The Magical Bays of Puerto Rico

Imagine yourself on a moonless night, gliding along in a kayak through the calm waters of a secluded lagoon sheltered by mangrove trees. While you paddle through a tropical and dark canal, the shore is faintly illuminated by a group of spectacular constellations. The soft breeze is joyfully playing with the tide of the ocean. Magic is within your reach. As you look up at the sky, full shooting stars are kissing the warm and sparkling waters of the sea.

by Andrea Massimini/Flickr
By Andrea Missimini

Surrounded by the mystical, narrow passage of a coastal swamp, the only sound breaking the silence of that peaceful night are the raindrops that tenderly begin to fall. While you contemplate the light shower illuminating the ocean, you wonder if there is a surreal world inhabiting Puerto Rico; and in that precise instant, you feel one with the universe.

When you approach the magnificent bioluminescent bay in your kayak, a breathtaking show performed by mother nature begins to spray magically the sea with a sparkling glitter, giving you the illusion that marine creatures are dancing like aquatic fireflies.

Beauty, mystery and magic entwine that moment, reminding you that life is narrowed down to instances of absolute bliss. I remember when my parents would take me to the glowing bay at La Parguera, in the southwest of Lajas. Back then the water was full of luminescence.  Sadly, throughout the years pollution has contaminated the bay, killing much of the mystical microorganisms.

During my most recent trip, I went with my daughter to Laguna Beach in Fajardo. Located in a natural reserve on the Northeast tip of Puerto Rico, this unique wonderland that comes alive with millions of glowing organisms provides an incredible experience, only found in very few places on earth. We paddled in harmony while we navigated in a kayak through a deep canal.

Kayaking at Glowing Bay in Laguna Grande
Kayaking at Glowing Bay
in Laguna Grande

The bioluminescence bay is still blessed after so many years with a healthy ecosystem due to the total preservation efforts that prohibit or decrease access to the bay by boat. Swimming is not allowed to protect the water from contamination by chemicals. Best seen on a moonless night, the majestic sky full of falling stars seems to be having a contest with the luminescent ocean to see which one will glimmer the most.

In earlier times, the bioluminescent inlet was considered an enigma. Some people believed that it was an alien base while others feared it was an evil place, afraid that the waters were venomous. After years of studies, it was concluded that a bio bay is a rare ecosystem containing millions of organisms called “dinoflagellates.” These micro-organisms from the plankton family, emit light through chemical reactions when the surrounding water is disturbed. While the moon is quietly elsewhere in the universe, the magical glow-in-the-dark effect is wondrous, like an aquatic fairy dust.

The pristine bay provides a unique habitat for these microorganisms. The mangrove forests that surround it are a vital source of nutrients for the organisms, which can’t survive in salty waters. Also, the Bay has to stay calm with a stable and warm temperature. The mangrove ecosystem is a bridge between terrestrial and marine environments. Besides protecting the bay from big waves and storms, they provide people with abundant supplies of wood, food and medicine.

Puerto Rico’s gift; Mosquito Bay in Viequez Island, located in the Northeast, is known as the brightest one, where pollution has not touched the enchanting tropical harbor. Because of its pristine ecosystem, it is the only phosphorescent bay in the island where you are allowed to swim.

As you dive into the bright neon green world of dinoflagellates and contemplate the sky shooting you flickering kisses, see your whole body covered in a radiant light. Imagine yourself as a being of light. Let the warm water dress you in a luminescent gown. Indulging in such a magical moment, you feel joyful and with a thankful heart, you cherish an experience that will stay with you forever.

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