If we had to recommend one activity you can’t skip when visiting Palau, it would be flying over the Rock Islands.
The Rock Islands are a formation of small islets built of limestone - a material being composed mainly of skeletal parts of coral. There are about 300 of them, spread between Koror and Peleliu islands. In 2012 they were added to UNESCO World Heritage List where they remain the only place in Palau (although four more places got recently submitted on the tentative list, and are considered for nomination).
The Rock Islands are the main magnet luring visitors to Palau. There are many kinds of activities people can do there: diving, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with jellyfish, getting younger and prettier after a clay bath in Milky Way… For us, the most memorable experience was admiring the Rock Islands from a Cessna plane.
Cessna plane belonging to Pacific Mission Aviation, to be precise.
Pacific Mission Aviation (PMA) is a non-profit organization, which serves the people of Palau by providing emergency medical evacuation, search and rescue, disaster relief, maritime patrol for illegal fishing and other services as situations arise. It is possible thanks to the funds gathered from their commercial activity – the scheduled flights to Peleliu and Angaur islands and also the charter flights over the Rock Islands. So by flying with them, you help local communities in Palau.
We considered a scenic flight but for only two of us chartering a plane would be too expensive.
We decided to take a flight to Peleliu Island instead. After all, the flying route between Babeldaob and Peleliu runs over the Rock Islands.
When we arrived at the airport (it’s the same airport in Babeldaob the international flights operate) we met the friendly PMA staff who told us that there is another passenger flying with us, but to further destination (Angaur island), so if we wanted we could go first to Angaur with her and after that be “dropped” in Peleliu. It meant flying over Peleliu island as well as the Rock Islands, so of course, we took it enthusiastically.
When we got to the plane another great surprise awaited: Cessna had a passenger side door removed so that we could enjoy a full view!
Before the flight, we met our cool pilot, Stephan, who came from Germany.
During the trip we remained speechless: the kaleidoscope of blue and green patches we saw below was just stunning. Stephan pointed to us all the famous places in the Rock Islands, like the Jellyfish Lake, The German Channel or Milky Way.
First, we landed in Angaur, where the third passenger departed. I switched places with Chris, so he could also sit near the open door on the way to Peleliu.
Landing in Peleliu was fun, but with a solid eerie component, due to the occasional potholes visible in the airstrip. But thanks to our excellent pilot, it went smoothly and without any problems.
We advise you to make sure someone comes for you to the landing strip with a car, as the distance to the town is quite significant for walking. If not for our pilot Stephan, who called the hotel to pick us up, we would get completely wet before we reached our room (it started raining the moment we entered the car, despite the fact the weather was perfect during the whole flight).
Before heading to the town, we stayed a bit on the airstrip watching Stephan gracefully soaring into the clouds. We waved, and he waved back – with the Cessna wings!
The flight over the Rock Islands with Pacific Mission Aviation was great, and we wholeheartedly recommend doing it while in Palau. Just remember, if you choose flying to Peleliu, like we did, instead of taking a scenic flight, you need to plan a return mode. PMA has the scheduled flights (last time we checked it was three times a week) and unless you don’t plan to charter them for your way back, check the ferry timetable. We booked a flight from Babeldaob to Peleliu for Saturday and came back from Peleliu to Koror by ferry the next day, on Sunday.
To learn more about the places in Palau we liked the most, go to What to see and do in Palau.
And if you want to know how to see all these places in eight days, see our detailed itinerary here: How to plan a trip to Palau.
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