Live aboard diving in Mexico: you’re guaranteed to have a whale of a time.

Live aboard diving in Mexico: you’re guaranteed to have a whale of a time.

With a head like a truck and a body covered in polka dots, swimming alongside the enormous whale shark is high up on any avid divers ‘must do’ list of underwater experiences.

Whale sharks are the largest cartilaginous fish in the world, yet are nothing to be afraid of. The ocean giants filter feed on plankton, which explains the enormous size of their head and mouth. To sustain a 12 metre long shark feeding on a food source that is around 0.04% of its size requires one huge set of jaws.  Whale sharks scoop up plankton and any unsuspecting small fish hanging near the ocean’s surface, using their mouth like a net to collect the massive amount of food they require.

Whale sharks thrive in waters of warmer temperatures, which means if you want to spend some time underwater with them pack your bags for somewhere tropical. Mexico is not only renowned for the encounters travellers can have with these magical animals, but is an insanely fantastic and relatively untouched dive destination in its own right.

Mexico is  where seeing these incredible creatures is almost guaranteed at certain times of the year. Live aboard diving vessels in Mexico usually plan their itineraries around the seasons, so you’ll have to decide where you want to go and what you want to see prior to booking your trip.

Whale sharks can often be spotted in the Sea of Cortez. Protected by the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez’s relatively calm water stretches for over 1000 kilometres. Almost a third of the world’s species of cetaceans can be found in this underwater microcosm, and diving in the Sea of Cortez is absolutely phenomenal. From July to October, dive live aboards  visit this area for week long action-packed trips.

Scattered throughout the Sea of Cortez are endless pinnacles, islands and rock formations so there’s no shortage of live aboard dive sites. There are few animals that can melt even the coldest of hearts quite like sea lions can, and the Sea of Cortez is where a dive can quickly turn into an underwater play session with these puppies of the sea! It’s not uncommon to be able to tick more than one kind of whale off your bucket list, with species of orcas, dolphins and whales spotted regularly.

The unique geographical position of the sea and the surrounding area has resulted in species that can only be found in this area, and diving in the Sea of Cortez presents divers with the rare chance to encounter the endangered and unique sub species of porpoise endemic to the area, the vaquita. The Sea of Cortez is bursting with so much life that it’s difficult to list it all and really do this melting pot of marine life justice, so I recommend you just book that trip and head over there yourself! Due to the remoteness of the Sea of Cortez, the best way to head over to this part of the world is by a dive live aboard.

A humpback whale calf comes in a little closer to inspect my camera lens.
A humpback whale calf comes in a little closer to inspect my camera lens.

If a different kind of ocean giant is more your thing, Socorro in Mexico is one of the few destinations where you have the chance to interact underwater with humpback whales (another great spot to swim with humpbacks is the Kingdom of Tonga).  Socorro has been coined ‘Mexicos Galapagos’, and it’s easy to see why.

The Socorro Islands are a group of 4 islands each named individually, but are often collectively referred to as the Socorro group. Liveaboard diving at Socorro offers encounters of the pelagic kind, and plenty of them. Sharks can be found here in the hundreds.

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The luxury Mexican dive liveaboard, the Solmar V. Click the image to learn more!

The team onboard the Solmar V live aboard once counted 7 different species of shark on a single dive!

Huge schools of hammerheads can be seen gliding past along with Giant Pacific manta ray. This species of manta can grow to just under 7 metres from wing-tip to wing-tip, and are regularly visitors to the Socorro Islands. Whale sharks are a special treat at the islands, and can be spotted in November/December and late April/May.

If heart-stopping adrenalin rushes and interactions with some of the biggest creatures to call this blue planet of ours home is what you’re all about, Mexico needs to be your next live aboard dive destination. The biodiversity of this dive destination truly needs to be seen to be believed.

