Snorkeling in Palau's Jellyfish Lake

Koror Travel Blog

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“Nah ah! There is no way I would swim with thousands of jellyfish around me! Just thinking about ONE is enough to give me a rash all over my body!”

I remember that was my first reaction when a good friend of mine, Shipper, suggested a trip to Jellyfish Lake in Palau, a small group of islands located in the Western Pacific Ocean, where I have been living and working for a while. Ignoring my qualms, he continued explaining, “This Lake is included in the category of peculiar phenomena and scientific mysteries of the world. The lake is a salt water lake in which the uplifted coral island trapped the jellyfish that had been living there, thousands of years ago. For these thousands of years the jellyfish developed their own symbiosis with photosynthetic algae in the lake.

Apparently, due to lack of predators, they didn’t need their ability to defend themselves (except from tourists!), and as a result, they lost their sting or in other words, they are non-stinging Jellyfish.

After hearing what he said, and being naturally adventurous, I nodded my head and agreed to go to the famous Jellyfish Lake to experience this “phenomena” for myself.  In short order, we loaded the boat with our snorkeling gear, lunch boxes, snacks and a cooler full of drinks and off we went. If you are an avid watcher of Survivor Series, you may remember that one of the reward challenges in “Survivor Palau” was snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake.   

Located on Eil Malk Island, in Palau’s Rock Islands, it took around 40 minutes by small speed boat to reach Jellyfish Lake from Koror.

Shipper, as the captain of the boat, took full control of the steering wheel while I was relaxing in the back of the boat and enjoying the bright sun biting my skin. It felt great! We zigzagged through the wondrous Rock Islands with their crystal clear water and green, mushroom-shaped land masses. Nature could not be more stunning! 

Once we arrived at Eil Malk Island, my little adventure began. To reach the lake from the shore, we had to overcome a rugged, steep climb, clinging to a rope, to the top of the island and then down the other side to the lake.  This was a bit of a challenge since I only had my flip-flops on.  Some people I bumped into wore dive boots which I think was very smart considering the hills were slippery too. Though my flip-flops slowed down my pace, I was able to marvel better at the pristine surrounding.

When we got to the very top of the island, I could already, though barely see from that far away, the movement of the jellyfish following the cycle of the sun as it slowly moved across the sky. At that moment the sun was high over the lake and the jellyfish were right up toward the surface to better harness the sun’s energy. I was anxious to get down there!

When we finally made it to the lake, I was surprised that everything was so quiet around me. I felt a tranquil connection between me and nature. There are only three elements existing; a small wooden jetty for visitors to enter the lake, the lake itself, and the wall of the rock island surrounding the lake. Other visitors seemed to appreciate the quietness, as we talked to each other in a very low tones, not wanting to break the stillness.


The lake is a fragile ecosystem. Thus, it is suggested to swim with the jellyfish, without fins, slowly and carefully, so as not to disturb them. I put on my goggles and snorkel and we slipped into the water to find the jellyfish. We made progress by only making small circles with our hands and kicked as gently as possible. I tried to act as peaceful as a jellyfish. For quite a while we still saw nothing, so we continued toward the center of the lake, which all of a sudden seemed like a very big lake.   

After making it to the middle and wondering where the jellyfish were, one of them made an appearance! Then another, and more and more!  I have never seen creatures like this before!  We were suddenly surrounded by the golden jellyfish (Mastigias) in different sizes from one inch to as big as the palm of my hand.

I felt amazing. They have very gentle pulsating movement. I gathered small ones in my open palms and laughed to see them find ways to swim away. I poked some of them slowly and they moved away into different directions. I also put my hands on top of jellyfish that swam horizontally and swam along with them.

At one point I was just floating on the surface of the lake. The jellyfish covered up my goggles and I could feel a million of them starting to cover my body! This was a bit much for getting close to nature, having them all over, but it was incredible. And I kept telling myself, “They don’t sting!

I swam away from the centre of the lake, just to the edge of the mass of jellyfish. Then I dove down a bit to watch the movement of the jellyfish from below.

To see millions of them move gracefully in the same direction, always following the sun was a near-unbelievable feeling. Try smiling with a snorkel!

During the period I was working in Palau, I visited the lake 3 times and each visit leaves the same impression. To swim safely in a lake surrounded by millions of jellyfish in surreal.  The setting felt like it was worth a million dollars. The words “spectacular” and “amazing” can barely describe the experience. It is good to know that Indonesia also has a similar lake phenomenon in Kakaban Island as part of Derawan Island in East Kalimantan. I definitely will go to experience the same exhilaration! Will you?

*This article was published in Venture Magazine on March 2011. 
Photos by: Kenneth Coonrod (Reephboy

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