endemic species such as the Cortez round ray, Cortez angelfish, and Cortez damselfish. Some of the largest fish and mammals in the world navigate these waters, including a wide variety of whales. Depending on the time of year, one might see orcas (killer whales), gray whales, sperm whales, pilot whales, humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, whale sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, Humboldt squid, manta rays, mobulas, bat rays, stingrays, eagle rays, Cortez round ray, bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, Mexican barracudas, Cortez angelfish, Cortez damselfish, tuna, wahoo, marlin, leatherback turtles, and many more.

Unlike the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula, which is fed by the cold waters of the “California current” from the north, the Sea of Cortez tends to be warm, especially during summer and autumn. July through November offers the best visibility and warmest water. The visibility varies from 18 to 30 meters (60-100 feet), this time of year, and the surface water temperature tends to be between 21ºC and 30ºC (70-87ºF). At depth, the water temperature can be 1 to 5 degrees Celsius colder (1-10 degrees Fahrenheit). A 3mm wetsuit is recommended. In the months of February through May, the visibility and water temperature are the lowest – at this time of year, expect visibility between 9 to 15 meters (30-50 feet), and surface water temperatures between 15ºC and 21ºC (60-70ºF). 5 to 7mm wetsuit with a hood is recommended. However, these conditions can vary significantly from month to month, and even week to week. One way to plan for this variance, is to bring two wetsuits. If visiting in the summer, for example, one might take along a 3/2mm shorty and a 3mm wetsuit, so if it happens to be much colder than expected, one can wear both.

Revillagigedo Islands (Socorro Island)

Skill Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Depth: 6 – 31 meters (20 – 130 feet)
Season: November – June
Ports: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, San Diego

The Revillagigedo Islands, or simply “Revilla” for short, are located 400 km (250 miles) south-southwest from the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, in the Pacific Ocean. This archipelago is comprised of four, uninhabited (except for a small naval station) volcanic islands: Socorro, San Benedicto, Roca Partida (the Inner Islands), and Clarión (the Outer Island). The remoteness of this archipelago has allowed the flora and fauna here to evolve in their own unique way, not unlike the Galápagos Islands and Cocos Island. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as “Mexico’s Galápagos Islands”. It is one of the best places in the world to encounter many species of sharks, manta rays and other large pelagic creatures.

Since the 1700’s, sailors returned with legendary tales of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, citing the amazing variety, abundance, and size of fish there. By the 1960’s, commercial fishermen and recreational SCUBA divers began visiting the islands. At that time, it was not uncommon for one to see over one hundred sharks, of various species, on a single dive. By 1990, commercial overfishing had taken a severe toll on the marine life there. On June 4, 1994, the Mexican government declared the Revillagigedo Islands a protected Biosphere Reserve, prohibiting fishing within 6 to 12 miles of the islands. This was much to the credit of Sea Watch, which had videotaped the rampant slaughter of sharks and mantas by fishermen near Isla San Benedicto. While these efforts have since helped to stabilize the Manta and whitetip reef shark populations, pelagic shark populations have continued to decline. By 2008, divers were reporting seeing around 10 to 15 sharks per dive. While Revillagigedo is not what it once was, it remains one of the world’s most unique and diverse ecosystems.

A liveaboard dive boat is the only way to dive to the Revillagigedo Islands, and it takes approximately 24 hours to get there. Due to weather conditions, the best time to go is November through June. The currents can be quite strong, with strong surges as well, therefore this location is not recommended for beginners. Expect to see only a few subtropical corals, due to the cool winter water, as well as gorgonian sea fans. The bathymetry tends to be that of rocky reefs, walls, and seamounts (underwater mountains that do not breach the surface). The Boiler seamount is popular for it’s manta ray cleaning stations. Some dives can reach a depth of 31 meters (130 feet). Visibility can be anywhere from 15 to 30 meters (50 to 100 feet), or more. The surface water temperature is 21° to 23° C (69° to 74° F) during the winter months of January through April – a 3mm to 5mm wetsuit is recommended in winter. The temperature is 24° to 27° C (75° to 80° F) during autumn and spring – anything from a shorty to a 3mm full wetsuit is generally sufficient at these times. Look for scalloped hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, silky sharks, tiger sharks, whitetip reef sharks, silvertip sharks, dusky sharks, manta rays, humpback whales (January through March), bottlenose dolphins, marlin, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, jacks, scorpionfish, moray eels, green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, leatherback turtles, olive ridley turtles, lobsters, octopuses, several species of endemic tropical fish, and perhaps even the rare great hammerhead shark.

