Where is Palau?
Once the global pandemic is over and we can all travel again, you might want to add Palau to your list of destinations. Palau is a beautiful country in Oceania, which is located in the Micronesian Region in the western Pacific Ocean. Palau is an archipelago with over 300 islands. Its most populous islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror, and Peleliu. Anytime is a good time to visit Palau because of its tropical rainforest climate. Typhoons are rare in Palau since it lies outside the main typhoon zone, which makes it a safe destination. English is widely spoken in Palau and its currency is USD.
This is a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful islands, crystal clear seas, and the ever-famous Jellyfish Lake. Yes, you read that right. Palau has a lake filled with jellyfish in which people can swim.
How to get to Jellyfish Lake
Palau’s Jellyfish Lake, commonly known as Ongeim’l Tketau in local language, is one of the top attractions in the country. Sometimes referred to as Eil Malk Lake, it is located on Eil Malk Island, which is 18 miles south of Koror, the most populous island in Palau.
If you are flying internationally, you need to book a flight to Roman Tmetuchl International Airport, also known as Palau International Airport. Roman Tmetuchl International Airport is Palau’s main airport, located 4 miles away from Koror and 15 miles from Ngerulmud. There are couple of airlines that fly to and from Roman Tmetuchl International Airport.
If you are flying from USA or Canada, you can fly with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Asian carriers such as Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, and China Airlines also fly to Palau International Airport. If you are a US Citizen with a US passport, you do not need a Visa to visit Palau for one year or less. If you are from a different country, check with Palau’s state government website about the Visa requirements.
From Koror, you can hop on a 45-minute speed boat ride to Eil Malk. There are a lot of tour operators in Koror that offer convenient and safe transfers to Eil Malk. Tour packages cost around $90 for adults and $50 for kids. This price covers transportation from Koror, lunch, drinks, life jacket, snorkels, and fins.
You also need a permit to swim in Jellyfish Lake. The permit costs $100 and is valid for 10 days. Under Koror state law, all tourists must purchase a permit depending on their planned activities. The Jellyfish Lake permit can be used in any ocean activity in any part of Koror state rock island including Jellyfish Lake.
You cannot go fishing using this permit though, but you can get a fishing permit for only $20, which is good for one month. Also, you need to keep your permit with you at all times and present it to rangers if you are asked. The permit is non-transferrable. Kids under 6 years old are not required to have their own permits.
When is the best time to visit Jellyfish Lake?
Because of its geographical location, anytime is a good time to visit Palau and swim with the jellyfish. If you want to participate in diving activities in some areas, though, and visit Jellyfish Lake during the same trip, the months between November to April are the best months to visit. During these months, there is a dramatic increase in visibility of marine life, including jellyfishes in the famous lake.
Is it safe to swim with Jellyfish?
There are about 2,000 types of jellyfish in the world, some of which are deadly. Most of the time, you need to avoid coming into contact with them at all costs. There are harmless jellyfish, though, and for quite some time, specific kinds of jellyfish have been harvested for food in Asian countries such as Japan, China, and the Philippines. The ones found in the Jellyfish Lake in Palau are the harmless and non-stinging jellyfish. The jellyfishes in Eil Malk have nematocytes, or stinging cells, that are not powerful or strong enough to cause harm to human beings. The general advice is to avoid them if you are allergic to jellyfish.
You may also want to wear a protective suit before getting in the water. Only environmentally friendly sunscreens are allowed in order to keep the waters free from chemicals that could harm the jellyfishes. Scuba diving in Palau Jellyfish Lake is strictly prohibited because bubbles from the scuba tank could harm the jellyfish. Also, the anoxic layer that begins at about 15 meters contains high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, which can be lethal. As long as you swim just few below the surface, you should be fine.
What types of Jellyfish are in Jellyfish Lake?
There are two types of jellyfish in the lake in Koro, Palau – the golden jellyfish and the moon jellyfish. Both the golden and moon jellyfish are considered scyphozoan jellyfish, or the true jellyfish. The golden jellyfish rotates counterclockwise as they swim at the surface. The moon jellyfish do not have a migration pattern. In 1998, the golden jellyfish medusa population has declined to zero because of the El Nino phenomenon, which increased the water temperature. In January 2000, this type of jellyfish was once again spotted in Jellyfish Lake for the first time since 1999. The moon jellyfish also saw a decline in 1998, but they have never totally died off in Jellyfish Lake. Jellyfish Lake in Eil Malk, Palau, was closed for two years for rehabilitation and to allow the lake to recuperate. It has recently reopened and continues to remain open to this date.
Do Jellyfish have brains?
