Note: Swimming is no longer permitted as the government has closed the lake to protect the dwindling jellyfish population.
Palau is an island in the South Pacific and is often overlooked in favor of Fiji, Bora Bora, or the Cook Islands. This makes Palau a great destination if you are looking for a nice, beautiful, and quiet tropical island.
But more importantly, Palau has the amazing Jellyfish Lake. Probably Palau’s most famous attraction, Jellyfish Lake is a marine lake located on Eil Malk Island. Every day, millions of golden jellyfish migrate across the lake. While they do this, you can go swimming with them!
Jellyfish Lake is about 12,000 years old and a remnant of the last ice age. About 12,000 years ago, the sea level rose to the point where sea water began to fill the basin. But when the glaciers receded, there was no place for these jellyfish or other fish to go. This isolation allowed the species in the lake to develop on their own and become unique (Darwin would be proud!).
This is why you can swim in the lake: these jellyfish have lost their stingers. Without the need for them, they have lost their ability to sting, so you can swim unharmed. The jellyfish in the lake live on algae that are attached to them. Twice each day, the jellyfish in the lake swim from one side to the other so they algae they live off of can grow.
Snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake is a popular activity for tourists, and there are many tour operators here. Tourists require a pass to access Jellyfish Lake. The Rock Islands/Jellyfish Lake pass is $35 and is good for 10 days. You’ll be able to swim for hours with these creatures as they migrate from one side of the lake to the other. While Palau might not be one of the biggest destinations in the region, this lake is Palau’s big destination, so don’t expect to be the only one swimming here.
Scuba diving by tourists in the lake is not allowed for two reasons: First, the bubbles from scuba tanks can harm the jellyfish if they collect beneath their bell. Secondly, at about 15 meters below the surface, there are high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, which can be absorbed through the skin of a diver and cause death.
If you are looking to do something different, try going for a swim with a few million jellyfish. Most of the jellyfish in the world sting, and while they are beautiful creatures, you can’t really go swimming with them. Yet here in Palau, nature gives you a chance to get all tangled up without being stung.
P.S. If you are like me and enjoy visiting cool and unique places around the world, check out my “unusual places” category to read more about odd places to visit in your travels.