Guadalupe Island

Skill Level: Novice
Depth: 12 meters (40 feet)
Season: August – October
Ports: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, San Diego

Guadalupe Island is a Mexican territory, which lies 241 km (150 miles) west of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. It has an area of 243.988 square km (94.204 square miles). Guadalupe has good diving, but the primary reason for visiting here is cage diving. This is one of the best places in the world to dive with the great white shark, rivaling even that of South Africa. The great whites here generally measure between 3.5 to 5.5 meters (12 to 19 feet) in length. One may also encounter oceanic whitetip sharks, cuvier’s beaked whale, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, northern elephant seals, Guadalupe fur seals, California sea lions, and bluefin & yellowfin tuna. The visibility tends to be 20 to 38 meters (65 to 125 feet). The water temperature is anywhere from 18º to 21º C (65º – 70º F). Since one will likely spend a lot of time in the water, with little movement, it is advisable to suit warmer than normal for these temperatures. A 5mm to 9mm full wetsuit and hood is recommended.

Channel Islands of California

Skill Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Depth: 3 – 24 meters (10 – 80 feet)
Ports: San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Pedro

The Channel Islands of California is the name given to a group of 8 islands located 20 miles from the south California coast. The names of islands are Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, San Clemente, San Miguel, San Nicolas, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa. Over a thousand marine species are be found here, 145 of which are found nowhere else in the world. The seafloor is marked by great kelp forests, pinnacles, rocky reefs, and a few hard corals. A few wrecks can be found in the area, such as the USS Butler, a naval destroyer located at a depth of 24 meters (80 feet). Expect to see horn sharks, bat rays, angel sharks, California sea lions, harbor seals, moray eels, wolf eels, giant sea bass, and spiny lobsters. Currents can be very strong in places. Dives will typically fall between 3 to 24 meters (10-80 feet). Visibility can be anywhere between 12 to 30 meters (40 to 100 feet). The surface water temperature is 15° to 21° C (60° to 70° F) in the summer; a 5mm – 7mm wetsuit is recommened). During the rest of the year, the water temperature is 12° to 18° C (55-65° F); a 7mm wetsuit up to a dry suit is recommened. Either a full wetsuit and hood, or dry suit, is recommended year-round.

The Caribbean

The crystal clear, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea offer excellent diving. Most dive sites do not experience strong currents. Thus, this is a good place to learn to dive. Most liveaboards offer entry-level SCUBA diving training and certification.

There is no bad time of year to dive the Caribbean. The climate and waters remain warm year-round. The surface water temperature ranges from 26 to 32 °C (80-90 °F) in the summer, but can dip to 25°C (78°F) in winter and at lower depths. Tropical storms and hurricanes can occur during the summer months. The official hurricane season runs from 1 June through 30 November, however, most hurricane activity occurs between August and October.

The Bahamas

Liveaboards: Aqua Cat, Avalon, Cat Ppalu, Dolphin Dream, Easy Goin, Juliet, Morning Star, Pirates Lady, Sea Explorer, Shear Water

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an English speaking country consisting of 29 islands, and thousands of cays and islets. It is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world. The Bahamas host a variety of diving, such as wall dives, drift dives, wrecks, caves and blue holes. The massive coral reefs here teem with marine life. It is not unusual for one to spot Caribbean reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, nurse sharks, eagle rays, spotted and bottlenose dolphins, and the occasional tiger shark. The past 300 years have deposited hundreds of wrecks on the surrounding reefs, including pirate ships, Spanish galleons, and American Civil War gunboats.


Liveaboards: Belize Aggressor III, Sun Dancer II

The 900 kilometer (560 mile) long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the second largest coral reef system in the world, extending from Cancún to Honduras. 300 kilometers (186 miles) of this reef system is located in Belize. In Belize, one can find 106 species of coral, about 450 islets and cayes, atolls, and over 500 species of fish. It is also home to one of the famous Great Blue Hole, which is one of the largest sinkholes in the world.

Cayman Islands

Liveaboards: Cayman Aggressor IV

The Cayman Islands consist of the islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. These islands were formed by huge coral heads, atop the Cayman Trench. The Caymans are home to many tropical fish, but the main attraction is the magnificent reef itself. One will find fringing reefs, archways, tunnels, grottoes, walls, and steep drop-offs that extend thousands of meters. The waters here are exceptionally clear, calm and warm, with visibilities well exceeding 30 meters (100 feet). The most famous dive sites found here are Stingray City, where divers can closely interact with a local population of about 30 stingrays, and Bloody Bay Wall, which is considered one of the best wall dives in the world.


