There are only two places in the world where you can swim in an inland lake full of stingless jellyfish: (1) Palau and (2) Kakaban Island in Indonesia. Luckily for us, Kakaban Island was only a hop, skip and a jump away from our anchorage at Maratua Atoll, so we arranged a little excursion to swim with the jellies.
We were collected from our yachts by a little blue speedboat skippered by Juanda and crewed by a toothless decky, then whisked across the shallow reef flats to Kakaban Island. Our first stop was a beautiful little lagoon full of batfish, then a short bumpy ride later we arrived at the ticket booth to the jellyfish lake (a small entrance donation is expected). We couldn’t really see any jellyfish as we approached the lake, but as we got closer, little orange blobs became visible. That was all the encouragement I needed. Clothes and shoes were discarded, mask donned and in I went! Only a few jellyfish were floating around in the shallows near the steps, and there were several upside-down-jellies resting on the weedy bottom, but as we swam further out into the deep, we were suddenly surrounded by them! It was surreal. Such a unique experience (and another tick on the bucket list!)
There are four species of jellyfish in the lake:
1. Mastigias papua. These orange blobs make up the majority of the lakes residents. There are thousands of them of varying sizes. They get about with a bit of speed and boing into you from all directions.
2. Aurelia aurita, or more commonly known as moon jellies or saucer jellies. These guys were comparatively large, but see-through and a bit difficult to spot.
3. Cassiopea ornata, an upside-down jellyfish that rested on the weedy bottom.
4. Tripedalia cystophora, a small thumb-sized box jellyfish, which fortunately has lost its venomous sting!
We were conscious that human presence has impacted on these populations, so we made sure not to wear any sunscreen, repellent or deodorant in the lake, and didn’t initiate contact with them to help preserve them.