Ah, the jellyfish—nature’s booger.
I’ve always felt about jellyfish the way that Christopher Walken feels about ferns: I just don’t trust moving lifeforms that have no brains or eyes. So, I was more than a little surprised to find out that people actually visit a lake full of these eyeless beasts out of their own volition.
Jellyfish Lake is located on the tiny, uninhabited island of Eil Malk in Southern Palau, 550 miles east of the Philippines. The lake is less than half-a-mile long and is sufficiently isolated from other bodies of water to contain its own unique ecosystem.
About 12,000 years ago the sea level rose to such a point that ocean waters filled the dry basin. As ocean levels receded, organisms in the area were left confined to the small dimensions of the lake.
Not being able to reproduce with jellyfish from other bodies of water (internet dating wasn’t available at the time) the jellyfish of Jellyfish Lake evolved differently than their close relatives in nearby lagoons. A few noticeable ways that these small-town jellyfish differ from their ancestors is by their lack of spots, golden color, and shorter terminal clubs.
As many as 13 million jellyfish roam the waters of Jellyfish Lake—that amounts to about 12 jellyfish per square meter. Because the Golden Jellyfish don’t have developed stingers it is safe to snorkel alongside them.
The jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake migrate daily in two distinct patterns. At night they migrate downward to acquire nutrients for the algae that live inside them. Then, throughout the day they criss-cross the length of the lake, moving in step with the sun. If you are arriving midday you’ll need to snorkel out to the middle of the lake to rendezvous with these vile and ungodly creatures. One adventure traveler describes the experience best by saying, “if you see a dozen jellies, keep going. If you see a hundred jellies, keep going. If you see a thousand jellies, keep going. If you see a million jellies, stop – you’re there.”
Check out this National Geographic video on Jellyfish Lake to watch jellyfish swim while a soothing voice narrates to the sound of triumphant music. If you can’t see the video, here’s another one.
The lake’s precarious ecosystem makes it vulnerable to slight changes. In 1999 the entire population of Golden Jellyfish was wiped out after the 1998 El Niño raised the water temperature of the lake. Unfortunately, by 2000 these jellyfish started coming back, probably because their sperm have been steeped with the immortal powers of Lucifer. Today, they’re back at full strength.
However, scientists have grown concerned over what impact the rapid growth of a new species of sea anemone (another creepy plant-animal thing) will have on the lake’s ecosystem. It is speculated that tourists inadvertently introduced the anemone to the ecosystem. So, like, be careful.
Although most reliable sources and experts will tell you these jellyfish are harmless, mark my words, never turn your back on a jellyfish!
Remember, Jellyfish Lake is on an uninhabited island. To get to Jellyfish Lake you will need to charter a boat from your place of stay. Once you arrive to the island of Eil Malk there will be a small path that you can hike to get to the lake.
Best Time To Go:
Avoid the rainy season by visiting during the months of January through March.
The Dolphin Killer – This adventure will earn you the right to laugh in the face of overzealous family members telling you what a once-in-a-lifetime experience it was to swim with the dolphins at Marineland. Laugh heartily.
It will cost you about $90-$200 to visit Jellyfish Lake with a tour group. To visit the lake you will also need to purchase a permit for $35.
- Palau is known for it’s diverse marine environment and scuba diving. If you have the means check out the private charter tours offered by Ocean Hunter Palau, where you and a small group will live aboard a luxury boat and take multiple dives through out the day and night.
- Check out the nearby island of Peleliu, home to one of the bloodiest battles between Japan and the US during WWII.
- Palau’s official languages are English and Palauan. US dollars are the official currency.
Visit-Palau’s website has a lot of good information on visiting Palau and Jellyfish Lake.
For yet another adventure travel in Oceania check out 4-Wheeling the World’s Longest and Most Remote Stock Route or check out more pictures of Jellyfish lake on our Facebook page.