High Five for Koh Haa

High Five for Koh Haa

Koh Haa islands in ThailandKoh Haa, or Five Islands, is in Thailand’s South Andaman Sea, the area consists of 5 limestone outcrops, under which are caverns and coral encrusted boulders.  I came to this famous dive site in December 2014 as part of a Thailand dive liveaboard holiday and was instantly impressed by the coral life and critters. Due to persistent rumours that the corals in Thailand were bleached and mostly dying, I hadn’t expected the diving to be that great but was so pleasantly surprised during the 3-night liveaboard trip that I’ve vowed to go back again.

Corals of ThailandMy favourite dive site of the trip was the Cathedral due to  outstanding corals. We descended down to the large cathedral-like cavern at just 5-8m depth. This is a super spot to capture divers in silhouette if you’re into underwater photography. Emerging from the cavern you come to a ravine between the main island reef and two large boulders, which I can only assume was all one structure at some point. Diving along the ravine I opted to make a figure-of-eight pattern around the boulders. Cutting through the split I came to one of the most fantastic broccoli coral gardens I’ve ever seen. The sea bed, at 20-30m, was covered with these light purple dendronephthya, only having air in my cylinder I was unable to explore for very long at that depth but this coral field stretched as far as I could see and that was at least 30m!

chromodoris_1Returning to the boulders, themselves covered with soft corals, cup corals and black coral bushes, I was able to find several species of nudibranch, moray eels being cleaned by attendant commensal shrimps, file fish, scorpion fish, wentletraps and a porcelain crab. I’m positive that this site would also be home to ghost pipefish and perhaps seahorses but I didn’t manage to find any at this time.

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porcelain crab

Moray eel

Moving up to the shallow top of the boulders at 8m I was stunned to see beautiful schools of snapper cruising about in swathes around the ridges. I spent the rest of the dive time there, mesmerized by their movement before returning to the main reef for my safety stop.

Sea fans thailandThis was definitely one site I would have been happy to dive again, but being there were more places to dive and we needed to begin our journey back towards Phi Phi Island. Over the course of the 3 days we dived not only Koh Haa but spent a day around Phi Phi. Bida Nok was lovely – with big fish schools around us and one group finding leopard sharks and maybe a hammerhead, though I’m not sure I believed them! Other dives were made at Shark Point, where the sea fans are huge and very pretty, and the King Cruiser wreck. This wreck is now home to huge schools of fish and so encrusted with corals and barnacles that nudis, flatworms and smaller benthic fish call it home.

Sadly due to adverse weather we did not make the crossing down to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. These sites are also famous not only for their soft corals and fish life but for manta ray and whale shark sightings, so of course I was disappointed but I think the dives made at Koh Haa made up for that and I have even more excuse to go again!

Many of these dive areas in Thailand can be reached by day boat from Phuket, Phi Phi or Koh Lanta but choosing a liveaboard I was able to combine them all together and miss the day boat crowds. My trip was only 3 days long and we managed 11 dives in total. I opted to dive with MV Scuba Adventure, a budget liveaboard operating out of Phuket, but there are many more options to choose from.

Thailand Aggressor LiveaboardThe Thailand Aggressor offers 7-night trips on their “South Andaman” itinerary departing from Chalong, Phuket. This itinerary can also be combined with a 7-night trip to the Similan Islands, to make a full dive program of the west coast of Thailand.

 

Panunee (1)w825h550crwidth825crheight550The Panunee Liveaboard, offers 5-night trips to Phi Phi, Hin Daeng and Koh Haa, also departing from Chalong. Dive safaris can be combine with trips to the Similan Islands, with a 2 day break in Phuket.

 

 

Giamani Liveabaord ThailandThe Giamani Liveaboard offers a 3-day / 2-night dive safari which departs from Chalong and cruises directly to Koh Haa then Hin Daeng and back to Phi Phi before returning to Phuket. You could easily combine with their 7-night Similans trip too.

 

The Awesome Octopus: Eight epic facts to celebrate World Octopus Day!

The Awesome Octopus: Eight epic facts to celebrate World Octopus Day!

Scuba diving in Australia recently, I came across a tyre.

I can hear you thinking ‘what exactly is so special about a tyre… isn’t that just an ugly piece of marine debris?’

