Diving Palau vs. Philippines, what are the differences you ask yourself?
Both Palau and the Philippines are awesome and spectacular dive destinations. If you have the chance, you should dive both at least once in your life. But if you have to choose right now between diving Palau or the Philippines you better know the differences.
Diving Palau vs. Philippines do you know the differences?
The Republics of the Philippines (PI) and Palau (PW) are both tropical island groups East to West of each other, separated by approximately 500 miles of water. Palau at roughly 6 degrees North lies along the boundary between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
In Palau, you can go from one body of water to the next in the same dive. Starting on the West side of Peleliu Corner in the Philippine Sea, swimming along the wall round to the East, you are by definition entering the Pacific Ocean.
Quite handily, the corals are laid out in a big dashed line on the seabed to indicate that boundary. Apart from that big dashed line, you can’t tell the difference. The water is essentially the same, maybe a bit clearer, but the experience between diving the Philippines and Palau is like chalk and cheese.
There are, of course, an infinite number of differences between the two, but seeing this is not the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I’ll keep to the fundamentals.
Below a roundup of the differences between Diving Palau vs. the Philippines
Personally speaking, in the Philippines, I’ve got to go to the dive shop via sidecar taxi, shotgun in a pickup or by just walking from my room. In Palau, a guest would be picked up from their accommodation by the dive center mini bus, or they make their way there.
Getting to the dive site
Depending where in the Philippines you are, you’ll have a choice between just to walk from the beach to enjoy the reef, or taking a Banca boat to a far/or not too far flung site.
Palau, on the other hand, has most of its dive sites can only be accessed by speed boat. A 29’ speedboat with twin 275HP computer controlled 4-stroke outboards vs. a bamboo outrigger with a truck steering column/ dashboard and Engine.You decide, but I enjoy the Banca boat more.
Getting in the water
Backward rolling off a the side of a boat 12 inches from the water vs. Giant Striding from 2m above the water.
Underwater photography when diving Palau vs. the Philippines
If you consider photographing marine life, then you could express both locations as a Yin Yang design like so:
Simply put, The Philippines is primarily Macro with some Wide-Angle opportunities and Palau is predominantly Wide-Angle with some Macro opportunities. If you were to blend the black into the white, you’d have closer to the real situation, where for every type of gray, there is another size of a subject.
There are a variety of reasons for these differences between diving Palau and the Philippines
Within its sheltered archipelago, the Philippines enjoy slow to no currents. Coral reefs close to shore, a matter of mere footsteps away from your room, offer confined water level macro opportunities in spades.
In some areas, heavy local fishing pressure has taken its toll on the fish stocks. Huge numbers of fish can still be found within protected areas such as El Nido, Tubbataha and Gato Island near Malapascua.
Palau, however, lives on the border with the Pacific, with the best dive sites on the outside of a dense archipelago. Immense volumes of water being pulled by the tides across these exposed reefs create currents that benefit pelagic fish but will pluck any nudibranch from its perch foolish enough to expose itself to the current.
Macro subjects are found tucked away in caves and deep in the reef. When the current is strong, there are very few macro subjects out and shooting them is very hard.
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Exceptional diving in Palau and the Philippines
The Threshers of Malapascua in the Philippines are for me one of the most incredibly beautiful, enigmatic animals, and epitomize how Sharks are misunderstood. I can’t advocate enough how much you should go and see these graceful, timid animals.
Thresher Sharks are often seen at Monad Shoal usually just after sunrise when they come up to use the many cleaning stations there. Monad Shoal is one of the few places in the World where you can see Threshers year round; you can also be lucky and encounter Devil Rays and Manta Rays.
In August 2015, the first documentary evidence of Thresher Sharks (as far as I know) in Palau was obtained. Those dive shops that venture off the beaten track] and keep group sizes low are occasionally getting lucky and encountering these animals and others.
Palau is also fast becoming renowned for large aggregations of fish. Spawning activity has been observed and documented in a large variety of Snapper, Surgeonfish and Parrotfish species depending on the moon phase. Certainly anytime between December and March should allow you the opportunity to encounter a particular species spawning at one of the major sites.
Also read: 5 of the Best Scuba Dive Sites in Palau
Guided dives in Palau vs. Philippines
The guides have very different jobs depending on where they are too. Palau is known for it’s strong currents. In a 5+knot current, with the group of divers on the drift, it’s a little like herding cats running at full tilt, keeping them together. With the help of a backup Divemaster gathering everyone together, they may hook into a spot to witness Sharks and other pelagic schooling fish.
In the Philippines, it’s a little different, here dive guides look after you by keeping an eye on you and the creatures that you haven’t seen. What I mean by that is they see the camouflaged stuff and point it out before you inadvertently get too close to it.
Similarities between diving in Palau and the Philippines
One thing is the same, though, without the guides you’d be lost and you wouldn’t see a fraction of what the area has to offer. They know the reefs like the back of their hand, know where to find all the cool stuff. They will bring you back to the boat with a massive grin on your face and give you an amazing vacation.
So the challenge is set. Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourselves. Use this intro to launch a fantastic vacation, find out whether you agree that there is more Macro in the Philippines than Palau.
Find out whether or not current diving is better in Palau, see whether you prefer diving off a Bamboo outrigger or speedboat. Dive Balicasag Island or Malapascua or El Nido or Tubbataha and see how they compare to Blue Holes, Blue Corner, Peleliu or German Channel in Palau.
This is just an intro and not by any means the definitive guide. We’d love to hear your stories, the things you’ve seen and experienced in both places. After all, this blog is one person’s perspective, and that is all. We’d love to hear from you.
What are your thoughts about Diving Palau vs. The Philippines? Have you dived one of these destinations before if so which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below
Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners in Palau and the Philippines who offer dive packages + accommodation and scuba lessons.
Article written by Richard Brooks Richard owns a Media Production Company in Palau.