Palau's Famous Lake Filled With Thousands of Golden Jellyfish Has Finally Reopened — and Yes, You Can Swim With Them Again
Government officials announced the reopening of the Ongeim’l Tketau Jellyfish Lake in December, finding that the lake now has enough jellyfish to provide visitors with an enriching experience once again.
“Site managers are confident that the populations of jellyfish will make a full recovery and monitoring data from the CRRF (Coral Reef Research Foundation) supports this expectation,” officials said in the statement.
The reopening comes after the lake's jellyfish population saw a drastic decline in 2016 due to drought conditions that hit the archipelago.
Over 600,000 golden jellyfish have since returned to the lake, according to CRRF researcher Gerda Ucharm, who said in an interview with CNN Travel that the numbers can be expected to continue to rise if Palau continues to receive the rainy weather it is currently experiencing.
While Palau is home to over 50 different marine lakes, Jellyfish Lake is the only one that is currently open to visitors, with all other lakes preserved to ensure conservation.
Found on the island of Mecherchar (also known as Eil Malk), about a 45-minute boat ride from downtown Koror, the isolated lake is famous for the millions of jellyfish divers can swim with in its waters.
The jellyfish found in the lake are a rare subspecies known as Mastigias papua etpisoni, and exist only in this particular marine lake, according to the CRRF representatives.
While the common myth has been that the jellyfish lost their ability to sting over time due to their isolation, representatives from the CRRF state that in actuality the species has a sting that is mild and often undetectable.
Due to this, the lake has become a popular spot for swimmers who immerse themselves in the jellyfish-filled waters. Though swimming is permitted, scuba diving is highly prohibited as the bottom layer of the lake hosts a poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas that even the lake’s jellyfish don’t swim near.
The lake is now officially open, but management officials will be monitoring the area to ensure its protection.
Those wishing to visit the lake will need to go through a certified tour guide and sign an eco-pledge. It is also recommended that swimmers ensure they don’t have debris like sand on their shoes and use slow, gentle strokes without kicking, as harsh movements can tear the gentle species.
Visitors should avoid applying any sunscreen before entering the water as studies conducted in 2017 indicated that high levels of sunscreen concentration had built up in the lake and was harming the declining jellyfish.