In the middle of this tyre was two big, bulging eyes. A giant common octopus had made this tyre its home. As I hovered about 5 metres away, I watched this pair of eyes as they watched me. Every time I moved my fins, these eyes would duck back down into the tyre, only to slowly creep up again to continue surveying me a few seconds later.

Octopus are one of the most intelligent, inquisitive and misunderstood animals to inhabit the ocean. Far from the slimy monsters that lurk in the depths of ancient myths (and plastered on bottles of Kraken Rum), octopus are clever, unique and so much fun to see underwater.

I have spent many a dive in just a few metres of water playing tug of war with an octopus, steadily getting more frustrated as I realise this animal that could almost fit in my hand was stronger than me.  Fortunately, someone out there realised these animals are so special that they deserve a day dedicated entirely to them. And so, October 8th every year marks International Octopus Day. To celebrate this annual day of Cephalopod love, we’re throwing out eight (one for each tentacle) of the coolest facts about our boneless and beautiful underwater friends.

They can change way more colours than a chameleon can.

The reptile most renowned for it’s colour changing ability, the chameleon, is no match for the octopus. While chameleons can only change a small handful of colours and patterns, cephalopods can change between 30 and 50 different colours. And they can do all this in seven tenths of a second.

Octopus have no bones.

So they can squeeze through any hole bigger than about a quarter. They’re like that green goo in the kids movie ‘Flubber’. Check out the clip below to see a slightly disturbing but very cool video of an octopus making its way out of a beer bottle.

Like a parrot, Octopus eat with a beak.

And all octopus are venomous. Octopuses have a beak that is made out of the exact same stuff as our hair and fingernails, and they use this beak to inject their prey. Not to fear though, because there is only one octopus that has venom fatal to humans, and that’s the tiny Blue Ringed Octopus.

They are hoarders.

The Beatle’s song ‘An Octopuses Garden’ isn’t just catchy, it’s true. An octopuses home can be seen strewn with sea treasures all around. Octopus are the first invertebrate to have been observed using tools. They use bits of their lunch, such as crab shells and other items scavenged from the sea floor to hide from their predators, building a makeshift fort around themselves.

They ‘see’ with their suckers.

Each one of an octopuses’ 1600 suckers is incredibly sensitive, and they use these to not only feel, but to smell what ever they have their tentacles wrapper around. These suckers are insanely strong, and a large sucker can hold around 15 kilos. Imagine that strength times 1600! A whopping two thirds of an octopuses neurons are located in its arms, so their head can do one thing while their tentacles can concentrate on another. How’s that for multitasking?

After mating, they die.

This must be the most tragic and brutal fact of them all. An octopuses love life is like a bizarre and slightly gross version of Romeo and Juliet. Octopus mate through external fertilisation. Males will either quite literally hand the female their sperm, or insert it themselves into the tube she uses to breathe through. After this, the male will leave the scene to die. Once the female has laid her eggs, she experiences cellular breakdown and she too, will die. #romance.

They can solve complex puzzles.

Octopuses are known for being cheeky and very clever. They have the ability to solve complex mazes and puzzles and there have been plenty of rumours of octopuses outwitting their keepers in aquariums.  They can undo childproof containers, and one octopus in a New Zealand aquarium has even been trained to take photographs of guests.

Octopi is not the plural of Octopus.

So quit using it! I’m guilty of using ‘octopi’, but if you want to sound like you know your stuff you need to use the correct plural term of ‘octopuses’.

Next time your on a live aboard diving adventure keep an eye out for the underrated but incredible octopus. They’ll be so well camouflaged that they can be hard to spot, but once you do you’ll realise just how fascinating these cephalopods really are.

Top three live aboard trips for divers on a budget.

Top three live aboard trips for divers on a budget.

Travelling on a shoe-string doesn’t mean you have to rule out jumping on a diving live aboard or two. (Which we think is the only way to scuba dive. Find out why here).

The one thing that you need to remember about booking a dive live aboard is that they are all-inclusive. So while it might seem like you’re forking out a fair bit of your hard earned cash, you’re actually paying for your food for a week or so, your air fills, your insanely amazing diving, a comfortable bed and in most cases, all those sunset cocktails.

