Water Diamonds at Bio Bay

Laguna Grande in the distance

Laguna Grande in the distance

I will always remember Bio Bay or Laguna Grande, as a diamond experience observed both in the night sky and the ocean water. There were four in my party and we had already enjoyed a spectacular hike through El Yunque National Forest. By the time we arrived in Fajardo, we were eager to see a little bioluminescence. What an adventure we experienced.

Just as the sun began to slip beneath the horizon, one guide, two support crew and twenty guests climbed into dual kayaks. My husband and I shared one, while my daughter and her boyfriend shared another. This being our first adventure in kayaks, mastering the paddles did not take long. The challenge came when trying to close the gap with more experienced kayakers who easily maneuvered through the water and motored ahead. Or less experienced kayakers who simply failed and blocked our pursuit.

The Mangrove Channel

The Mangrove Channel

We set out across the ocean attempting to match our propelling arms. Left and right, stroke after stroke, we sailed through the marina and moved toward the Mangrove channel. Once we entered the opening, we followed a narrow, twisting and winding trail through the water. Sometimes we came too close to the mangrove trees, but we carefully pushed ourselves away from their roots and continued forward. We were told if we fell from our kayaks not to worry, because with the water only two feet high, we could stand. Fortunately, my husband and I are excellent partners and maneuvered together to stay seated in our boat.

I really enjoyed the voyage through the Mangrove channel. If there had not been other Kayaks behind us, I would have stopped within the stream to enjoy the serene beauty. Meandering through the channel with mangroves stretching over our heads was blissfully peaceful.

The sun had almost completely set by the time we entered Laguna Bay. The tour guide shared some history about the Taino Indians who first called Puerto Rico home and offered information about the bay and the organisms that emit a mysterious sparkling light called bioluminescence.

Tiny dinoflagellates, approximately 720,000 for every gallon of water, reside within the Bay. Once the sunsets and night blankets the sky, the organisms rise to the water’s surface, which is why the tour happens only at night. The Spanish believed the strange water to be the devil’s work, and they tried to block the channel to the Bay with large boulders. This only served to create more bioluminescence by trapping more organisms inside the Bay.

Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence 

My husband found viewing the luminescence difficult. He’s still not sure he saw any light at all. I found the light subtle and I would not describe the luminescence as neon blue. I would draw my hand through the water as we moved along in our kayak, and watch tiny diamonds dance around my fingers. To me the light appeared like tiny electrical sparks around my fingers or paddles, which quickly extinguished after being disturbed. When we did not touch the water, we did not see the light. Sometimes, you can see stingrays or other wish, swimming through the water. Sadly, no creatures came across our paddles.

The guide told us to take our time crossing the Bay as we moved on to look at a light circling round a Lighthouse. A deluge of rain began to fall! Thankfully, rain is brief in the tropics, so while the torrent was strong, we only faced the wrath for about five minutes. When you take this tour, you will become wet from the waist down, whether rain is falling or not, or water is coming into your kayak from paddling. The weather is warm in Puerto Rico. The night we went the temperatures were around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so we did not mind at all.

The tour lasted about an hour and a half. Soon we were travelling back along the mangroves at the Bay’s edge and making our way back to where we began. There was still the slightest glimmer of light, and I noticed that when I drew my hand through the water, the light was brighter on the kayak’s darker side, shaded from the Mangrove trees.

At one point when the night fell to inky blackness, and all we could see ahead was the illuminated rings on our canoes and jackets, my husband and I chanced to look upward at the night sky. We stared in wonder at a black velvet carpet of bright stars. I marveled at my adventure. Diamonds glistened in the sky, and sparkled between my fingertips in the water.

There are two tours a night. Now that I am more familiar with Laguna Grande and Bio Bay, I would recommend the later tour when the night is darkest. A later tour time might equal a stronger luminescence experience. Also, I know now that the worst time to visit Bio Bay is during a full moon, which is probably due to the light. However, I have no regrets and would not change our tour’s timing. Having never experienced the Mangrove channel before, we were grateful for sunset, which helped guide us through.

There are some beautiful pictures of neon blue bioluminescence on the World Wide Web. It would be special to experience neon blue, but I cannot say if this occurs at Bio Bay from my experience. My pictures were not taken by myself, as we were cautious about taking camera’s on the water. I could find no author attributes to the pictures I found on the net.

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