The tiny nation of Palau is home to a one of a kind lake. This lake in the country’s Rock Islands is filled with millions of harmless and sting-free jellyfish.
Palau’s jellyfish lake is a must-do if you enjoy swimming around with millions of jellyfish, no matter how crazy it might sound.
Swimming in Jellyfish Lake will give you a once in a lifetime experience; there’s nothing like it in this world, not even close. I even came back for a second visit to Jellyfish Lake during my ten-day trip to Palau.
It was definitely worth it since my second visit here was completely different from the first time I visited Jellyfish Lake, Palau.
Intervention in Palau – Jellyfish Lake Saved
The Jellyfish Lake in Palau finally reopened in early 2019 after it had been closed to visitors since 2016. The lake closed down in 2016 to protect its jellyfish and let the population fully recover from a drastic decline.
Back in 2016, there was a drought in Palau caused by El Nino. The same natural disaster caused a drought back in 1998, but the jellyfish recovered back to a healthy population soon after.
However, another factor leading to the decline of jellyfish back then was the hair and skincare products that tourists had on when entering the lake.
And, according to my licenced guide, there was also a problem in 2016 of tourists taking jellyfish out of the lake as souvenirs.
All this meant that the number of jellyfish left in the lake was critically low. While the jellyfish numbers back in 2005 were believed to have been around 30million, the numbers in 2016 were as low as a few hundred thousand.
So the Palau government had to do something, which was closing down the lake. They then handed it to the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF) for monitoring.
There’s now a floating platform in the middle of the lake which is continuously measuring the water temperature, oxygen level, plus more. This is making sure the numbers of Golden Jellyfish won’t decline again.
Where Is Jellyfish Lake Located?
Jellyfish lake is located in the small nation of Palau in the south Pacific. This famous lake, which can be seen clearly from the air, is in the middle of the Rock Islands.
The white thing in the middle of the lake is the monitoring platform, as seen from my scenic flight over rock islands.
Jellyfish Lake is hidden away on a small island called Eil Malk Island, also known as Mecherchar. They are part of a group of islands called the Rock Islands, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Rock Islands is made up of around 300 islands in an area of 47 square kilometres (18 sq mi). Jellyfish Lake is the only one of 50 Marine lakes in Palau that are open to the public.
Locally the lake is named Ongeim`l Tketau, meaning the Fifth Lake.
There’s now a security guard at the entrance that will check that you have your permit and that you are there with a licensed guide.
There’s a 10min walk from the Pier, where you arrive with the boat, to the lake itself. The walk is steep and on sharp rocks, so be sure to bring either your flip-flops or some other kind of light footwear for the walk.
When you first jump into the lake and start swimming out into it, you will only encounter a few single jellyfish swimming around.
But don’t get disappointed or waste your camera battery and memory space by taking photos of the first couple of jellyfish that you come across.
You will get plenty of photo opportunities later, and you will hate it if your camera runs out of battery or memory.
It’s only when you get into the middle of the lake that you will get blown away by the unbelievable numbers of jellyfish you will see and swim around.
None of the photos in this post is edited in photoshop. The light in Jellyfish lake is incredible, but often it was difficult to get my underwater camera to focus correctly.
Can I visit Jellyfish Lake on my own?
No, you can not go there without a Palau Jellyfish Lake tour. The lake is located about a 45min speedboat ride from downtown Koror, in the middle of Rock Island.
And, there is no way you can get there without a boat and a knowledgeable driver or guide.
You will also need a permit and a guide to get through the checkpoint, which is located at the entrance to the lake of jellyfish.
How To Get to Jellyfish Lake in Palau?
Before you visit Palau, you need to understand that there is only one way to reach Jellyfish Lake, and that is with a local travel company.
The local guide is both for transportation and because it is a rule. You are required to have a licenced guide for you to be allowed to enter the lake.
Just about every travel company in Palau offers trips to JellyFish Lake. I used two different ones, RITC-Palau and Fish N Fins, and both were good.
8 Highly-Rated Tour Operators in Palau
1. RITC-PALAU Japanese run tour company with an awesome English speaking staff, super-efficient, and can highly recommend them. I made two-day trips with them.
2. Fish N Fins is one of the oldest companies in Palau, mainly a PADI Dive centre (5*) but also offer day trips to rock islands and Jellyfish Lake and bring snorkelers along on scuba diving trips. However, they also offer ATV trips through the Jungle in Palau. I made a one day trip with this tour group, and I can highly recommend them.
3. SamTours is a highly recommended dive centre in Palau. Diving in Jellyfish Lake is one of the activities offered by this company. They also have many other day trips available.
4. Palau Impac offers a lot of different day trips; some are exclusively offered by them. It was recommended by my hotel in Koror.
5. NecoMarine Dive centre, which offers various day trips to Jellyfish Lake.
6. Paddling Palau offers kayaking trips from day trips to longer trips with camping on remote islands.
7. Palau 7th Wonder is a dive company that also does land tours. They offer packaged trips to Jellyfish Lake, too.
Can You Swim in Jellyfish Lake?
Yes, swimming in the lake with jellyfish is entirely safe, but you have to be able to swim a distance of around 400 meters (1300ft) minimum.
You will enter the lake on the opposite side of where the Jellyfish usually are located, and you will have to swim across the lake to be able to see them.
