22 April 2009 | Mecharchar
We made the required Palau pilgrimage to Jellyfish lake today. Anyone who has been to Palau, and many who haven't, know the place.
The Rock Islands are limestone, ancient coral pushed up and exposed or covered with the changing sea levels over the ages. As fairly jagged formations, some have basins below sea level. The matrix of crevices and underwater caves floods most of these creating marine lakes, isolated but also connected to the ocean. Thus they have tides and an exchange of microscopic, and some macroscopic, organisms.
The amazing thing about some of the lakes is that they trapped a number of larger animals when last they were directly connected with the sea. All of these seem to have perished except the jellyfish. Having no predators these jellyfish have evolved without stinging cells. You can snorkel here with no worries.
So we did. We took the dinghy over to the Jellyfish Lake Park dock, a short ride from our adjacent anchorage. Here we presented the rangers our park passes. A Rock Island pass (for diving, swimming, snorkeling, or just visiting) is $25 for 10 days. If you want to add the Jellyfish Lake endorsement you pay $35. If you are a USA, RMi or FSM citizen and register for a longer than 4 month stay there is no fee.
After checking in you hike up a steep trail covered with the obligatory jagged limestone, fortunately the park has installed a very useful rope handrail. Once at the top of the ridge, back down you go. The Jellyfish lake has a nice floating dock (to handle the tides) and from there you jump in.
The Jellies have only one problem, anemones. The anemones catch jellies that get to close to the shore or bottom and eat them. When you jump in at the dock you see lots of anemones but very few jellies. Scientists believe that the jellies stay out in the sunlight to energizes the algae inside them that produces much of their food. This behavior also keep them from the shady edges of the lake where the anemones lie in wait.
So as you swim toward the middle of the lake the jelly population increases. Soon they begin to bump into you in their undulating flight. The feeling of a slick, just short of slimy, gelatinous bubble rubbing along your leg takes a minute to get used to. And get used to it you must, because before long they are everywhere. The largest space between adjacent jellies in the middle of the lake during our visit was perhaps 6 inches. There are baby jellies no bigger than a penny and big ones the size of a hat. All just blissfully whopping along in what ever direction they are pointed, hurrying to get nowhere.
This lake is one of several like it but the only one you can visit. Swimming here, especially if you can avoid the throngs as we did, is a zen experience. The tranquility of the lake with the sounds of the birds and insects and the silent undulations of the fractal like patterns of jellies under that water is hard to adequately describe.
After a long stay at the lake (we had to pry Hideko away) we got back to the big boat and readied to move to the islands close to German Channel, a popular dive site. We crept through the adjacent two anchorage lagoons in water around 10 feet or so and then past the Jellyfish Lake dock to head back to our inbound track line. We followed our track carefully back over the shallow coral bar and then on to the outside of the Mecharchar group.
Back in the big lagoon we basically made straight for the Bablomekang group (you gotta love Palau island names). We saw some light patches in the water but didn't really have to swerve for any. Bablomekang and the islands around it form an open natural bay with a bottom from 10 to 30 feet of mostly sand with coral heads here and there (none boat threatening if you stay out of the very shoal areas). There are three holes indented into Bablomekang with fronting rock islets that make for nice heavy protection anchorages. The northern most of these is the nicest but has the shallowest entrance. I imagine you would have more insect visitors in the holes due to the proximity to the island.
Not expecting any particularly nasty weather and wanting to be able to take the big boat to German channel easily we just plunked down in the middle of the bay. Whistler followed suit and Dancer, a dive crazy couple from Boston, were already here. Jim and Jennette have been diving Palau in their lovely aluminum cutter for a year and a half and still haven't tired of it. They are a wealth of information and wonderful folks.
Once anchored everyone went swimming and then we took a quick tour around the islands in the dinghy to check out other anchorage possibilities, exits, depths and the two beaches. Bablomekang has the standard beach barbecue setup on the north end and the south end. In fact, I haven't seen a beach in the rock islands that hasn't been setup for tourist lunch breaks.
As we relaxed on Whistler at the end of the day Jim and Jenette came back from diving and stopped off to say hello. They have a huge Zodiac Rib (20 feet?) with an awning that they use to get out to the reef. Very nice setup.
We watched another spectacular sunset from this, perhaps our favorite Palau anchorage yet.
P.S. The video attached is from Eric, on Whistler, and stars Pepe his crew from Tenereffe