Gary is currently in Grand Chute, WI (May 22nd, 2015)

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Behind the Lens – Jellyfish Lake in Palau


jellyfish lake palau

One of the most incredible things I’ve ever done is gone swimming with jellyfish in Palau.

Palau is a small island country of approximately 20,000 people in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. It is also home to, what I believe, is the greatest diving in the world.

The most unique feature of Palau however, doesn’t require any SCUBA gear to experience: the jellyfish lake.

The southern half of the country is a large lagoon made up to dozens of small limestone islands. Inside a few of those islands are depressions which are filled in seawater to create lakes. The lakes are fed through small cracks in the limestone which are big enough for jellyfish larve to get through but not fish.

As a result, the lakes are natural havens for jellyfish. They are able to live free of predators and float across the lake every day soaking up sun to feed their symbiotic internal algae known as zooxanthellae. Because they have no predators, the jellyfish in the lakes have evolved away their stingers making them safe to swim with.

I didn’t (and still don’t) have an underwater camera, so I rented one for the day from the dive shop and used their underwater housing. I swapped in my memory card just so I had more space and could take video. The underwater shots from Palau are the only images you’ll find in my photo collection that weren’t taken with one of my cameras.

The jellyfish are all near the surface of the lake. There is no need to dive down more than 1m and you can capture some great shots while breathing through a snorkel. I would love to go back and spend a day with a proper camera photographing the jellyfish.

Even though I last visited over 6 years ago, swimming with the jellyfish remains one of my favorite experiences. There is nothing else quite like it in the world.

Photo Information
Camera: Canon Powershot S60
Focal Length: 34mm
Aperture: f/2.8
Exposure: 1/125 sec.

  • 21 Comments... What's your take?

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  1. @oleista says:

    RT @Pinterest: #Pinspiration 9: see what it’s like to swim w/ 10,000’s of jellyfish in Palau @EverywhereTrip http://…

  2. For a different point of view on this amazing subject check out this film I managed to make last year:

  3. Wow this has been on my bucket list for quite some time, time to stop slacking! Great shot, x

  4. Gabe says:

    Aww I was loooking forward to seeing more pictures after that awesome first one. I was going to ask you what it was like traveling with an additional housing on top of everything else but I see you rented. How much was the rental?

  5. Chris says:

    Thanks for sharing! Definitely gets a spot on my bucket list!

  6. Tom Bartel says:

    Always been a little wary of them since hearing about the box jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef? Were you wearing any skin protection?

  7. Abdul Razzak says:

    Palau is in my list for quite long but just cant make it somehow. Everytime I plan for it something or the other changes, this is definitely going to push me towards strong planing for palau :) Thanks!

  8. Laura says:

    Palau is indeed is great island full of fun and i must say you have great time visiting it.This is in my list of “Places must visit”.

  9. Jack Kent says:

    Your MessageI have watched the survivor Palau and the place is just so amazing. If I will be given a chance to get to Palau, I will surely check out JellyFish lake. It seems cool to swith together with those jellyfishes, specially now that I know it’s safe. That will be the no. 1 must do if everyone is planning to visit this place.

  10. I came across a similar jellyfish to that pictured in the ocean here. It was huge and pink and scared the living daylights out of me because it appeared from nowhere!

  11. Clive Peters says:

    The idea of swimming with jellyfish sounds a bit scary but I would imagine it to be quite an experince

  12. Edward says:

    Absolutely hauntingly beautiful photograph! I’m so jealous of your trip. I’d love to swim with the jellyfish as well as dive in Palau. I’ve heard such incredible things and seen such amazing photos, yours included, that I can’t wait for the opportunity to go.

  13. BON VOYAGE says:

    Lovely photo but I think you are crazy to do this sort of thing especially if something were to go wrong, where and how would you get help, dear!!!!

  14. Rich says:

    Very nice! 6 years but planning? I am actually looking for another or several photographs that are willing to put their heads,together and make something out of it rather than talk about a bucket list. I’m not referring to you. Trips are generally cheaper, no need to stay together so we can go off and shoot alone at our.i own free will bit the cost per person goes down. Is this something you’d consider? Could get you back and me there sooner that you thought. I also would like to make it a 2 week minimum trip, if not more, there’s a lot of similar places w/o the jellies that have rare and endangered wildlife. Contact me through my site if even the slightest bit interested, I’d want to be sure we do this with good people, etc…

  15. While reading the intro, I wondered how come you swam with jellyfishes and shivered at the thought. Now I know it’s completely safe to swim with them. Interesting! ;)

  16. Franca says:

    I’ve never thought of swimming with jellyfishes. I found them quite beautiful to watch and some kind are amazingly colorful, but still it won’t push me to swim with them.

  17. Gina says:

    I have been interested in going to Palau ever since it was a featured location on Survivor. They even showed the jellies on the show! It’s on the short list for next year!

  18. Kaleb says:

    Awesome! Its on my bucket list!

  19. Heather says:

    My husband and I are headed to Palau in November, we’ll be diving and definitely not missing Jellyfish Lake!

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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