We adapt to our circumstances.
Without enemies we no longer have to worry about protecting ourselves anymore. For us humans that may mean not having to walk around with a spear, but for the jellyfish “trapped” within the saltwater lake of the Indonesian island of Kakaban it means relinquishing the ability to sting (as there aren’t any predators). As remarkable as Kakaban is, though, it is not unique. Other saltwater lakes with stingless jellyfish include the aptly-named Jellyfish Lake in Palau (a chain of islands in Micronesia) and, I was intrigued to learn, a lake somewhere in Indonesia’s wonderful Togean Islands.
From Kakaban’s jetty it’s only a 10-minute walk to the mangrove-fringed lake. Either use the slippery wooden steps to descend slowly into the lake (be careful) or, if you are more the showoff-type, just jump in (be even more careful!). Visibility in the lake is not great – in the region of around five meters – but wow, the numbers of jellyfish is staggering! They are absolutely everywhere, pulsating in that strange way that jellyfish do, like a heart beating in rhythm to a drum.
There are said to be four types of jellyfish in the lake but I couldn’t really tell myself. They all looked much like each other to me. Even so, to swim with them is a wonderful experience.
It’s that rare feeling of being able to do something which shouldn’t really be possible. Like being on the football pitch in a game with Pele or in bed with Kate Upton. So make the most of it while you can. These things never last forever…
There is no accommodation on Kakaban Island. The tourists who make it here mostly stay on the nearby island of Derawan - where there are plenty of accommodations - and either arrange for a speedboat to take them to Kakaban (not cheap) or go as part of a group tour (mostly Indonesians in this case).
- There is a small entry fee to gain access to the lake, so remember to bring some (but not a lot) of cash. I can’t remember how much it was but was definitely less than your early morning Starbucks.
- Do NOT wear fins in the lake. There is absolutely no need as there is no current and swishing fins can easily harm or kill the jellyfish
- If you can, plan to spend a good few hours on the island. Besides its lake, Kakaban is surrounded by gorgeous coral reefs which are fantastic for either snorkeling or, even better, diving.
- Bring a bottle of water. Or two. It gets hot under the tropical sun!