Palau Expedition: Millions of Jellyfish

In September 2013, Palau’s current President Tommy Remengesau announced his intention to protect 80 percent of Palau’s waters as a National Marine Sanctuary. For the month of September 2014, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala is leading key scientists and filmmakers to explore, survey, and document the diversity and abundance of the marine life that will be protected by the new offshore sanctuary. The team will also assess how well inshore marine protected areas have performed to date.

The famed lake jellyfish of Palau. (Enric Sala)
As incredible as it may sound, the greatest tourist attraction of Palau is
a lake with a few million jellyfish. Tourists come from all over the
world, mainly Asia, not only to see the jellyfish, but also to swim among
them. One may wonder whether these people are crazy. But the
answer is that these jellyfish don’t sting!
Our Pristine Seas expedition team arrived to the lake early in the
morning, before the tourists did. We motored on our fast boat on a
maze of marine channels amid limestone islands covered by lush tropical
vegetation. The water ranged from turquoise to navy blue, and it was so
clear we thought we were going to run aground on the reefs below. After arriving
at the little dock on one of the islands, we hiked up and down a hill, and
there it was, a completely enclosed lake, surrounded by hills covered by a
thick canopy.I jumped in the water and felt like I was floating in a primordial universe,
with countless brown hearts beating. I have visited some of the most
remote places in the ocean, full of sharks and huge fish schools; but
these little animals, virtually water inside a living bag, made me feel
closer to nature than anything else.
Palau is doing it right. Only one jellyfish lake is open to the public,
who pay an entrance fee. Rangers control access to the lake and enforce
the regulations. And the entire archipelago around the lake is untouched.
No houses, no hotels, no human signs. This is why people fly here; to find
undisturbed nature they miss in their normal lives.

Read All Pristine Seas: Palau Blog Posts

The Pristine Seas expedition to Palau is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Changing Planet

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Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.