Swim in the jellyfish lake

    Don’t want to swim with the sharks? Jump in with jellyfish in the Pacific island nation of Palau.
Jellyfish surround a diver © Waterframe RM/Getty Images
By Chris O'Dell

Deep in the western Pacific Ocean sits the island nation of Palau, comprised of 250 islands, 21,000 people, and an incalculable number of jellyfish. Jellyfish? Yes, jellyfish. Palau is home to the Jellyfish Lake, a little-known wonder of the natural world. The 14-acre saltwater lake (that's quite small, mind you) hosts a few species of jellyfish is a popular place to visit. But local photographer Wendy Capili warns, “Getting to Palau is a long expensive trip – and then the Rock Islands are a 30-minute boat ride from Koror, the capital of Palau.”

Scroll down to learn more from Capili – and see some incredible images.

Floating above
A diver observes a crowd of jellyfish from above.

The jellyfish float like clouds in the sky © Waterframe RM/Getty Images

Lake land
Jellyfish Lake is one of few saltwater lakes in the world. It's connected to the ocean by limestone fissures, but it retains an ecosystem separate from surrounding bodies of water.

Not a bad place to hang out above the water! © Island Effects/Getty Images

Sting free
Looks like it hurts? Not for most. Says Capili: “The jellyfish have evolved to be stingless, but some people with skin hypersensitivity issues still get a little sting sometimes.”


Touch a jellyfish? We dare you © Moment Open/Getty Images

Green scene
“Jellyfish lake is a surreal, out of this world experience,” says Capili. “I'm very lucky to live in this country and have this natural wonder so near.”

That isn't underwater vegetation © Richard Schneider

View from above
A snorkeler releases air bubbles from below, surrounded by countless jellyfish. Wendy Capili says, “You can only snorkel with them – no diving allowed, since starting at 15m there's a layer of hydrogen sulfide and bacteria that is toxic to humans!”

That's not a jellyfish – it's an airbubble © Wendy Capili-Wilkie

Cloud around
A swarm of the marine animals from close-up. There's two main species in Jellyfish Lake – Gold Jellyfish and Moon Jellyfish. Over the course of the day, they'll rise and fall through the depths of the lake, acquiring necessary nitrogen and other nutrients.

It's like navigating an underwater asteroid field © Richard Schneider

Swimming in the sun
Getting good shots in Jellyfish Lake isn't easy. Says Capili: “It is challenging to get the right picture because light constantly changes underwater. Sometimes you also need a bit of luck to get the right weather conditions to create great pictures!”

We know you're wondering – they don't sting © James Wilkie

A sweet spot to snorkel
While this would easily be one of the most memorable snorkel trips of anyone's life, it's not easy: “When you do get to the lake, there is a little bit of steep uphill and downhill hiking involved,” says Capili. “Then, to get to the thickest of the jellyfish swarm, you have to swim a little bit of a long ways to the end of the lake!” 

Scuba-diving gear not allowed! © Wendy Capili-Wilkie

Glowing orbs
So why don't the Golden Jellyfish and Moon Jellyfish sting when touched, like their ocean-born cousins? A lack of natural predators in the last 12,500 years mean their stinging ability has evolved to... nothing.

Jellyfish are wondrous creatures © Wendy Capili-Wilkie

Smile, you're on camera
They say that when you look hard at anything, whether clouds or the trees, you'll be able to see faces appear. Well, the same is true it seems of jellyfish. Only this one is real.

This face is not a hallucination. © Eric Cheng photography

Into the abyss
Jellyfish are normally to be avoided at all costs. But here, a snorkeller demonstrates that it can be fun to hang out with them as well. The lake is an incredible natural wonder that has to be seen. “I just love that place,” says photographer Eric Cheng, who captured the shot below.

As far as the eyes can see – jellyfish © Eric Cheng photography

Above the clouds
A snorkeller ascends from the cloud of jellyfish, which are sitting a few meters below the surface.

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Rising above the cloud © Waterframe RM/Getty Images
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