A budget dive live aboard is a particularly good choice for anyone who wants to spend part of their time touring the above-water sites of their chosen holiday destination, yet also wants to explore what the underwater world has to offer. And the best thing? Once you’ve paid for your live aboard trip upfront all you have left to do is count down the days on your calendar without worrying if you’ve put enough cash aside for your holiday, because you’ve already paid for it!

Whilst some people might not want to splurge all their holiday savings on a diving live aboard, there are plenty of options out there to suit a diver with a tight budget. Below we’ve listed the top three best live aboards for those on a budget, in a few of the must-dive destinations.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Dive the Great Barrier Reef AND have money left over to see everything else Australia has to offer? Yes please!
Dive the Great Barrier Reef AND have money left over to see everything else Australia has to offer? Yes please!

This place is spectacular. Thousands of kilometres long and the legendary David Attenborough’s favourite place in the world (or so he told Mr. Obama). The Great Barrier Reef is the one place you have to dive if your planning on visiting the sunburnt country that is Australia.

While there are day boats that leave from Port Douglas, Cairns and the Whitsunday’s, hands-down the best way to see the Reef is on a dive live aboard. There is nothing more beautiful than waking up and getting in your dive gear for a dawn dive, just as the sun is beginning to rise over the horizon. Watching the fish begin to become more active after a night of rest, and seeing the coral regain its colour as the sun begins to get higher in the sky is an incredible experience that you just don’t get on a day trip.

You’ll visit the more untouched parts of the Great Barrier Reef on a dive live aboard, and the Scuba Pro vessels offer trips that won’t break the bank.  ScubaPro has three vessels, called ScubaPro I, ScubaPro II, ScubaPro III. For a two night trip you’re looking at around $230 AUD a day, and the short length means you can visit the Great Barrier Reef and have still have time to see the rest of Australia and do some croc-wrangling, koala cuddling and kangaroo wrestling.

The Red Sea, Egypt

The Red Sea Aggressor. Click the image to learn more about this fantastic live aboard.
The Red Sea Aggressor. Click the image to learn more about this fantastic live aboard.

This is not only one of the most renowned scuba diving destinations, but also one of the most reasonably priced. If you’ve got your heart set on a Euro-trip, the Red Sea needs to be on your travel itinerary. With no shortage of budget diving liveaboards, the Red Sea is renowned for it’s incredible coral formations, drift and wall dives, pelagic species and tropical water.

Sipadan, Malaysia

The Celebes Explorer is the only vessel that offers year round diving in this iconic dive destination and is great for a diver on a budget. Another area of the underwater world that is  best explored by live aboard, you can expect turtles galore along with huge schools of pelagic fish on a backdrop of fantastic coral formations. There are only a maximum of 120 diving permits issued in a single day, ensuring this area remains pristine and treasured, making your trip even more rewarding.

Liveaboard.com has the most extensive range of live aboard dive trips to suit any dive enthusiast, on every kind of budget.

Have you got any great tips for divers on a budget? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Diving Palau; A Sharktastic Adventure

Diving Palau; A Sharktastic Adventure

The spectacular diving in Palau first came to my attention when a dive buddy moved there for work in 2008, but it would be almost 5 years before I had the opportunity to dive there for myself…and yes it was worth the wait!

Palau -where’s that?

Palau is an island nation made up of around 250 islands in the Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. The remote position and being on the edge of the Coral Triangle makes the country an ideal location for a wide variety of marine life. Many shark species are known to frequent the waters of Palau, so much so that in 2009 the country was declared a shark sanctuary with all shark fishing activities banned.

Marine Life of Palau

Palau is a veritable dream for big fish lovers. There are numerous dive sites where grey reef sharks and white tip reef sharks are commonly seen – and in good numbers. Other shark species seen are black tips, hammerhead, tiger, whale and bull – though these are not on the day to day dives the possibility is thrilling. Add to that the huge schools of snapper, barracuda and trevally jack and you’re on to a winner. Hawksbill turtles, though considered rare, are found on almost every dive in Palau, whilst huge Napoleon wrasse get up closes to divers, unperturbed by our presence and schools of bumphead parrotfish congregate in their thousands during mating time. During my liveaboard trip I had the pleasure of diving with 8 manta rays for 60 minutes! Though I’d seen a few mantas before in Egypt, Komodo and Raja Ampat, this had to go down as one of the best manta dives ever due to the way these graceful creatures looped and twisted, open mouthed feeding hungrily on the plankton.

