Read This Before Swimming With The Golden Jellyfish In Palau

Read This Before Swimming With The Golden Jellyfish In Palau

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After being closed for a couple of years due to the natural decimation of the jellyfish population from high temperatures, the jellyfish population has recovered and Palau has reopened Jellyfish Lake to visitors.

The very idea of swimming in a body of water surrounded by an endless swarm of jellyfish is something that might send shivers down the spine most of people, and that same idea is precisely why I flew all the way out to the remote islands of Palau. I’ve been stung by a few jellyfish over the years and it is not fun. And no, I’ve never peed on myself after being stung…or have anyone else pee on me…that I can’t remember.

What made this an instant bucket list item for me was finding out that there was a lake in Micronesia where you can swim with a million jellyfish that are completely harmless to humans. It’s absolutely insane and I had to experience it myself.

Where Is The Lake With The Jellyfish?

Chances you’re here because you are searching for the place where you can swim amongst the thousands and thousands of jellyfish without being stung. The place is real and that lake is aptly called Jellyfish Lake located near Koror in the island nation of Palau.

How To Swim With The Jellyfish In Palau?

This is a simple one. Fly to Palau, book a tour to visit the Jellyfish Lake, and prepare to be amazed.

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Where Is The Jellyfish Lake In Palau?

The famous “Jellyfish” Lake is in Koror, Palau. You can fly commercially to Koror, Palau (ROR) from one of 5 places: Guam (1.5 hrs), Manila, Philippines (2.5 hrs), Taipei, Taiwan (4 hrs), Tokyo, Japan (4 hrs), and Seoul, Korea (4.5 hours). Coming from San Francisco, I decided to stop by Tokyo for a week first because sushi, sushi, and sushi. You can get a 30 day visa on arrival (1 year for US citizens), so that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. The airport is about 5 miles away from Koror (where you’ll want to stay), and transportation costs about $20.

Top Places To Stay In Palau: Koror

Most flights arrive at night, so it’s best to arrange a pick-up with your hotel before arrival. Grabbing a taxi isn’t that difficult either.

Once you’ve settled in, your hotel can arrange for you to be on one of the tours heading to Jellyfish Lake. These tours usually combine the Jellyfish Lake as part of a snorkeling or kayaking trip around the Rock Islands, Palau’s main attraction. Likewise, dive shops can arrange a trip to Jellyfish lake as well. Either way, you can’t just go on your own since you’ll need a boat to get there.

How Much Is the Permit For Jellyfish Lake?

Prior to heading out, you’ll also have to pick up a Palau Jellyfish Lake and Rock Islands permit. This will cost you a $100 and it’s valid for 10 days. It’s steep I know, but better you know ahead of time. Most people will only visit once, but I recommend trying multiple excursions or dive trips that include Jellyfish Lake (preferably arriving at different times). This way you get a better chance to avoid the crowds and having the place potentially to yourself – like I did.

With the logistics out of the way, all that’s left is to pack a pair of swim trucks and prepare to have your mind blown.

Are The Jellyfish Dangerous?

Short answer: No. Long answer: Noooooo. The jellyfish in the lake have been isolated so long without a need to use their stingers that they have evolved to lose them. Instead, they feed on the algae in the lake. If anything, we are potentially the danger to them as tourists recklessly flop about with their fins kicking into their delicate composition. It’s safe to go into the water, except for the saltwater crocodiles. Just kidding, those guys hide in the mangroves outside the lake. You’re good.

Harmless Jellyfish In Palau

Where To Stay In Koror

There’s a range of options for travelers of all budgets in Palau, but most of them are in the mid to high range.

The Cheapest Place To Stay In Koror

I found one of the cheapest place that turned out to be amazing: Ms. Pinetree’s Hostel. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I made on the trip. The family-run hostel is basically a house with 4 rooms (2 dorms and 2 private rooms). They also offered their own tours that were cheaper than the other tour operators and the genial older gentleman who takes you out (Francis) also happens to be the guy who discovered most of the dive site on the island. This was more home than hostel.

If they are not available, Antelope Guesthouse offers a similar style of accommodation at a very good price.

The Best Places To Stay In Koror

Like most destinations where I spend a bit of time, I like to treat myself to a night or two in higher end hotels. At the very least, I will do deep research to get the best value when I’m going to be spending more money than usual.

Updated 2024: In Koror, there’s a surprisingly amount of options since they used to cater to large Chinese tour group, until the recent ‘travel ban’ keeping mainland Chinese tourists from visiting Palau. These large luxury hotels are struggling to fill spaces and are now available at lower rates than usual. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices below.

The Palau Royal Resort is the premier hotel in Koror, but it’s also a little dated now and on the pricier end. Still, you’ll probably get the best service and the largest pool here.

I spent a night at the Palau Central Hotel and I found this to be great value. You have a large hotel ground with a beautiful pool, all the amenities and about half the price of the Palau Royal Resort. Use the link and you’ll get breakfast included.

For something a little more intimate and really gets you into the local tropical vibe, I would recommend Palau Caroline’s Resort, which was the other place I considered.

Best Places To Visit In Micronesia

Best Dive Company In Palau

There are a surprisingly amount of dive operators and companies in Palau, so you have a lot of options, which is great, but makes the decision harder. Most resorts have their own dive masters. There are liveaboard companies that offer weeklong all-inclusive stay and dive packages.

For those who just want to do a few dives and trips out to the Jellyfish Lake, I suggest going with one of the more reputable dive operators in Palau. Palau Dive Adventures is the most well known operator in and around Koror. They offer individual dives and dive packages, but I found them to be more on the expensive side.

