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The Republic of Palau (Belau)
Palau (or Belau), part of the Caroline Islands group, is the westernmost archipelago in Oceania. It is located 460 miles (741 km) east of Mindanao in the southern Philippines and about 808 miles (1,300 km) southwest of Guam. Palau is composed of nine or more inhabited islands and greater than 700 islets. The archipelago also has six isolated islands, which lie approximately 211-372 miles (339-559 km) to the southwest. Numerous volcanic islands, atolls, raised limestone islands, and low coral islands comprise Palau. A barrier reef surrounds much of the main island cluster, merging into a fringing reef in the south. Palau has the most diverse coral fauna of Micronesia and the highest density of tropical marine habitats of comparable geographic areas around the world. In addition to coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows, Palau has deep algal beds, mud basins, current-swept lagoon bottoms, rich tidal channels, and anoxic basins within the Rock Islands.