Now I’m a small critter lover and some of the dive guides found it entertaining that I should be photographing nudibranchs when there were sharks to watch, but if you love a mix of big and small then Palau is a fabulous option for a dive holiday. During my 10-day trip we not only saw nudibranchs but pipefish, leaf fish, mandarin fish and dart gobies. I’ve read reports of frogfish and seahorses too.

Palau’s Best Dive Sites

The topography of dive sites in Palau is varied from reef walls and coral shelves, to caverns and shallow reefs as well as several wrecks.

Reef Sharks Palau
Sharks at Blue Corner courtesy of Julie Barlow

Unarguably the most popular dive site in Palau is Blue Corner. Famed for its shark action and big schools of fish, divers approach the reef edge and, if the current is running, use a reef hook to secure themselves to watch the impressive shark displays. Blue Corner can be combined with Blue Holes – an open cavern where fire clams are found spectacular for atmospheric photography. We dived here 4 times during our trip as the site was so superb and the shark activity fascinating.

New Drop Off is another dive site known for shark action, but a great place for watching turtles munching on the soft corals. This quickly became one of my favourites due to the variety of marine life, one minute we were watching sharks cruising about on the reef edge, the next turtles, then a large trigger fish buzzed by followed by more sharks in the shallows. Awesome!

Chandelier Cave provides an excellent experience. The entrance is at about 10m and very open so there is plenty of natural light. As you dive deeper into the cavern it opens very wide, however the water does not reach all the way to the cave ceiling creating air pockets and a place to chat mid-dive.

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Crazy manta action in German Channel – courtesy of Julie Barlow

German Channel, a deep cut in the reef has two coral bommies at 25m and 15m where manta rays come to be cleaned. With plankton bloom the mantas stick around for feeding. Best manta dive EVER!!!

Jake’s Sea Plane – is likely one of the most photographed wrecks of all time –save the Thistlegorm or Kittiwake. The dive site is compact but the plane itself is of interest to photographers – especially when the viz is great and sunbursts can be seen.

Siaes Corner/ Tunnel lies on the outer edge of the reef surrounding Ulong Island. Getting there can be a little tricky as the reef shelf is very shallow. On our liveaboard trip the wind was up so our cruise director changed the dive plan to an alternative site – except no one told the dinghy driver and we ended up there anyway. Descending down the steep coral covered wall, we entered the large cavern and came out on the other side of the reef at 25m.Continuing on to the corner with reef sharks cruising around us we hooked in and just enjoyed the snappers and jacks bustling about, chasing fusiliers. Our dive group was thrilled by this turn of events as the dive was excellent (the other group not so much!)

If you want to see schooling snappers spawning then Peleliu Cut is the place to go around new moon. Whilst for spawning bumphead parrotfish diving at Ulong’s Sand Bank around the full moon produces results. For guaranteed action join the team from Unique Expeditions who run special spawning trips each year aboard the S/Y Palau Siren liveaboard.

Palau Dive LogThese were just a few of the dives we made during the 10-night safari, others included Dexter’s Wall, Virgin Blue Holes, Iro Maru wreck, Ulong Corner / Channel, Heian wreck, Peleliu Express, Big Drop Off and Sam’s Wall.

 

We also found time for snorkeling in Jelly Fish Lake and for a boat cruise through the Rock Islands.

Palau gets better and better…

Plans are currently underway for Palau to become a full marine sanctuary with strengthened surveillance and enforcement of their Marine Sanctuary and Fishing zone by 2017.

Want to Dive Palau?

