Short Breaks: Jostling With Jellyfish

Photo: BlueOrange Studio/ Shutterstock.com

 

Don a snorkel and mingle with Palau’s unique invertebrate species in the depths of its saltwater lake.

 

 

A CLUSTER of over 500 islands form the South Pacific archipelago that is Palau, a marine wonderland known for an array of water-based activities. Discover Palau atop a kayak for an idyllic paddle about the surrounding islands or in a wetsuit to explore the deepest reaches of its underwater caves and undisturbed WWII wreckages. Yet Ongeim’l Tketau Jellyfish Lake and its thousands of spongy inhabitants remain Palau’s unrivalled highlight.

 

At its peak, the isolated lake played home to up to 30 million stingless golden jellyfish whose population was severely affected by Palau’s drought conditions in 2016. The decline spurred a 2-year closure of the lake, only recently re-opening for visitors in December last year. While the numbers are not back to optimum level, the jellies are likely to be set for a full recovery.

 

The jellyfish perform a daily migration cycle following the sun. For a truly immersive experience, swim about a hundred feet out into sunlit waters to be surrounded by thousands of them as far as the eye can see. At night, these cnidarians sink 40 feet down into the depths of the lake. The lower layer of hydrogen sulfide found there is lethal to humans; scuba diving is thus strictly prohibited, also in order to protect the delicate ecosystem of the lake.

 

Be prepared for a short but steep hike up to the lake – comfortable walking shoes are recommended for some traction on the slippery trail. There are also several precautions in place to protect this marine haven. Sunblock is prohibited and guests will be rinsed off by park attendants to prevent contamination.

 

For optimum preservation of these jellies and their habitat, a certified guide must accompany you into Jellyfish Lake. Booking a snorkeling tour is thus the best way for a full experience at the lake, as well as at other additional dive sites of Palau. Rock Islands, in particular, makes for a wondrous dive, boasting breathtaking arrays of marine life and colourful coral. Alternatively, mask up with natural clay found at the Milky Way Lagoon – known for its therapeutic properties.

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