Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Palau (Belau)

500 miles north of Raja Ampat, and sharing a maritime boundary with the Philippines, Indonesia and The Federated States of Micronesia is the breathtaking and independent Republic of Palau, becoming known as Belau. This group of roughly 350 islands, atolls and islets forms the Western Caroline Group of Micronesia. Rising from five kilometres depth in the Palau Trench, and protected by a barrier reef, are the higher islands of Babeldaob, the main island of Koror with Malakal harbour, Peleliu and the famous Rock Islands.

Just outside the main barrier reef are Anguaur in the south and the atoll Kayangel in the north. With a tiny population of 21,000 the islands run 80 miles south to north and boast the most diverse ecosystems in Micronesia, both above and certainly below the water. The Sonsora volcanic islands and Helen Reef are owned by Pulau but are mostly uninhabited and lay various distances south along the route to Indonesia.

Heading to or from any of the Southeast Asia countries described in this guide and the South Pacific, Palau lagoon must not be missed.

Phuket and Palau share the same latitudes so the best weather is during the northeast monsoon season from December to March.

We describe the main port of entry and a couple of interesting spots nearby. If time permits, contacting Sam’s Tours at the Royal Belau Yacht Club is highly recommended. For extended cruising there are dozens of fantastic anchorages and we recommend ‘The Palau Guide’ by Randy and Hideko Abernethy.

Clearing in

Inbound yachts no longer require clearance approvals in advance of arrival. The Royal Belau Yacht Club can offer assistance and information on clearance procedures and will let the authorities know your details and ETA as a courtesy. Email website

Yachts are forbidden to stop at any other island or anchorage prior to officially checking into Malakal harbour. The Palau Port Control monitors Channel 16 VHF and is open from 8am to 4pm on weekdays. The Port Control office telephone number is +680 775 0419. Entry Permits are issued for 30 days with two extensions of 30 days each possible. US registered vessels get one year. Fees are levied on all crew for every conceivable permit. You will do best to purchase them all to gain legal access to the best activities and destinations Palau has on offer.

A superyacht anchored outside the entrance to Malakal channel - Photo by Bill O’Leary

The Palauan government has set aside a group of its uninhabited ‘Rock Islands’ – the ‘70 Islands’ – as a marine reserve, prohibiting public access so as not to disturb nesting turtles and seabirds. At the time of printing, the 70 islands and a few other nature reserves are still completely off limits for any vessel. The harbour master will go over the chart with you personally to make sure you completely understand these boundaries.

Each individual on board is required to purchase a $25, 10‑day ‘Rock Island Permit’ from Koror State for scuba diving, swimming, snorkelling, canoeing and using any beach in the state. An additional $10 is levied to include access to the Jellyfish Lake. Pay the $10 extra and go on one of Sam’s tours to swim amongst these non-stinging scyphozoa. Unforgettable!

Anchorages in Palau
Below, we list the main anchorage locations for Palau that are featured in the book – together with one sample anchorage. For a complete list of all 533 anchorage locations, go to Southeast Asia Pilot index
Photo by Bill O’Leary
Photo by Bill O’Leary
See sample Palau anchorage
Malakal Harbour

Jellyfish Lake

World famous ‘Jellyfish Lake’ (Ongeim’l Tketau) is inside Eil Malk Island. This island is part of the Rock Islands group, which are mostly uninhabited, in Palau’s Southern Lagoon between Koror and Peleliu.

Millions of non-stinging golden jellyfish migrate across the lake daily following the sun. This is because they derive part of their nutrition from symbiotic algae (Zooxanthellae) that live in their tissues and require direct sunlight to become food for the jellyfish.

The isolated lake was formed some 12,000 years ago trapping the jellyfish inside to evolve and adapt in a no-food environment. The lake is oxygenated and renewed by the tide through subterranean limestone fissures and tunnels connected to the ocean outside.

Snorkelling is a popular activity for Palau tourists and several operators in Koror offer daily trips to the lake. Eil Malk is a 45-minute speed boat ride from Koror and the lake is accessed by a 10-minute walk from the jetty up over a jungle hill.

Scuba diving is forbidden because bubbles can harm the fragile jellies and the anoxic layer begins at around 15 metres and contains high concentrations of deadly hydrogen sulphide, which can be absorbed through the skin. Although there are more than 50 lakes in the Rock Islands, Jellyfish Lake is the only one currently open to tourists.

Racer Marina, Hua Hin, Thailand Phuket Tide Tables Sailing Yacht Asia IMAGE asia

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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