Liveaboards: Amazing Enterprise, Avalon I, Caballones, Halcon, La Reina, Tortuga

República de Cuba. Cuban waters share the third largest reef system in the world. Experience towering reef walls, atolls, swim-throughs, caves, and pinnacles. But even more impressive is the abundance of marine life found here, which rivals any other Caribbean destination for sheer quantities. Sharks are uncommonly plentiful here as well, including silky sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, whale sharks, bull sharks, and great hammerhead sharks. Through years of careful conservation and strict bans on commercial fishing, the Jardines de la Reina marine park is one of the most unspoiled dive venues in the world. Most major currencies can be exchanged into Cuba’s convertible peso, however, there is a 10% conversion tax for the USD. According to US law, it is strictly illegal for US citizens to engage in any monetary transaction for the purpose tourism in Cuba.

Florida Keys and The Dry Tortugas

Liveaboards: Gulf Stream Eagle, Juliet, Playmate, Spree, Ultimate Getaway

United States. The Florida Keys are a chain of 1,700 islands that extend from the tip of the Florida panhandle southwest to the island of Key West. About 110 kilometers (70 miles) west of Key West, lie the Dry Tortugas. The Dry Tortuga islands were named such by Ponce de León, due to the fact that they have no fresh water and once contained large number of turtles. The Tortugas are uninhabited and can only be reached by boat or seaplane. Diving in the Keys is similar to other Caribbean destinations, with clear warm waters throughout the year. With some exceptions, most dives tend not to be very deep or experience strong currents. The Keys are home to 600 varieties of fish, and many corals, such as elkhorn, stag, brain, and tree corals, as well as sea fans. What sets the Keys apart from other Caribbean destinations are the hundreds of wrecks that scatter the area, many of which date back to the colonial times and the American Civil War.

Honduras – Bay Islands

Liveaboards: Tabutne I, Utila Aggressor II

Honduras. The Bay Islands consist of the three large islands of Útila, Roatán and Guanaja, and several smaller islands and keys. The islands were formed by an underwater mountain range called the Bonacca Ridge, which is part of the world’s second largest barrier reef. This portion of the reef system contains nearly every species of coral encountered in the Caribbean Sea. Near Roatán, one will find rather impressive reef formations, including massive walls, deep fissures, chimneys, swim-throughs, and caves. The island of Útila rapidly gaining popularity, and is one of the best places in the world to spot whale sharks. A liveaboard allows one to dive the best sites of both islands. The water temperature is 26 to 29 °C (80-85 °F), but it tends to drop slightly in January and February. The water visibility is consistently 25 to 30 meters (80-100 feet) all year.

St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Croix and the BVI’s

Liveaboards: Caribbean Explorer II, Cuan Law

The islands of the east Caribbean were formed by deep-water volcanoes. Their steep, coral encrusted sides sweep down to depths of 1,500 meters (5,000 feet), which are frequented by large pelagic species. There are also seamounts, fringing reefs, and offshore shoals to be found here. While each island has onshore dive operations, a liveaboard offers the opportunity to dive the best sites of all these islands, in comfort and convenience.

Turks and Caicos

Liveaboards: Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, Turks & Caicos Explorer II

The Turks and Caicos Islands consist of 40 islands and cays, eight of which are inhabited. They are actually located in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea. They are surrounded by an extensive coral reef system, with great walls and steep drop-offs. The 35 kilometer (22 mile) wide channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands, is a 2,400 meeter (8,000 feet) deep trench that serves as a conduit for migrating manta rays, dolphins, and turtles. This is one of the best places to see humpback whales, which are common in February, March and early April.

Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (Archipiélago de Colón) are located in the Pacific Ocean, 605 miles (973 km) west of Ecuador, to which they belong. The archipelago consists of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. Isabela is the largest of the islands, measuring 1,790 square miles (4,640 sq km), which accounts for half of the total surface land mass of the islands.

Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835 aboard the HMS Beagle. The observations he made here helped provide inspiration and support for his theory of evolution by natural selection, which he would not make public until nearly 30 years later when he published his groundbreaking book “On the Origin of Species”. The Galápagos archipelago is home to many endemic species that are indigenous to no other part of the world, and many of them exhibit no inherent fear of humans due to their historical isolation.

