Welcome to Palau!
The string of over three hundred tiny green islands, 3 degrees north of the equator in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines, is both a majestic and magical place.
Time stopped when these gorgeous islands took shape at the end of the last ice age, forming one of the most geologically and biologically fascinating places on the planet.
Now, the beautiful blue waters are teeming with the magnificence of marine life. The island country created the word’s first shark sanctuary in 2009 and is home to such marvels as a 400-pound Napoleon Wrasse and gigantic 500 to 800 pound Tridacna clams.
This morning, weâ€™re off to Jellyfish Lake, which is the habitat for millions of jellyfish. Itâ€™s a 45-minute boat ride and 20-minute hike through the woods. The air is humid and out local guide, Jake, and our crew lugged all of the equipment â€“ cameras and gear â€“ needed to document the journey. (Jake was barefoot!)
This body of water is filled to the brim with 20 million jellyfish that have lost the ability to sting. The lack of predators not only has caused them to multiply, but it also has caused them to lose their stinging cells, Jake explained, so you can actually touch them.
Thatâ€™s what I did. As we swam out, I spotted a few near the light since they are dependent on the sun for feeding purposes, Jake explained.
And then it was full-blown jellyfish nation. It was an unbelievable experience, like floating through a living lava lamp with 20 million swirling globes of golden marshmallow puffs. Once I got over the initial shock of feeling them all over my body, it was beautiful. I did deep duck dive after duck dive to get in the densest area of jellyfish. With a Go Pro camera in hand, I got some epic shots coming through the thick schools. It was interesting too, the bigger jellies hang with the other bigger jellies, the babies are all together on the outside. Grouping by size. People keep asking what it felt like — it felt like swimming through opened cups of Jello…so weird!
Next on our journey was Palauâ€™s natural mud bath called the Milky Way â€“ nature’s answer to a day at the spa. The thick clay mud found at the bottom of the floor is said to make you look ten years younger. I don’t know if it did all that, but it was fun covering myself head to toe in the thick mud. Jake and I joked that he’s really 85, but has been coming here for years.
But the truth is whether you come to Palau for the mud bath, to snorkel at the sunken ship turned barrier reef, scuba dive with the sharks and Napoleans, or swim with the jellyfish, simply being in this place and taking in the wonder of nature will make you feel like a kid again.
And we were lucky enough to experience a beautiful sunset.
Tulong, Palau. That means, Thank you.
[Note: The Palauan word for “Thank you” is SULANG.]