Bioluminescent Bay

Oh my gosh, where to begin? This trip has had so many great times. From our rocky start to our slippery finish, I have to say that this is by far my favorite class that I have ever taken! We have accomplished so much here in Puerto Rico from tours, to excursions, to lectures, and more, so to narrow it down to my single favorite, I’ll just pick the most recent. This being the bioluminescent bay.

Coming off feeling like death itself, the bay made my heart leap, and boggled my mind with its beauty. In the daylight, the bay casts the shimmering light of the sun on the pearly white sailboats in the harbor, and feels warm from the long day. We reached the bay a while before our scheduled departure so we could get dinner and search for some more souvenirs if we so desired. We dispersed and regrouped in about an hour by the bus to drop off the things, and made our way to the glass bottomed kayak stand for our reservation.

Shortly after we arrived, the last tour made their way to the shore and we underwent a relatively short instructional briefing. We were told all the safety measures and commands that they would use should we lose control of our kayaks, and were equipped with our life jackets. We then paired up and got in line for our respective kayaks. The guides brought the Kayaks one by one to the shallow water to help us get in properly, gave us our paddles, and sent us off to start the adventure.

The moon, thoroughly risen, shone above illuminating the bay, helping us maneuver around the anchored ships and toward the mangroves. The canopy of the mangroves formed a tunnel that blocked out the moonlight leaving our group in a state of pitch black wonder. We navigated the channel as best we could with the guides, only having a few minor catches with as little shouting as can be expected. We were not the only ones in the channel though, there were several other tours, some in kayaks, others in the boring safety of larger tour boats. We crossed paths, and the guides exchanged friendly banter, while keeping all of their customers safe and happy. The journey probably took twenty minutes from the shore to the actual bioluminescent bay.

As we emerged from the canopy of the mangroves, the light of the moon stung my eyes with how bright it was, while also striking me with its beauty. Making myself look away, I dipped my hand into the water to see if the water would glow. At first, I saw only sparkles in the water that I assumed were just the refracted light of the moon. Later I realize that the few sparkles were actually the microorganisms lighting up.

Once everyone had emptied from the mouth of the channel, we were again given a short briefing on what our purpose was, and were asked if we saw the bioluminescence on the way in, and were told that the best way to stir up the organisms was to put our arm into the water up to our elbow and then move our hands. It was amazing! As we paddled around the bay, the bow of the kayaks stirred up the organisms enough that they would shine as we passed over the water. Because of this, we could see the lights through the glass bottom of the kayak. They almost looked like stars.

After what seemed like a half an hour, we grouped back up and headed down the channel in a single file row again. The guides took our pictures for their Facebook page Glassbottompr, and led us out safely to shore where we disembarked, partook in a few refreshments, and watched them pack away their kayaks. All in all, I would highly recommend this experience to anyone and everyone who wants to see a beautiful awe inspiring natural wonder.

The entire group on the tour, including the guides

Emma and Matthew Rocking the Kayak and Paddles

5 thoughts on “Bioluminescent Bay

  1. I would agree that this was one of my favorite experiences! I think it really tied into the goals and objectives of the class, and we really got to learn a lot about the environment. Dr. Rodriguez was saying that every year these tours carry more and more of a conservation message, and what people can do to help. I think this is a perfect example to tie into systems thinking at open house. Environmental issues are a complex problems, and we need to preserve the things that keep us in awe. We should definitely potray how cool this is to everyone! I’m so glad I got to cross this off my bucket list!

  2. This was a really cool experience, definitely one of my favorite parts about the trip. Seeing the glow of the micro organisms as the water got agitated was so unreal. It was also really great that we went on the glass bottom kayak tour because a lot of the other tours were not using the kayaks with the glass bottom that we were. For me this was the best way to see it was underneath me when splashing in the water. The tour guides were so funny, nice, and engaging which made the outing a very positive experience from the start. It was also so cool to be kayaking through that mangrove. I have kayaked through rivers before but never a mangrove and not at night.

  3. This was also one of my favorite days as well. Being able to experience such a unique tour was very exciting to me. Kayaking through the mangroves with absolutely no light added a sense of danger and thrill to the long passage we had to travel through before entering the bay. The bay itself was not what I expected. Before the tour I googled images of bioluminescent bays and found the fake blue glow that is commonly used as advertisement. Even though the glow in real life was not as prominent as it was in the advertisements, it was still an amazing sight. However, it made me sad to hear the guides explain how the lights are slowly dying though due to a variety of reasons. One way we can incorporate this topic into our booth is to explain how important it is to protect areas such as this bay, because they are so rare to our earth. Adding on to this, I think it would be smart to explain why there is a glow in the water and what causes it.

  4. This was one of my favorite days too. Something about paddling quietly through a mangrove tunnel with only the glow sticks of the kayaks as our guides was such an awesome experience. Seeing the bioluminescent bay was definitely a check off my bucket list. It’s a shame that it is slowly dying though. It is such a rare ecosystem and It might not be there anymore in a couple years. I’m glad that they are getting funding to protect it and the mangroves indigenous to Puerto Rico. I think we should definitely use the Bio Bay in our booth somewhere. Many people know about it and want to go to it so I think it may be a popular selling point for the trip.

  5. The bioluminescent bay was also one of my favorite things that we did while in Puerto Rico! I’m so glad that we managed to fit it in and that the sky was cloudy enough for the bioluminescence to be visible. I had looked the bay up on the internet before we came here, so I was expecting to see a bright blue glow surrounding us for several feet and shimmering by itself. Even though the bay wasn’t what I expected, I still really loved it. The lights looked like glitter in the water to me, and I’m a big glitter fan, so I was excited! The kayaking trip itself was really fun too; I thought that paddling through the stream in the dark was an interesting and weirdly relaxing experience. This is one of the things that I think should be a main highlight of our booth because the bioluminescent bay is so unique. It can only be found in a few areas of the world, so having the opportunity to learn about it and see it in person is really special and could definitely interest prospective students. Explaining the science behind the glow would also be something that I think a lot of people would find interesting. We could also talk about why the bay looks so different in person than it does on Google, because I was really surprised to find out that all of those images were photoshopped!