The Diving

There is no bad time of year to go SCUBA diving in the Galápagos Islands. June through December, when the water is cooler, is the best time to spot whale sharks and other large pelagic mammals and fish. Due to the fast currents found at the Wolf and Darwin Islands, Galápagos is generally recommended for intermediate-to-advanced divers (100+ logged dives). But some of the liveaboards also offer itineraries that stick to the main islands, which offer sites that are suitable for novice divers as well. This is an extremely popular location and the liveaboards here are generally filled up a year or more in advance. The most expensive liveaboards will be found here as well – expect to pay between US $550 and $650 per day.

Popular Dive Sites

Cousins Rock

Skill Level: Novice-Advanced
An islet rising 30 feet (9m) above seal level. The ledges of it’s sloping sides are filled with black corals. Look for reef fish, turtles, moray eels, rays, and hammerheads sharks.

Darwin Island

Skill Level: Advanced
Darwin Island is located about 25 miles (40 km) north of Wolf Island. It is formed by the remains of an extinct volcano, reaching a height of 540 feet (165 m) above sea level, with an area of 0.4 square miles (1 sq km). Next to Darwin Island is a well known landmark called Darwin’s Arch, which is a rock arch formation that juts high out of the water. Expect rapid currents and surge. Look for whale sharks (June through November), pilot whales, melon-headed whales, Galápagos sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks, silky sharks, dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, hawksbill turtles, green sea turtles, spotted morays, scorpion fish, sailfish, hogfish, bluespotted and bigeye jacks, parrotfish, trumpet fish, and amberjacks.

Gordon Rocks

Skill Level: Novice-Advanced
Two large rocks with deep, sloping walls. This location offers a chance to see large schools of hammerhead sharks and snorkelling with sea lion colonies. There are two sites at this location suitable for novice divers, and three other sites with strong currents or surge. Look for hammerhead sharks, whitetip sharks, Galápagos sharks, sea lions, fur seals, eagle rays, golden rays, stingrays, moray eels, green sea turtles, and reef fish.

Wolf Island

Skill Level: Advanced
Wolf Island is located 60 miles (100 km) northwest of the main Galápagos group of islands. It is formed by the remains of an extinct volcano, reaching a height of 830 feet (253 m) above sea level, with an area of hakf a square mile (1.3 sq km). Expect rapid currents and surge, and cooler waters. Look for whale sharks (June through November), Galápagos sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, dolphins, barracuda, manta rays, Galápagos sea lions, fur seals, marbled rays, marine iguanas, green sea turtles, amberjacks, trumpet fish, hogfish, butterfly fish, coronet fish, and grunts.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, stretching over 3,000 km (1,800 miles). It is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland coast of northeast Australia, and is most accessible from Cairns and Whitsundays. The Great Barrier Reef is comprised of some 900 islands and more than 2,900 individual reef systems, which includes more than 400 different varieties of coral. One can find there many types of reefs, including ribbon reefs, fringing reefs, cresentic reefs, lagoonal reefs, platform reefs, planar reefs, and deltaic reefs. It is also home to 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of mollusk, more than 200 kinds of birds, about 20 types of reptiles, and is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic.

The Diving

Humpback whales and minke whales can be found June through August. The best visibility is enjoyed September through December.

Cocos Island

Cocos Island (Isla del Coco) is the world’s largest uninhabited island, measuring approximately 9 square miles (24 km²). It is part of Costa Rica and is located 340 miles (550 km) southwest of the Costa Rican mainland, in the Pacific Ocean. Cocos is easily one of the world’s best places to dive. Described as “the most beautiful island in the world” by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Cocos Island has developed a unique and rich ecological diversity, due to it’s remoteness, oceanic currents, and wet climate. Cocos Island is best known for it’s large schools of scalloped hammerheads and other sharks, which has led some to refer to it as “Shark Island” or “Island of the Sharks”. The area is also plentiful with whitetip reef sharks, manta rays, marble rays, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, bottlenose dolphins, and turtles.

Cocos Island was the fictional setting for Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”, and some say that it might have served as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. It is also said to have been a hideout for pirates. Indeed, this would have been an ideal location for pirates to stock up or lay low, due to it’s remote location, fresh water, plentiful coconuts, and rain forest for wood. The island has been inhabited with feral goats, pigs and deer, which sailors would occasionally leave behind, that they might breed and serve as a source of food on future stopovers.

