Everyone who has seen the movie “Life of Pi” probably remembers the scene in which millions of little blue organisms light up the ocean by night.
Fantasy or reality?
What is the bio bay?
The bioluminescent (can’t pronounce it but it means as much as “glowing”) dinoflagellates keep appearing in different places in the ocean but there is some places where they can be found all the time. One of these places is the bio bay in Puerto Rico. Seawater flows into the bay through a mangrove channel and because the dinoflagellates can’t move on their own they are kept in the bay by the constant stream of water.
Another big plus: This adventure is not dependent on the weather. All frustrated polar light hunters and shooting star observers gotta love this: The little creatures don’t give a f*** about the weather. On the contrary, the bay is even supposed to be more beautiful in the rain when the drops light up the surface of the entire bay.
So book the tour whenever and relax about the weather forecast. It needs a severe storm for them to cancel the tour.
- Book the tour well in advance, they are sold out very fast
- We booked with Kayaking Puerto Rico (http://www.kayakingpuertorico.com/)
- The tour takes about two hours
- It’s always two persons in one kayak
- You will get a little wet, dress lightly and leave non-waterproof stuff at home
- There are two tours each day, one leaves by daylight and waits for sunset in the bay, the second one will be completely dark, times vary depending on season
- Tour leaves from Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Exploring the bio bay with the kayak
The tour starts a little outside Fajardo from the Parque Pasivo De Las Croabas. The guide hands out life jackets. Apart from that it is best to dress lightly as you will get a little wet. As you have to wade through the water to get to your kayak it is also best to do the tour barefoot, flip flops at most. Better leave everything that can’t get wet on land. The glowing spectacle is almost impossible to picture from a wobbly kayak anyway so just enjoy the tour with your own eyes.
For occasions like this I always have my little waterproof camera with me to get a couple of snaps at least.
The tour into the bio bay is relatively easy and also suitable for kids accompanied by their parents. After putting some energy into crossing the little bay between the jetty and the channel there is no way of getting lost anymore. Just avoid low branches and don’t hit the mangroves too often. The passage through the channel is beautiful hence I’d recommend the early tour to see it in daylight. The second tour will be completely dark and you’ll miss this wonderful part of the tour.
Upon arriving in the lagoon our guide tells us about the bio bay while we patiently wait for the dark and enjoy the mild night.
“You can now move your hand through the water!”
Grey streaks form around my fingers while I dig in. Grey? I want blue for heaven’s sake…
Fortunately darkness comes fast in the Caribbean and the darker it gets the brighter the glow. It’s completely dark now and no one in the group can hold back their excitement. This is like paddling on the milky way. With every stroke of the paddle millions of little stars light up beneath the kayak. I let the water flow between my fingers. Again. And again. Everything that comes into contact with the dinoflagellates makes them glow. This is one of the most magical things I have ever seen.
When paddling back through the channel a couple of big fish swim beneath the kayak. Glowing. This is simply amazing.
The glow accompanies us while we paddle back until it gets weaker and weaker and when we reach the opening of the tunnel and come back out into the Fajardo bay, it’s time to say goodbye.
Back at the jetty our guides hands out some snacks and I absently chew on a granola bar and try to hold on to the magic a little longer while slowly drifting back into reality. The bio bay is only a stone’s throw away but at night the mangrove channel turns into a portal to another world. One thing is for sure: The bio bay does not only glow at night but in your memory forever.
Tipp for landlubbers
Everyone not feeling comfortable with a kayak or could not get a spot on one of the tours: By the light house of Fajardo a wooden trails leads to the shore of the lagoon so you can reach it by foot. However, the path crosses private land so you will have to do this with a guided tour.