Diversions: Swimming with the Fishes in Palau

Diversions: Swimming with the Fishes in Palau

As mesmerizing and as beautiful as they are, most of us prefer to see jellyfish through a thick wall of aquarium glass. But given a chance to swim with invertebrates and not get stung, would you? If you have a little backbone — and have enough time and money to make your way to the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau — the answer really ought to be yes.

Jellyfish Lake, located on an uninhabited island an hour’s boat ride from the town of Koror, is the only place in the world where you can safely float among translucent, undulating medusae.

In ancient times this body of water was open to the sea, but it became cut off, trapping millions of jellyfish. Left in these protected waters, which are replenished through fissures in the limestone, the cnidaria evolved to primarily dine on the sugar produced by algae living in their cells. Free of predators , their stings have become too weak to be felt. Knowing this may be small comfort as you ease into the lake, but once beyond the point of no return you will find yourself in a silent world taking in sights that would challenge the vocabulary of even the best sci-fi writer.

Just as remarkable is the twice-daily migration the jellyfish make along the lake’s surface, following the sun as it moves across the sky. This is done to help their algae photosynthesize. As the sun dips behind the mangroves, jellyfish congregate near the surface to catch the last rays before sinking to the bottom for the night, putting on a display of marine behavior as surreal as you’ll ever see. Go to www.visit-palau.com for more information.

See pictures of luxury private islands.

See TIME’s Global Adviser for exotic, beautiful and interesting getaways.