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.

20 Replies to “Behind the Lens – Jellyfish Lake in Palau”

  1. 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?

  2. 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!

  3. 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”.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!!!

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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

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