Choose To Dive With The Locals

To my luck, the local family that own Ms. Pinetree’s Hostel are also divers. And that’s sort of an understatement. The grand patriarch of the family was one of the early divers in Palau and he discovered many of the major dive sites that people go to today. He’s semi-retired now, but will take guests out privately along with another member of the family who will be the divemaster and guide.

I was worried this would be more expensive, but it turned out to be even cheaper than any of the dive operators.

On my dive trip, it was just me and a couple also staying at the hostel. This was truly a hidden gem. Not only was the group smaller and more private, it was cheaper than all the other dive shops. When I arranged for a day trip around the Rock Islands and Jellyfish Lake, it was just me and my friend AND we were able to customize the trip to go to less frequented sites and at times when he knew the other hordes of tourists weren’t there.

I simply cannot recommend them enough. On Sunday, I even came down early into the living room to watch some football. It really felt like being at home, except I was in paradise.

The Magic of Jellyfish Lake and The Rock Islands

We checked out a few spots before getting to Jellyfish Lake including a few wrecks. I’ll talk about that in a separate post about exploring Palau’s underwater world. This is all about the jellies. Sometime in the early afternoon, we arrived at the pier leading to the lake, grabbed our gear and checked in with the guards who made sure that we had our permits.

I recommend taking along the latest GoPro if you don’t professional underwear gear. The wider angle, amazing stabilization and ease of mounting on a selfie stick makes this one of the best option to get shots of yourself underwater surrounded by the jellyfish.

My other setup was an RX100 in my Nauticam Housing. Make sure you also have a pair of sandals because there’s a steep and rocky 10 minute hike to get to the lake itself. At the lake, there’s a little dock where you can leave them there.

Jellyfish Lake Dock In Palau

Don’t Be Fooled By Where You Start

The photo above shows what it looks like when you arrive. It’s a pretty big lake and the jellyfish are constantly moving to follow the sun and their food source. On most tour groups, you’ll jump in with your life vest and follow the guide until he finds the swarm. We opted to do this part alone, so we basically just started swimming out to where there we saw a tour group leaving from.

Despite seeing the photos before arriving, I still had no idea what to expect. On the way out, we saw nothing and I was a little nervous that we might not find them without a guide. That worry soon disappeared as I saw my first jellyfish. And then another. And another.

Is It Dangerous To Swim With Jellyfish In Palau

How To Find The Jellyfish At Jellyfish Lake?

I was told to go to where the sun is shining into the water. The jellyfish follow the light so that’s usually where you’ll find them. I was already pretty excited at this point and it kept getting better. We stumbled into the right spot and soon enough those 10 jellyfish were joined by a few hundred and then just like I had seen, I was surrounded by thousands and thousands of jellyfish in every direction. It was stunning beyond belief. I would take a deep breath and dive down as long as I could coming up only when I knew I couldn’t stay down any longer. I’d gasp for air and repeat the process. It was magical.

Freediver surrounded by jellyfish in Palau

When I surfaced, it was pretty weird and a little funny to feel them bouncing and bobbing off my body and legs. I tried to kick as gracefully and carefully as possible to avoid hurting any of them.

Where To Swim With Jellyfish In Palau

The surreal part is that for as many as you see on the surface or near the top of the water, the numbers multiple the deeper you go. I kept going deeper and deeper each time I dived down. There were big bulbous ones and small ones that were tinier than a finger nail.

Unlike swimming through a school of fish, the jellyfishes do not part and you simply bumped them out of the way with your face and body. As it got darker, they almost glowed against the water, suspended with a rhythmic pulsing as they moved in all directions.

Jellyfish Swarm In Palau

Free Diving At Jellyfish Lake

On one particular single breath free dive, I started spinning and turning as I was going down to just immerse myself in this unbelievable place. I lost track of time and my bearings. The deeper I went, the greener the water became until all I saw in every direction was green and of course the jellyfish.

I don’t know how deep I went, but I felt like I had passed some invisible barrier and in another place altogether. It took a few seconds, though it felt much longer, but eventually I turned around enough to see a brighter area and started swimming towards that light. Coming up towards the bluer water, I felt both a sense of relief and an unexpected nostalgia already that I might never be in that world again.

Best Underwater Photography Camera RX100 IV

When I came up, I realized that the entire lake was empty except for me and my friend. From what I had read about the hordes of tourists coming in here, I never imagined that I could have the place practically to myself. We spent about an hour there before deciding that it was best to leave before we were oversaturated by the experience.

Ultimate Bucket List: Swimming With Jellyfish In Palau

I’m sure like most, Palau made it onto my radar because of Jellyfish Lake, but this is not the only thing they’re known for. The diving and snorkeling here is spectacular. Because they only so many tourists a year, the natural part of is very much untouched.

What else have you been dying to do? If you need some ideas, check out my long bucket list and see if you’ve missed a thing or two.

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  • G
    7 months ago

    Hi! Are freedive long fins allowed in the Lake? Ive been there back
    In 2014 and 2015 But wasnt a freediver yet and would love To come back💙

    • 4 months ago

      I’m not sure if fins are allowed at the moment or not. It was allowed when I went, but the main thing is to try to move through the water as delicately as possible since kicking with the fins can damage the jellyfish. That being said, you don’t really need the fins since you can only really go about 15 meters down anyway and just going down a few meters will fully immerse you in the jellies as you probably remember.

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