When I lived in Japan, I used to love taking trips to Guam to visit my husband who went on military detachments with VF-154, his F-14A Tomcat squadron, for training. It was a quick two-hour flight from Tokyo. We used to call Guam “Poor Man’s Hawaii,” and it was one of my favorite places to vacation from Japan. I used to make mental notes each time I went that I should take time to island hop from Guam to Palau and check out the colorful hydromedusas in Jellyfish Lake.
The lake was separated from the ocean millions of years ago. Over time the rare golden jellyfish that live in the lake lost its ability to sting because they no longer had to defend themselves against their natural predators. While the lake is safe for snorkeling and swimming near the surface, it’s not safe for diving below 13 meters due to the harmful bacteria and poisonous dissolved sulfide gas (credit: www.coralreefpalau.org). The jellyfish can only be found swimming near the surface.
Friends who made the trip have told me how incredibly beautiful Palau is and the how surreal it is floating in the lake amongst masses of these sea creatures. They have shared photos on social media that are amazing. I never made it there. Time has a way of getting the best of you, and I regret continually saying, “next time…” Next time never happened. Now it would require many more planes, trains, and automobiles to get from the Cays to the very remote island of Palau.
Fortunately, mother nature must have heard my remorse by sending moon jellies to the Cays, practically in our own backyard. I started noticing them in the springtime over the last several years. One year there were massive brown jellyfish that looked menacing and box-like. Their dark bodies had red tints and were the size of basketballs. I stayed away from them. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that type of jelly in the bay. However, the moon jellies seem to come back every spring now. It used to be just a handful of them, but they seem to be multiplying every year. They are capable of only limited motion, and drift with the current, so it’s unclear what’s bringing them into that section of the bay.
They can be seen all over the waters in the Cays, but they seem to be mostly found in the area near Loews Resort and Jamaica Village. My daughter and her friends have swum with them. They like to touch and ‘pet’ them in the water. She says she hasn’t felt the moon jellies sting her. However, a friend’s son has; his skin turned red, and he felt some pain. Overall, moon jellies are safe as they lack long, potent stinging tentacles, and at most will leave you with a minor stinging sensation that won’t penetrate the skin. I like taking my SUP to look at them and take photos. If you have a chance, go check them out! Just keep in mind that access to the docks is restricted, most neighborhood docks are private property, so call a friend before you stop by to dive in.