Vieques Stories and Tips

Kayaking the Bioluminescent Bay, pt. 2

Mosquito Bay Photo, Vieques, Puerto Rico

This entry is a continuation of Kayaking the Bioluminescent Bay.

As can be seen from my rather dark photo of the entrance to Mosquito Bay, darkness was very much falling as the guide described the formation of the bay to us. Soon, she pointed us in another direction, telling us that this was where a buoy was that we could moor our kayaks on while swimming in the bay. Excited about the prospect of getting out of the kayaks and into the water, we quickly paddled off.

Once we had all been tied to the buoy, the guide told us more facts as we waited for the bay to begin lighting up. Unfortunately, not many of us paid attention, as we were wholly immersed in sticking our paddles into the water and seeing whether the water around them lit up. We were really like a pack of three-year-olds playing peekaboo with the plankton. At first, we were disappointed when nothing happened at all, but slowly, we began to see one, two, three little sparkles as we splashed around. The guide kept trying to get our attention, and I felt very bad for not fully listening to her. I did catch one interesting factoid—apparently, Mosquito Bay is one of the brightest bio bays in the world because it has a concentration of over 500,000 dinoflagellates per litre, whereas the next best bio bay in Puerto Rico only has a concentration of about 80,000 plankton per litre. That is quite a difference!

The guide also told us about the dangers that pollution—both light and chemical—has for Mosquito Bay. Tours are only allowed on kayaks or in electric boats, but some companies illegally run their tours in motorboats. DO NOT take a tour on a motorboat, because you are contributing to the demise of the bio bay by adding unneeded pollutants. People swimming in the bay should not put on sunscreen beforehand—especially since it is not really needed, the tour being at night and all—and insect repellent should be avoided as well. If you really feel the need to wear insect repellent, make sure there is absolutely no DEET in it. We had a special herbal repellent bought from an organic store. Light pollution is also a worry from the number of lights in the area surrounding the bay. There are still very few, but the lights are apparently increasing.

Finally, the guide either ran out of facts or tired of us blatantly turning to each other whispering, “Look! Look! The water is glowing!” By this point, the water turned decidedly green when we splashed or did anything else to suitably agitate the dinos. As soon as she told us we could get out of the kayak, we all attempted to at once. And what a difference when we did jump in! As I hopped in, the water all around me lit up in individual sparkles. It was not an all-over green as I had expected, but I could nearly see each individual dino lighting up at me, telling me “Why can’t you just go away and let me sleep?”

Once everyone was in the water, I spent a few minutes trying to get pictures of the phenomenon. Unfortunately, not a single one came out—everything turned out pitch black. I did get a few very amusing videos, though, of everyone squealing “I’m sparkling! I’m sparkling!” I soon gave up on the pictures and just enjoyed the experience.

Our favourite pastime was quickly pulling our hands out of the water and watching the individual plankton flickering and going out. It really did give our hands the illusion of sparkling in a neon green colour. If we could bounce high enough out of the water, our entire torso and lifejacket seemed to do the same. When someone swam towards you, even if you couldn’t see their face above water, you could see the phosphorescent trail they left behind them. It really was an out-of-this-world experience.

Adding to the glow beneath us was the glow in the sky. Looking up at the stars, we could see the entire band of the Milky Way stretching across the centre of the sky. Orion was clearly visible, but so was the Orion Nebula, which I can never see at home. We found the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia and any other constellations that people could remember from elementary school. Even in rural Australia, I didn’t see this many stars, and it was hard to know whether the gaze at them or splash up more dinos. It was a pity we couldn’t see both of them at once!

After what seemed like an inordinately short amount of time, we were told to get back into our kayaks. Apparently we spent at least fifteen minutes squealing like little children and the guide’s ears had just had enough (either that or she had another tour waiting to be taken out!). The back person had to get in first, so I did my best to get in as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite work out as I’d planned. Since I could not reach the bottom of the bay, I had nothing to push myself onto the kayak with and had to instead rely on my arms to pull myself up. I showed everyone how little weight-lifting I’d done lately when I only managed to pull myself halfway onto the boat, leaving me face-down, rear-up, and grabbing onto the kayak for dear life. I could not move for the life of me and soon found myself to be quite stuck. Everyone, including me, found this absolutely hilarious. The uproar of laughter only made the situation worse because I lost whatever strength I did have in my arms!

Finally, Emily and who knows who else pushed me and I finally managed to get my whole body into the kayak. I was still lying face down, but soon managed to turn myself right way up before collapsing in laughter again when I heard that Cristina’s father had nearly capsized his kayak, trying to help Tiffany into hers, while Cristina’s mother held on for dear life!

Once we were safely in our kayaks and ready to paddle again, the guide untied us, put a light on the back of the front kayak, and told us to follow it. The light seemed awful dim though, and nearly disappeared quite a few times. It didn’t help that we were all fascinated by the trails the kayaks left behind them and the streaks that fish left as they raced past our boat. Somehow all of us managed to find our way into the little cove that we had launched from, and our bioluminescent experience was over. As soon as we got out of our kayaks, all of us were planning our next trip to Vieques and its fairy-dust-sprinkled bioluminescent bay.

For an hour and a half in the water, we paid $25 each plus $10 each for the driver that took us to and from Mosquito Bay. The tour company we went with was Vieques Tours, which can be reached at 939-630-1267.

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