Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Bio-Luminescent Experience

One of the most amazing experiences so far, was my kayaking trip through the bio-luminescent bay (in Farjardo) in Puerto Rico.

In November 2009, I had a business meeting in Puerto Rico and invited my sister to come along. We planned to see Old San Juan, hang by the pool and most importantly I wanted to visit El Yunque and the bio-luminescent bay in the North East part of the island.

We spent the early part of the afternoon at the rain forest (my first time at a rain forest, not quite what I pictured) and then headed over to the launch area about 20 minutes north-east of the rain forest. Puerto Rico actually has three of the five bio luminescent bays in the world. One of the other bio luminescent bays in Puerto Rico takes more planning, it is, I believe on the South West part of the island, and you need to take a helicopter or boat over there. Mandatory night stay is required on the island.
When we arrived we were given a short talk on how this worked and then we were given life vests and headed into our two person kayak. I have only kayaked 3 times, my sister had never - so we had to spend a while teaching her what to do. Many people did not know how to steer their kayaks. So we all line up and proceed through the bay to the lagoon. The voyage starts off rough - choppier waters, getting bumped, going off course, etc. But then we make our way through a 'river' which becomes really dark. Oh right, did I forget to mention you have to do this at night time? So it is pitch-black you can barely see the kayak in front of you and you don't see the tree branches that hit your head or arms. At first I was getting a little spooked. I mean, I hate bugs. And who knows what is on these branches. The bugs were eating us like crazy too. But the moon was small and it was a beautiful warm, clear night. And then....then it happened. All of a sudden the water lights up. And as you are rowing, you see the lights appear and fade. I had to reach out and touch it. It was amazing. Our tour took us through this narrow passage way to the Las Croabas Lagoon where we were given a little history about the plankton and then some free time to paddle around and enjoy. The lagoon was beautiful, we were all paddling everywhere and you look up and the stars were shinning - it was so peaceful and relaxing. Our return trip was much better - as my sister figured out how to paddle, and the others were getting the hang of it too. Although at one point I thought I was going to be decapitated by a branch that snuck up on me.

So, how does the water light up? At our location, in Las Croabas Lagoon, there are 500,000 to 700,000 of bioluminescent dinoflagellates ( a plankton) per gallon. These plankton when disturbed light up. They thrive in warm water - and in Puerto Rico, they can be seen every night.

I did not take my camera on the trip, and for that I am actually happy as got kinda wet. You need to know how to use your camera and change the settings to something I am not familiar with. We were not allowed in the water, so all those pictures you see, are done by 'real' photographers and most of the time with special permission. They told us that human oil kills the plankton or something like that. So the pictures I post, are from those that can easily be found with a google search.

I think our trip cost $65 per person? At first I thought it was a little pricey - but when we got off the kayak, I thought it was completely worth it! That is definitely something I would do again with my future husband and/or children.
(bio-luminescent seem strange? NO, think about fireflies. There are actually lots of things that light up.)

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