Getting There

Cocos is accessible only only by boat, which can take between 30 and 40 hours, depending on the boat. One can expect the crossing to be rather choppy and long, so those who are even slightly susceptible to motion sickness should plan ahead. As for the logistics of getting there, it is typical for one to fly to San José (SJO) a day or two before departure. It’s best to arrive in Costa Rica early, because if you miss the boat you won’t be able to catch up to it in a water taxi or helicopter – it’s too far. On the morning of departure, one would take a two to three hour bus ride to the port of Puntarenas. Because of the time required to get there and back, and being one of the best places in the world to dive, one might consider booking a excursion that is at least 10 days in duration, (a 7 day trip would allow one only about 3 to 4 days of SCUBA diving).

The Diving

Diving is virtually the only activity at Cocos Island, and access to the island interior is restricted. This location is not recommended for novice divers, due to deep dives, strong currents, and the remoteness of the island – it’s too far for search & rescue helicopters. Cocos is good to visit any time of year. The best time to go is when the water is cooler, during the rainy season which runs from May to December, as the hammerheads and other large fauna are most plentiful at that time. However, from January to April, one can expect the sea to be less turbulent (smoother passage) and the visibility better. Considering the duration and distance, this is not the cheapest place to dive. Liveaboards here tend to cost between US $350 and $500 per day. If cost is challenge, the boats operating out of Panama occasionally travel to Cocos and offer cheaper rates on average. Cocos Island is an incredible place to dive and worth every penny and pence, whether it be a return visit or a once in a lifetime experience.

Popular Dive Sites


Skill Level: Advanced
Depth: 90-120 feet (27-37m)
Towering underwater pinnacle. Cleaning stations, schooling hammerheads, and mantas.

Big Dos Amigos

Skill Level: Advanced
Depth: 65 to 120 feet (20-37m)
A high arch and pinnacle with shark cleaning stations. Look for hammerheads, rainbow runners, yellowtail snappers, bigeye jacks, and lobsters.

Dirty Rock

Skill Level: Advanced
Depth: 65 to 130 feet (20-40m)
Several pinnacles forming a gorge them and the island, through which swim hammerheads, marble rays, eagle rays, and occasionally whale sharks and manta rays.


Depth: 45 to 130 feet (13-40m)
Skill Level: Advanced
A sheer wall frequented by hammerheads, whitetip sharks, marbled rays, creaoles.

Shark Fin Rock

Skill Level: Advanced
Depth: 40-130 feet (12-40m)
Rocky slope visited by bigeye jacks, wahoo, tuna, and moray eels.


The Republic of Palau is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, which consists of about 300 islands. It is approximately 500 miles (800 km) east of the Philippines and 2,000 miles (3,200 km) south of Tokyo. The waters here, are home to over 700 species of coral and 1,300 species of fish, and is famous for viewing large pelagic fish. For this, “Blue Corner” is one of the most popular dive sites. Palau is unquestionably one of the best places in the world to dive! It offers a variety of SCUBA diving, including wall and drift diving, blue holes, reefs, wrecks, caves, and more. It’s huge barrier reef and the convergence of three ocean currents attract an abundance of sharks and other aquatic life.

Jellyfish Lake

A popular feature of Palau is Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim’l Tketau), located on the island of Eil Malk. Jellyfish Lake is a marine lake, which is a small body of seawater surrounded by land. The lake is most notable for the millions of golden jellyfish (Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni) that live there, and it is possible to snorkel amongst them. Diving is not permitted in the lake, in part due to the fact that air bubbles could damage the delicate jellyfish.

Due to large number of bacteria feeding at the bottom of the lake, and the lake’s limited exposure to wind, Jellyfish Lake has become stratified over time. The water below 13 meters (45 feet) contains virtually no oxygen, but instead contains high levels of hydrogen sulfide, which could pose a serious health risk to divers.

The golden jellyfish receive part of their nutrition from algae living in their tissues. In order to provide the algae with optimum sunlight, the jellyfish participate in a daily migration across the lake. It begins at sunrise, in the west end of the lake. From there the jellyfish slowly make their way east across the lake, and then return back to the west end in the afternoon.

There is a popular myth that these jellyfish have lost their ability to sting, due to their long isolation from the ocean. On the contrary, the golden jellyfish do possess stingers, however, their sting is so mild that it is nearly undetectable by humans. So, unless one is allergic to jellyfish, it is perfectly safe to swim amongst them.

