Jellyfish Lake

I haven't been able to post much lately. There was the usual post-trip chaos after my visit to PNG in January, followed immediately by pre-trip chaos for a short visit to Palau earlier this month.

Since getting back from Palau, I've had to contend with yet another malicious hack into my server (this is getting really old), plus catching up on a backlog of communication stretching back to last year.

Anyway, it's the 29th of February today, which only happens once every four years, so I couldn't let the day pass without posting at least one image.

So here is a photo of two jellyfish bumping "heads" in Palau's Jellyfish Lake:

Two jellyfish bumping into each other in Jellyfish Lake Palau
Two jellyfish bumping into each other in Jellyfish Lake, Palau

If you're not familiar with these jellyfish, they are a species of Mastigias, which have been isolated in this saltwater lake for a long, long time. As a result, they have gradually lost most of their stinging ability (there's not much to prey upon, and hence not much reward for manufacturing and maintaining metabolically expensive nematocysts), and instead rely primarily upon symbiotic algae for sustenance.

It was nice weather when we visited, so there were lots of jellyfish milling about, bathing their algae in sunlight in order to encourage them to manufacture food.

From a distance, I saw these two blobs pulsing toward one another, and I got to them just in time to watch them collide, then careen gently off one another like gelatinous bumper cars moving in slow-motion.

Incidentally, there are a number of isolated saltwater lakes in Palau with jellyfish like this, but only one is open for tourists to visit. (There's also a similar lake at Kakaban Island, Indonesia, and perhaps more scattered around the Pacific.)

If you travel to Palau and want to visit Jellyfish Lake, make sure you pack adequate foot protection. Accessing the lake requires a hike up and over a steep trail with sharp rocks. There's a rope to hold on to for balance, but you'll definitely want neoprene booties or some other sturdy footwear to protect your feet.