Jellyfish of different kinds have different looks, but the main feature of a jellyfish is the umbrella-shaped bell. On the underside of the bell is a stalk-like structure called manubrium, which hangs down from the center. The mouth of the jellyfish is also found on this side. Jellyfishes do not have a central nervous system, which means they do not have brains.
They do not have hearts either, which is fine since their ectoderm is only a few cells thick, which means oxygen diffuses into their body. They have a basic set of nerves at the base of their tentacles, though, that are responsible for detecting touch, temperature, and salinity, amongst other things. They can sense light and chemicals and have a sense of balance as well, so they are rarely upside down. Floating jellyfishes are a beautiful sight, especially if they are harmless. Since jellyfishes do not have brains, they have limited movement and are dependent on the water current. They also do not actively hunt for food. Catching prey for them is a matter of chance since they just wait for the prey to hit their tentacles.
Why do the Jellyfish not sting in Lake Palau?
There are only two types of jellyfish in Eil Malk Lake. Both the golden jellyfish and the moon jellyfish are types of jellyfish that do not sting. Their tentacles are not strong enough to cause harm to human beings.
Cost to swim in Jellyfish Lake
To be able to swim in Jellyfish Lake, you need to get a permit from the local government for $100 per person. This is valid for 10 days. Not to worry, though; you can also use this for other water activities in the area except for fishing. If you think about it, it’s only $10 per day. On top of the government-issued permit, the average cost of tours to Jellyfish Lake is around $90 for adults and $50 for kids. Most tour companies are operating in Koror, which is also where you would likely stay during your visit. You will be picked up from your hotel and dropped off on the dock where you will board on a speedboat. The speedboat ride to Eil Malk takes about 45 minutes. From there, there is a short but steep hike towards Jellyfish Lake. The $90 fee covers the transportation, lunch, drinks, snorkel gear, and fins. Aside from the permit, you need not pay anything else as of this writing.
Hours of Operation for Jellyfish Lake
Jellyfish Lake is open from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon. Most tour companies start the tour at 9AM and leave the lake at 3PM. The lake was closed for two years due to massive loss of jellyfishes. It has been reopened recently, and thousands of jellyfishes have come back.
What to know about Jellyfish Lake
The Jellyfish Lake is a marine lake in Eil Malk island in Palau. The lake is connected to the ocean through tunnels and fissures in the limestone. From an aerial point of view, you will see that the lake is sufficiently isolated from the ocean because of the limestone surrounding it. The lake is stratified into two layers – the oxygenated upper layer and the lower anoxic layer. Swimmers are advised to stick to the oxygenated part since the oxygen concentration declines from about 5 ppm at the surface to zero at 15 meters.
Scuba diving is not allowed in the lake to protect both the jellyfishes and the diver. Jellyfish Lake is permanently stratified even if there are changes in seasons and weather conditions. The stratification of the lake is caused by the rocks and trees surrounding it, the close proximity of the primary water sources of the lake to the surface, and the overall tropical rainforest climate of the country. Eil Malk Jellyfish Lake is around 12,000 years old, which was estimated based on the lake’s depth, the thickness of the sediment, and the rising sea level since the end of the last ice age.
Tips on swimming safely with Jellyfish
There are two differing views when it comes to sunscreen in the lake. Some tour guides advise you to apply it before going to the lake, while others tell you not to wear sunscreen at all. The chemicals in sunscreen may be harmful to the jellyfish, but if you make sure to get one that is environmentally friendly, then by all means go ahead. Also, the jellyfish are sensitive to touch, so try not to touch them. The fins may also hit them, which can cause them harm, so wearing aqua shoes is more suitable.
After getting off the speedboat, you need to hike up a steep trail which leads you to Jellyfish Lake. You might want to put on comfortable walking shoes first and carry your aqua shoes with you. Bring a bottle of water as well to keep yourself hydrated. A lot of the tour companies advise you to leave the lake by 3PM, so to maximize your stay, you can request to depart from Koror, Palau to Eil Malk a bit earlier. Do not forget your underwater camera. You will get the chance to swim amidst thousands of jellyfishes, which is something you will like to capture on film.
If you are not sensitive to jellyfish, you can wear a bikini or swimming trunks, but it is highly recommended that you wear a rash guard or a wetsuit. These are non-poisonous jellyfishes, but some people still experience an uncomfortable reaction to them on some level. If you are looking for a once in a lifetime adventure, swimming with jellyfish in Palau might be something you should consider.
Other places in the world you can swim with Jellyfish
While Jellyfish Lake in Palau is special, it is not exactly one of a kind. There are other places in the world where you can swim with harmless jellyfish. One of these places is the Jellyfish Lagoon in Surigao, Philippines. The Jellyfish Lagoon on the island of Sohoton, Bucas Grande in Surigao is the only place in the Philippines where you can swim with thousands of harmless jellyfish. Bucas Grande is 128-square kilometers of emerald lagoons, caves, and lakes.