Indeed, it is the jellyfish that are themselves threatened. When one visits Jellyfish Lake, it is important to swim carefully and gently, so as to not damage the very delicate tissues of the jellyfish. And, do not carry any contaminants or material from the ocean. In 2003, for example, a non-indigenous sea anemone was discovered in the lake. This invasive anemone has been spreading rapidly since, moving outwards from the area near the dock, and it is unknown what affects it could have on the jellyfish or other inhabitants of the lake. The anemone could easily have been introduced to the lake by a small seashell in a snorkeler’s pocket.

The Diving

The water temperature is a fairly constant 28°C (82°F) all year. There is no bad time to go, although visibility is somewhat reduced July through October due to island run-off caused by the rainy season. Rain showers can pour down heavily any time of year, but Palau is outside the main typhoon zone and rains usually pass over relatively quickly and rarely impede diving. One can find strong currents at times on some dive sites, so it is best suited for experienced divers. But Palau also has diving which is calm and accessible to all skill levels. Expect several wall dives and a few reek hook dives. Palau is somewhat unique in it’s tradition of reef hook diving, which is when a diver uses a hook and line to latch on to a piece of dead coral and then float effortlessly in the current while spectating a variety of sharks and other large pelagics parade by the reef. Palau also offers amazing night dives. These are not the typical night dives, where one might scuttle about under the boat or in a small cove. But rather, these are often full-on wall dives, which allows one to see a completely different world of undersea life. Palau also offers some interesting wreck diving. Over 50 Japanese ships and planes were sunk in Malakal Harbor during World War II. Most dive sites are within an hour of Koror, but Palau is best experienced from a liveaboard, which allows for twice the diving, convenience, flexibility, and better ability to avoid the crowds. One might also consider extending their holiday by spending a few days in Yap. Although only a one hour flight from Palau, Yap offers a distinctly different experience. Yap island is less visited and more culturally preserved – it’s like stepping back in time. The diving there is also distinct, and it is the best place in the world to dive with giant manta rays.

Popular Dive Sites

Blue Corner

Skill Level: Advanced
Depth: 25-90 feet (8-27m)
The most popular dive in Palau, and held by some to be the best in the world. Blue Corner is characterized by a shallow reef wall and strong currents, which attracts hoards of fish. It also has a variety of soft and hard corals, and gorgonian sea fans. At this site, one will typically begin with a wall dive, followed by a reef hook dive, and finalized by a swim back over the top of the reef. The Blue Holes site is found nearby. Look for grey reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, whitetip sharks, chevron barracudas, dogtooth tuna, eagle rays, green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, giant groupers, humphead wrasse, wahoo, black snappers, jacks, eels, triggerfish, butterflyfish, and a variety of reef fish. Whales, whale sharks, great hammerheads, dolphins, and manta rays can occasionally be seen as well.

Chandelier Cave

Skill Level: Novice
Depth: 0-35 feet (0-12m)
An underwater cave system with five connected chambers. Four of the chambers contain water, but have air pockets at the top. The cave was formed over time by rain water that seeped through the island and eroded it’s interior. Chandelier Cave is named so because of the stalactites that hang from it’s ceiling. This is a shallow, calm dive. With the cave itself is the main attraction to the dive. There isn’t much else to see, except perhaps for an occasional cardinal or soldier fish.

German Channel

Skill Level: Novice
Depth: 30-55 feet (9-17m)
A man-made channel that cuts through the coral reef to connect Carp Island’s inner lagoon with the Pacific ocean. The channel was excavated in the early twentieth century during the German administration of Palau, to provide local cargo ships with easier access to Koror. The channel is a busy waterway for small vessels, and the dive site itself is located in the lagoon, near the entrance to the channel. This is a popular wall dive, but it is best known for the manta ray cleaning station found here. Mantas and grey reef sharks hover this spot to be cleaned by the wrasse and butterfly fish. Also look for barracuda, crocodilefish, triggerfish, lionfish, snappers, cuttlefish, jacks, trevaly, octopuses, garden eels, blind gobies, mantis shrimp, and nudibranchs.

Ulong Channel

Skill Level: Advanced
Depth: 30-60 feet (10-18m)
A 500 meter (1,600 foot) long channel, near Ulong Island, which contains a variety of beautiful soft corals, hard corals, and sea fans. This is a drift dive, which can have a very strong current at times. Aside from the coral gardens, also look for grey reef sharks, whitetip sharks, stingrays, barracuda, napoleon wrasse, groupers, snappers, jacks, squirrelfish, triggerfish, soldierfish, and batfish.

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