I spent my time in Palau diving with Sam’s Tours Palau and S/Y Palau Siren. Whilst the hospitality and experience of the guides at STP was fabulous and I’d definitely choose them again for a land-based trip, I felt the ease and comfort of the Palau Siren, less time to dive sites, plus avoiding the crowds tips the balance in favour of taking a liveaboard. There are several dive liveaboards operating in Palau from which to choose – S/Y Palau Siren, Palau Aggressor II, Ocean Hunter I, Ocean Hunter III and Solitude One.

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Ocean Hunter I
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Tropic Dancer
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Solitude One

 

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Palau Aggressor II

Thinking of doing some Palau diving? Read this first.

Thinking of doing some Palau diving? Read this first.

Most dive destinations have something they’re renowned for.

Cocos Islands in Costa Rica is famous for its hammerhead action. When you dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia you know you’ve come to see the, uh, reef. But Palau in Micronesia is one of those dive zones that has a little bit of everything. And one hundred percent of that everything is absolutely amazing. 

So, what is it about Palau that makes it such a popular spot for scuba diving?

For one, there is no ‘season’. Most dive destinations have a certain time of year that is the most suitable for scuba diving. Thanks to very little fluctuation in temperature, the water in Palau is always balmy and tropical. The turquoise water of Palau offers good visibility year round that rarely drops below 15 metres, and can reach up to 40 metres. And we haven’t even started on the huge variety of marine species you can see diving in Palau.

Palau is where three of the oceans currents intersect, and with it comes a dizzying array of marine life. Enormous schools of fish, giant green sea turtles, dolphins and a variety of shark species can be often spotted, along with manta rays and whale sharks. Palau is home to some of the most fantastic and exhilarating drift diving on the planet, along with a sea floor littered with World War I and II wrecks. The Palau archipelago is made up of eight major islands and 250 smaller ones, so with no shortage of dive sites you’ll never do the same dive twice.

As with most remote areas, diving the Palau archipelago is best done by an all inclusive dive live aboard. On here, you can dive all day and see the best this destination has to offer.  Below we’ve listed a few of our favourites to make your holiday decision a little easier.

Ocean Hunter 3

Ocean_Hunter_3 (1)w825h550crwidth825crheight550This luxury vessel was specifically designed with the diver in mind. Ocean Hunter offers 7 and 10 night live aboards, which visit the best sites Palau has to offer. Each day you can jump in for up to 5 dives, making the most of your time in this tropical underwater paradise. Did we mention there’s not one, but two jacuzzis on board?

Palau Siren

Palau_Siren (1)w825h550crwidth825crheight550Part of the popular Siren fleet, this live aboard has all the bells and whistles you could possibly want. Along with a spacious sun deck, the Palau Siren provides divers with a massive shaded diving deck complete with individual stations and personal storage lockers, so you’ll always know where your gear is. All gear hire is complimentary on board this boat, so if luggage space is an issue you can leave your dive gear at home for no extra charge. FYI, we know a few tricks of the trade when it comes to packing for a live aboard. Check them out here.

Palau Aggressor II

This Palau live aboard is offers divers a dream experience. For those who love to dive, dive, dive but don’t want to sacrifice any of the creature comforts this boat has your name written all over it! Spacious decks, air conditioning and private bathrooms and showers in all 9 staterooms will leave you well rested after your action packed day of scuba diving. Like the Palau Siren and Ocean Hunter 3, this vessel gives divers the chance to do up to 5 dives, including some thrilling night dives.

You will never get bored of Palau diving.

When you start your 7 or 11 night live aboard adventure, the days stretch out in front of you. Once you start diving the sites on offer however, you realise there’s no way you could tire of diving this magical area. One dive you’re surrounded by sharks and pelagic fish, the next you’re alongside the skeleton of a WWII ship. With sensational drift diving, a phenomenal amount of life and a lake full to the brim of harmless jellyfish, Palau is one unique must-dive destination.

We’ve only listed a few dive live aboards here available in Micronesia. Visit Liveaboard.com to see a full list of luxury dive live aboards that you can take the trip of a lifetime in Palau.

Jump in with millions of jellyfish in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake.

Jump in with millions of jellyfish in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake.

