Eil Malk, Palau

Photo: amanderson2 via flickr
Photo: amanderson2 via flickr

Are you ready to start to 2017 with a bang? This year, you’re determined to have more adventures. You want to travel to countries you’ve never visited before. You hope to dig deeper to really get to know the people and the culture in these new spots. Plus you dream of seeing unique, breathtaking landscapes along the way. Let’s start in Palau.

Palau is an island nation, actually a more than 250-island nation, in Micronesia. The Philippines are to the west. Indonesia is to the south. But it’s really just the vast Pacific Ocean that surrounds the little country. It’s mostly Chinese tourists who travel to the remote islands. They arrive in large groups and stick to prearranged schedules. It doesn’t take much for you to find peace and quiet away from them.

Your Palau trip is based on Koror Island, where the largest town and the former capital with the same name is located. But your thoughts are immediately elsewhere. The Rock Islands lie in Palau’s Southern Lagoon. The small islands are made of limestone, are mostly uninhabited, and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mushroom-shaped islands are famous for their perfect beaches and blue lagoons. One of them is also known for its jellyfish-filled lake. That’s where you’re heading to go snorkeling.

Eil Malk, uninhabited since the 15th century, is a Y-shaped island full of dense greenery and small lakes. After a 45-minute boat ride from Koror, you arrive on one of its little beaches just as the sun is starting to warm the white sand on the eastern side of the island. A short but steep trail has been worn through the mangroves. It leads to the green-tinted Jellyfish Lake, which is home to millions of golden jellyfish. Most jellyfish are toxic to humans. They sting people with their tentacles and inject venom into their skin. But these jellyfish don’t sting. The brown-and-orange gelatinous blobs, which can grow to the size of a bowling ball, drift horizontally through the warm water throughout the day. They may bump into you, but they aren’t going to hurt you. Promise.

So put on your rash guard, adjust your mask, and slip into your flippers, it’s time to go snorkeling. Scuba divers, whose tank bubbles were harming the jellyfish, are no longer allowed in the lake. You can’t wear sunscreen for the same reason. The number of visitors also declined, at least slightly, when people had to start purchasing a pass to visit the Rock Islands. For the moment, you have the lake practically to yourself, at least until midday, when boats of Chinese tourists will start to arrive. Until they do, your first adventure of the year is off to a great start.

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