Palau's Jellyfish Lake

I've just returned from a terrific visit to Palau, during which I visited the famous Jellyfish Lake again.

Lots of jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake in Palau
Lots of jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Although I've been here several times and have also spent time at a similar lake in Indonesia, there is something about the tranquility of the place, and the unique sensation of being surrounded by pulsing, innocuous jellyfish that makes every visit special.

If you're not familiar with Jellyfish Lake, it is one of five similar saltwater lakes in Palau where jellyfish have lived in isolation for thousands of years. Jellyfish Lake is the only one that is open for visitors.

Over time, the stinging cells of the resident jellies have lost their punch, so to speak. These animals (yes, they are animals!) still have nematocysts, but their toxin is generally not powerful enough to affect people. The jellyfish survive mostly by living in cooperation with algae contained within their bodies.

Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake in Palau
Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni jellyfish, with nefarious mini-me sidekick

There is no scuba diving permitted at the lake, so even if you're not a diver, it's worth investing time to visit Jellyfish Lake if you find yourself in Palau.

Access to the lake is by boat, followed by a short climb up a clearly marked path to the top of the island and over to the enclosed body of water. The trek entails walking over some sharp stones, tree roots and such, so you'll need to take along sturdy footwear, as well as a mask, snorkel and fins.

Dan took this photo of me, which helps convey what it's like to be surrounded by jellyfish.

Jellyfish Lake in Palau
Outnumbered by pulsing cnidarians, Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Note that I'm looking around, trying to figure out where to point my camera. The jellies move continuously, so framing a nice shot requires a bit of patience and anticipation.