In a recent article I stated that most dive destinations are renowned for one thing in particular (like humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga), but in Palau everything underwater is so diverse and wonderful it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.

I was mistaken.

The Micronesian archipelago of Palau is home to a lake that is full to the brim with completely harmless jellyfish. Jellyfish Lake is a stark (but awe-inspiring) contrast to the breathtaking drift dives and spectacular coral reefs surrounded by year-round tropical water that you can expect of a Palau diving trip.

Jellyfish Lake,
Jellyfish Lake, Eil Malk Island.

Jellyfish lake is nestled amongst a vast expanse of forest on Eil Malk Island. Eil Malk is part of the Rock Islands, which is comprised of around 445 mostly uninhabited limestone islands.  After a short hike, you arrive and take in the view of the lake and it’s surrounds. Emerald water, bordered by dense jungle and lined with a blanket of perfect blue from a cloudless sky. From above,  it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Sure, the lake and the vegetation surrounding it are beautiful, but it’s not until you enter the water that you truly believe the hype surrounding Jellyfish Lake. 

The Jellyfish Lake is a snorkel-only site, and as you descend beneath the surface on a single breath you are overcome by feelings of serenity and wonder as the millions of jellyfish rise above and below you.The jellyfish that inhabit the lake are giant golden marshmallows, like droplets of soft liquified sunshine floating all around you. The giant jellies that call this marine lake home are either moon or golden jellies, and there are thought to be 10 million of these in Jellyfish Lake.

Jellyfish lake is a marine lake, so when you first dive down you might be surprised by the salty taste of the water.  Once connected to the ocean, the 12 000 year old Jellyfish Lake is now isolated from the rest of the sea creating a mini-ecosystem where the jellyfish is king. While the lake is relatively isolated from the surrounding ocean, it’s  filled with saltwater thanks to a spiderweb of tunnels and fissures through the limestone of an ancient reef. This disconnection from the open ocean has encouraged the evolution of an eco-system lacking in diversity, but abundant with Jellyfish. These jellies no longer require their stingers. With few natural predators they no longer need this characteristic, making snorkelling with the millions that inhabit this bizarre ecosystem a pain free and phenomenal experience.

There are dozens of these marine lakes like Jellyfish Lake throughout the Rock Islands. This particular lake however is unique in the fact that it has an anoxic layer along the bottom, which is one reason why scuba diving is not allowed in Jellyfish Lake. The last 15 meters of the lake contains high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide which can be absorbed through the skin of a diver, leading to death. Jellyfish are also delicate creatures, and air bubbles created from breathing through scuba apparatus can travel through their flimsy bodies, irreversibly damaging them.

Everyday, the resident Golden jellyfish make the arduous migration from one side of the lake to the other, following the movement of the sun. Strangely enough, the Golden jellyfish have a strict schedule they like to adhere to. In the morning they move from the centre of the western basin to the eastern basin, then in the afternoon head to the western side of the lake, finally propelling themselves to the western basin where they spend the night.They migrate in such a way to gain as much exposure to the sun as they possibly can, revolving as they move so each part of their body receives some rays. Golden Jellyfish photosynthesise zooxanthellae living in their tissues and this symbiotic relationship provides them with their food source. Whilst these jellyfish have evolved to lose their stinger, they are still faced with a natural predator quite literally lurking in the shadows. The ethereal Golden Jellyfish avoids shadows not only so it can receive meet its daily dietary requirements, but so it can avoid an attack from an anemone living on the outskirts of the lake.

The Moon jellies don’t have as much of a rigid routine as the Golden Jellyfish, propelling themselves here, there and everywhere. Moon jellies are the opposite of the Golden Jellyfish who seek out and thrive in the sunshine. These jellyfish rise to the surface every night to feed in the light of the moon.

How to get there

How many places in the world can you swim with thousands of harmless jellyfish?

One.

For that reason, most Palau diving live aboards will include a visit to Jellyfish Lake in their itinerary. That way you can not only spent a week diving the myriad of dive sites Palau is known for, but also visit its deservedly famous jellyfish lake.