Turn up your speakers and make sure you’re in a place where you can get a little funky without anyone calling security, my friends, because now is ze time on ze QP ven ve dance!
(For my email followers, if the video doesn’t show above, view the post on the main site, or click here: http://youtu.be/yhyf60Spz9o)
Whoo! All right, ladies and jellyfish, here’s one for all you groovy foxes born before 1975, and yes, it’s an ALL SKATE! Watch out for the big, fat Disco Jelly who’ll crash into you at 0:06 if you’re not careful!
(Or, click here: http://youtu.be/n0U1rPscYd8)
Ooh yeah, and who can resist a little baby boogie–work it, baby jelly! Shake that thing!
(Or, click here: http://youtu.be/WZnmJ1uWjd8)
Right on! Okay, that was fun. You know I had to start with the Jellylicious song, for obvious reasons (and if they’re not obvious to you, listen again), but then it all just took a decidedly roller disco turn, because who are we kidding, those jellies were totally doin’ the Hustle and zooming around like roller disco gods. All that was missing was the satin jackets. Anyhoo, let’s get a Mr. Pibb and a box of Ludens Wild Cherry throat lozenges (my standard snack choice at the old Ups ‘N Downs Roller Rink in Escondido, California circa 1974), and I’ll tell you how I came to be shakin’ my groove thang with these far out funkadellyfish.
Jellyfish Lake is in the southern rock islands of the Republic of Palau. There are actually three or four jellyfish lakes, but to protect the environment and the jellies from too much stress, they restrict access to one at a time. The lake is in the center of one of the larger limestone, mangrove-covered islands, and it is completely separated from the surrounding ocean. Over the centuries, without any ocean predators bothering them, the jellyfish have evolved their stingers off. So, they’re totally harmless blobs of disco goo.
There are similar lakes on other islands where the limestone separating the lake from the ocean has eroded away enough to let other sea life in, and the jellyfish populations in those lakes have stingers, so you really need to make sure you go to the right one, or you’ll be one unhappy critter (albeit, with some very interesting scars to showcase at cocktail parties).
It’s not easy to get to the Jellyfish Lake. You have to get a permit, then take a boat about an hour south of Koror, and then, after washing your feet so no tiny sea creatures can come in with you and disrupt the ecosystem, you have to haul your ass up, and then back down, a super steep ridge. It’s so steep up near the top, they carved steps into the rock, and put a rope next to the path to pull yourself along.
When you climb back down the other side, there’s a placid, aquamarine lake sunken into the limestone bed. You can’t see a thing in the water at first, it just looks bottle-glass green. So, on goes the snorkel gear, and in you go, with instructions to swim toward the middle, and not to touch or grab the jellyfish.
Suddenly…they’re everywhere. Jellyfish! Kajillions of them! Swarming in slow motion like corpulent, flaccid bumble bees. Big ones, little ones, middle-sized ones, all glorping along, swimming in all directions–up, down, diagonally, sideways–bumping into each other and into you. Clearly, the jellies don’t get instructions not to touch you. It’s like jellyfish bumper cars in there.
Having been conditioned my whole life to avoid contact with jellyfish, I did a lot of involuntary flinching and shuddering at first when they bumped into me, slithered along my neck, plowed into my face, and even got caught under my arm or between my legs as I swam (!!!). It’s impossible to avoid when diving in jellyfish soup. But, after about five minutes or so, when I hadn’t been stung, I relaxed, and just started laughing and giggling in wonder at it. Because, it is wonderful in the most literal sense of the word.
I have several hundred pictures, even after I culled out the bad ones. They all look sort of the same, but not. (Please click them to enlarge, so you can really see!) There’s something special and/or hilarious about each one. I actually felt a sense of relief when the battery on my camera died, because then I was released, free to just gambol about with them, without worrying about missing a good shot. All I had to worry about was accidentally sucking one up into my snorkel when I dove down deep into the jelly party.
There were a few other people there at the same time as I was, and they all had on full-body wetsuits. I saw them suiting up on the edge of the lake before I jumped in, and I asked my guide if a suit was necessary, as I knew the water wouldn’t be cold. He said no, but a lot of people don’t feel comfortable without it.
I understand that, I do, but I also feel sorry for those people now that I’ve had the dizzying experience of being licked all over on my bare skin by scads of jellyfish puppies. Those suited-up folks missed out on that, and I think it’s one of the most viscerally memorable parts of the experience.
Once you adjust, and realize the jellies are not going to hurt you, swimming amongst them really has a similar kind of playful, silly, childlike energy as rolling around on the ground with puppies jumping all over you. Well, puppies with freaky, glowing electric coils visible through their transparent skulls.