Jellyfish Lake – an oceanic oasis home to millions of stingless golden jellies – has reopened to tourism after a two-year hiatus caused by a severe drought.
Many people were introduced to Jellyfish Lake in 2005 while watching Survivor Palau, the 10th season of CBS's popular competitive reality TV show. Winners of one reward challenge enjoyed an “in depth” visit to the salt-water lake located on Eil Malk island in the Koror State Rock Island Southern Lagoon.
Known as Ongeim'l Tketau (“Fifth Lake”) in the Palauan language, Jellyfish Lake is about 1,300 feet long and almost 100 feet deep. It hosts an average of 15 million golden jellyfish of the species Mastigias, though in 2005 their numbers were estimated to be roughly 30 million. In 2016, however, a severe drought blamed on a very strong El Niño weather event struck Micronesia and the jellyfish population crashed.
Scientists determined that he drought caused water temperatures in the lake to rise high enough that the symbiotic algae hosted by the jellyfish were unable to survive. A similar situation had previous occurred in 1998 when the number of observed golden jellyfish declined to nearly zero, yet the resilient creatures always bounce back when the water cools down.
According to the most recent survey taken in December 2018 by researchers from the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF), there are now around 630,000 golden jellyfish in the lake. “If the weather conditions continue to be normal,” stated Gerda Ucharm, a research biologist with CRRF, “then we are optimistic that the number should keep going up.”
Tourists, many of whom have “swim in Jellyfish Lake” on their bucket lists, now have reason to cheer. “Ongoing monitoring conducted by the Coral Reef Research Foundation indicated that the jellyfish populations were now rebounding,” according to an official statement issued by authorities in Palau's Koror State, “after the declines that were a result of the drought conditions experienced throughout Palau in 2016.”
“Based on the current conditions and the continued recovery of the site, it was determined that Ongeim'l Tketau Jellyfish Lake had sufficient numbers of jellyfish to provide visitors with a quality experience. Similar to 1998, site managers are confident that the populations of jellyfish will make a full recovery,” stated the press release titled “Ongeim'l Tketau Jellyfish Lake – Open to Visitors”. (via CNN, images via denAsuncioner)