For safety, visitors are required to use a life jacket when entering the lake. But after some discussion with the guard, I was able to swim around the lake without the life jacket.
Your guide will be in a kayak close to you while you are in the lake to make sure you are safe and comfortable.
You can also ask for a floating board to hold onto if you are not a good swimmer.
Can I Go Scuba Diving in JellyFish lake?
No, you are not allowed to Scuba dive in the Jellyfish lake; only snorkelling is possible. And you will have to be careful with your kicking, so you don’t hit the Jellyfish.
The reason people can not go scuba diving in Jellyfish Lake is that the bubbles from the scuba tank can harm and kill the jellyfish.
Around 15m (49 feet) down in the lake is an anoxic layer with high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, which can be absorbed through your skin and lead to death.
So, it’s highly recommended not to free-dive too deep into the lake.
Is There Other Marine Life in Jellyfish lake?
The only thing except for Jellyfish in the lake is the floating platform in the middle of the lake and a few small fish that swim around the wooden pier where you will enter the lake.
Is It Really True That the Jellyfish Don’t Sting You?
Actually, the jellyfish here do sting, but the sting is not powerful enough to cause pain to humans. Except, you may start to get itchy around your mouth if their stinger touches you there.
Don’t worry; the Golden Jellyfish’s sting is completely harmless to people.
What Type of Jellyfish Is in the lake?
There are two species of Jellyfish living in Jellyfish Lake, the moon jellyfish (Aurelia) and The golden Jellyfish (Mastigias Papua Etpisoni).
This is the one that makes the lake famous and that you will be able to swim around with.
The Golden Jellyfish (Mastigias Papua Etpisoni) is only found in this lake and nowhere else in the entire world.
The Moon Jellyfish will often be the first jellyfish you will see when entering the lake, but there’s few of them around compared to the golden jellyfish.
And the Moon Jellyfish typically swims lower than the Golden Jellyfish, so they can be easily avoided.
Some Tips for Swimming with Jellyfish
Jellyfish lake from above. Notice all the jellyfishes on the eastern side of the lake.
Everyday, the jellyfish will move across the lake, following the sun. So depending on the time of day, the jellyfish will be in a different spot.
During my first visit to the lake, the jellyfish were all around the centre of the lake. However, on my second visit, they were all to the western edge of the lake.
Golden Jellyfish Migration patterns
From early morning to about 09h30 – The jellyfish move from the centre to the western basin to the eastern basin.
From early afternoon to about 15h30 – The jellyfish move from the eastern basin to near the western end of the lake.
As the sun sets – The jellyfish move briefly eastward from the western end to the western basin, where they remain through the night.
What’s The Price To Visit Jellyfish Lake?
You are required to get a permit to enter the lake costing 100 USD, and it is valid for 10 days. The permit is always additional to the tour price.
The permit covers the whole Rock Island area, and you can visit Jellyfish Lake as many times as you want during those 10 days.
You have to get the permit in Koror before you head to the lake. The easiest way to do it is through the travel company you are making the day trip with.
But you can also go to the Palau tourist office and obtain the permit by yourself. Make the most of your trip to Koror by finding fun things to do while you wait.
It’s not possible to get the permit at the checkpoint before entering the lake. If you try to enter Jellyfish Lake without a permit, there is a 700 USD fine. And there’s only one way in, and that’s past the checkpoint.
How big is Jellyfish Lake in Palau?
It is not a huge lake; the lake is 460m (1510ft) long and 160m (520ft) wide. With an average depth of 430m (100ft.) Making the total volume of the lake 1.71 million m3(60 million ft3).
What to Bring With to Jellyfish Lake
Obviously, you will have to bring snorkel gear, your permit and camera equipment. Alternatively, you can arrange snorkel gear through the tour guide that you are going to use.
The day trip to the lake will also typically include one snorkelling stop outside the lake and a stop at both Long Beach and the Milkyway, which is another must-see place if you are in Palau.
Be aware that Palau banned regular sunscreen in early 2020, and you can get fined up to 1000 USD for bringing or wearing suncream.
So, it is recommended to wear a rashguard or a t-shirt while snorkelling around since the sun’s rays in Palau are strong. (I looked like a boiled lobster after my snorkelling trip to Jellyfish Lake)
How Was Jellyfish Lake Created?
The lake is believed to be around 12000 years old and was created when the ice from the last ice age was melting and made the sea levels rise enough to fill the basin with water.
And, when the water level dropped, some jellyfish got trapped in what is now a lake.
This isolation allowed the jellyfish in the lake to develop on their own, and the golden Jellyfish( Mastigias Papua etpisoni) can now only be found here in this lake.
Prepare to See Tons of Jellyfish – Palau Afterthoughts
No matter the time of year, there is never a bad time to visit Palau. And, it would be a crime to visit this beautiful land without a trip to Jellyfish Island.
There are plenty of tour guides and local operators that will take you to Jellyfish Lake. This is the only way you will be granted access to the lake.
They will also arrange everything you need, so it is best to do the trip through one of them.
You do not want to miss out on an opportunity to swim with jellyfish in Palau.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience is out there for you to seize, so pack your bags and head to Jellyfish Lake in Palau for an unforgettable moment.