With the ocean covering about three-quarters of the earth’s surface and rising, it’s no surprise that it is a hotbed for some particularly peculiar creatures – some of which scientists are only just finally starting to understand, if not discover. However, there’s one creature that is more familiar to most of us and comes in a variety of different colors, shapes, and sizes – the often dreaded, jellyfish.
Dubbed the ‘Aliens of the Ocean’, jellyfish have long been the unwanted visitor of summer vacations, feared for their wicked sting. However, you might look at them differently when you find out that these ocean drifters are actually full of fascinating facts.
Electrifying Jellyfish Facts
Jellyfish have been around since before dinosaurs: In 2007, scientists discovered a very rare preserved jellyfish fossil which is thought to be over 505 million years old. Given that dinosaurs lived from about 245 million to 66 million years ago, this means that jellyfish pre-date them by at least 250 million years – making them one of the oldest living species on earth, surviving five mass extinctions!
Jellyfish don’t have organs: Made up of over 95% water, jellies don’t have bones, intestines, stomachs or brains! Instead, their gelatinous bag-like body and dangling tentacles are comprised of two simple cell layers – the external epidermis and the internal gastrodermis, which help it to digest food and absorb oxygen and nutrients through its cell walls.
Some species of jellyfish have unlocked the power of immortality: When a jellyfish is injured, the damaged tissue cells have the ability to regenerate as fully-grown jellyfish – something which was discovered by Australian marine biologists when they left an injured Cassiopea jellyfish alone in its tank and returned to find it in the company of 200 youngsters, each an exact copy of the original! Meanwhile the Turritopsis dohrnii (more commonly known as the Benjamin Button jellyfish) has the unique ability to age backward when stressed or under attack – dropping to the seafloor and collapsing in on itself to become a jelly blob, which then goes on to grow back into a polyp.
Jellyfish have been to space: In a unique experiment by NASA in 1991, around 2,500 jellyfish polyps were sent into space in flasks and bags containing artificial seawater, to learn more about how living organisms function and survive in the microgravity environment of Earth’s orbit. While in space, the jellies rapidly multiplied and by the end of the mission, it is reported that there were over 60,000 jellyfish in the Earth’s orbit!
Not all jellyfish sting: While very rare, stingless jellyfish do exist and can be found in only three islands in the entire world, including the remote Lenmakana Lake on Misool island, in the East Indonesian Archipelago. Here, a species of jellyfish has evolved in isolation and subsequently lost their ability to sting, meaning you can swim alongside thousands of them at any one time without fear like our Indonesia cruise guests!
Misool, the Second Largest Island of Raja Ampat
Misool is a remote tropical island, one of the largest out of the 610 islands of Raja Ampat, and is becoming a popular spot for explorers wanting to get away from the usual tedium. Famed for the crystal clear turquoise waters that allow for mesmerizing views into the deep blue, the sea gardens of Misool are home to various species of corals and ornamental fish, boasting the highest level of marine biodiversity on the planet. The island reveals countless breathtaking landscapes through its beautiful beaches, ancient cultural sites, and heavily-forested inner territory as well.
Among many of the island’s treasures, rarely visited and recently discovered, are two hidden marine lakes that have become the habitat of one of the most spectacular, and up until recently, unlovable creatures – the jellyfish. The three species of jellyfish that have conquered the waters of the lakes are in fact stingless. Misool is one of only three islands in the world that can claim such a rare experience, the other two being Palau and Borneo.
The Harmless Jellyfish of the Hidden Lake Lenmakana
At first glance, Misool island seems impenetrable, as it is covered in dense rainforest. One of the jellyfish lakes can be reached by a short hike up a steep limestone cliffside, which can be a bit challenging for some tourists. All visitors should use the help of an experienced guide to safely arrive at the lake. Despite the arduous journey, once on the top of the cliff, the view down the lake and the treasures found within it are worth it. This is Lake Lenmakana, a turquoise lagoon isolated in the middle of the island.
Living without any predators nor danger around, jellyfish residing in the lake have developed stingless bodies. The moon, golden medusa, and Cassiopeia (the upside-down jellyfish) are the three different species that bob around the lake, inviting visitors to join them for a refreshing swim. The lake is indeed deep, but there is no need to scuba dive too far into the dark depths of the lake in order to enjoy a synchronized swim with jellyfish, and have them curiously wrapping around your torso, arms, and legs.
It is an unusual experience swimming with Misool jellyfish. Hundreds of golden and spotted medusa jellyfish, some smaller and some larger, make swimmers feel like they are diving inside waters made of bulbous bodies that pulsate and dance to various rhythms. It is a wildlife encounter that must be experienced in order to be believed, as the swim itself is indescribable.
Visiting a jellyfish lake is a privilege that requires a sense of responsibility, as human visitors can be the biggest threat to the existence of these vulnerable creatures. In their own kingdom, these delightful creatures live almost isolated, with only a few fish as lake companions. It is important to remember that they are not used to outside elements, and therefore require a gentle approach from people who join them in their home. The harmless jellyfish of Misool expect visitors to swim slowly and carefully without flippers or any gear or objects that can easily kill them.
Learn more about our 12-night Limited Cross-Destination Cruises aboard Aqua Blu and embark on one-of-a-kind adventures into the deepest parts of East Indonesia’s land and seas.