One of these lagoons is filled with white, stingless jellyfishes the size of a baby’s head. There are also small, blue jellyfish in this lake. The white ones look transparent most of the time. During monsoon season, you will see a lot of them floating in the emerald lagoon. In order to preserve the jellyfish lagoon in the Philippines, motorized boats are not allowed to enter the area.
From the tourism office in Bucas Grande, you need to hop on a small boat, which only fits two people – the boatman, who also acts as the guide, and the tourist. If you come in groups, you have to take individual boats. Depending on the season, you may or may not be allowed to get into the water. The Jellyfish Lagoon in the Philippines is way smaller compared to the one in Palau. There are also a limited number of small boats that can enter the lagoon together.
What else can you do in the Jellyfish Lagoon area?
After the trip to the Jellyfish Lagoon, you can also check out other places in Bucas Grande, such as the Hagukan Cave. It is such a magnificent cave but can be quite scary for those who cannot swim and are scared of dark places. During high tide, you need to dive for about a minute to get into the cave. Inside, the sun is completely blocked, but the light from outside creates an impression that the water inside the cave is a bright neon green, similar to Superman’s kryptonite. Just a two-hours boat ride away from the Jellyfish Lagoon in Sohoton, Bucas Grande, Surigao, Philippines is the country’s surf capital. The island of Siargao is a popular place in the country for surfing. There are a lot of tourists from all over the world who come here to surf. Even if you are a non-swimmer, you can still try surfing in the shallow parts of the surfing spot in Siargao during low tide. Many locals can give you surfing lessons, and surf shops will rent a board to you. People who visit Siargao usually go on a side trip to the Jellyfish Lagoon to swim with stingless jellyfishes.
Random Jellyfish Facts
1. A group of jellyfish is called bloom or swarm. The term “bloom” is also used to describe a large group of jellyfish that gather in a small area but may also have a time component referring to a seasonal increase or numbers beyond the usual.
2. The jellyfish is classified as invertebrate belonging to phylum Cnidaria. Its average lifespan in the wild is one year.
A jellyfish could weigh up to two kilograms and can reach up to 2cm in body size. It has limited movement with a top speed of 8km per hour.
3. A jellyfish does not actively hunt for food and just waits for its prey to touch its tentacles. A jellyfish’s diet includes fish, shrimp, crabs, tiny plants, and other species of jellyfishes. The jellyfish often fall prey to sea anemone, tuna, sharks, swordfish, sea turtles, and penguins.
4. The jellyfish digest their food extremely quickly. If they do not, they won’t be able to float and will be weighed down by what they just ate.
5. Jellyfish as a noun can be countable and uncountable. In general, the plural form of jellyfish is also jellyfish, but in more specific contexts, the plural form can also be jellyfishes.
6. The jellyfish are older than dinosaurs. These sea creatures have been around for millions of years. They can be found both in cold and warm waters and in deep and shallow parts of oceans, lakes, and lagoons.
7. Some jellyfish are clear and transparent, while others are vibrant colors of pink, yellow, blue, and purple. The edible ones are usually brown. Some species of jellyfish are bioluminescent, which means they produce their own light.
8. Jellyfish have no brain, eyes, heart, nor bones. They have basic nerves, including stinging tentacles that can paralyze their prey before they eat them.
9. The jellyfish’s mouth also functions as its anus. This small opening is used to take in food and discard waste. They also use this opening to squirt water so they can move forward.
10. In some countries such as Japan, China, and some parts of Southeast Asia, the jellyfish is considered a delicacy. It is also used in Chinese medicine.
11. Desalinated and dried jellyfish can be used as organic fertilizer. In South Korea, jellyfish were used as fertilizers to revive a forest after a massive forest fire.
12. The jellyfish are being used in medical research because of their green fluorescent protein (GFP). Scientists attach GFP to certain cells and then track the progress throughout the body. The researchers that were responsible for the GFP usage breakthrough won a Noble Prize in 2008.
13. A company created glow-in-the-dark ice cream using the components of the jellyfish, while a former NASA biologist used jellyfish to make glow-in-the-dark beer.
14. Mucins extracted from jellyfish are used for artificial tears such as contact lens lubricants. Mucin is also an important ingredient in food additives and cosmetic products.
15. Jellyfish are an important component in manufacturing biodegradable diapers. This concept was created by a material scientist in Israel. The country’s oceans are filled with jellyfish. Based on studies, the jellyfish have great absorption properties, which would be extremely useful in diapers.
16. The jellyfish have a lot of uses, and those mentioned above are just few of these.