The Magical Swirl of the Bio Bay

The Bio Bay. It’s the reason we travelled to Vieques and Puerto Rico in the first place, and it turned out to be the highlight of our trip. It was magically incredible; hard to describe in words and almost impossible to photograph in pictures.

So what is it?

The scientific answer is that Mosquito Bay, the brightest Bioluminescent Bay in the world, contains millions of single-celled bioluminescent dinoflagellates in every gallon of water. These organisms emit a flash of white light when agitated at night.

The result is a sea of flashing white diamonds, like a pool full of miniscule lightning bugs. Or as my mother described it, it was like being in a snow globe shaken up with stars twinkling above us and little white organisms twinkling below us as we canoed out to the middle of the bay. Whenever we rowed with our oars, a crest of white moved with us. I was thankful that I’d done my research well and booked us on the clear-bottom canoes, rather than the kayaks or electric pontoon boat. Having a clear bottom let you see all the streaks of light beneath you as you glided across the warm, black waters.

Then, in the middle of the bay, our guide tied us all together and talked about the breathtaking constellations above us as well as the wonder of nature beneath us. I played with the water the whole time he spoke. I was not going to let this once-in-a-lifetime experience pass too quickly.

The tiny dinoflagellates lit up like sparklers in the water with every move of my hand. It reminded me of the Walt Disney commercials on TV when Mickey Mouse swirls his magic wand and all those mystical lights swirl with it. The water was like that. I put my arms and hands in over and over and swirled the water, lifting a scoopful out of the bay and watching the tiny lights of white rise with me and then dissipate into nothing.

We weren’t supposed to bring cameras, but I brought my iphone with me anyway — just in case. They asked us not to use any flash, so it didn’t look like my pictures would turn out. But I did capture one less-than-spectacular shot through the bottom of the canoe. No picture could ever do it justice anyway.

No words can do it justice, either. But to me, my husband’s statement after we got back to shore summed it up: “This was the best tour you’ve ever booked us on.”
I book us on a LOT of tours. So I think that says it all.

If we ever go back to Vieques, this is the one thing I’ll do, over and over again, any chance I get.

Have you heard of, or been to, a Bio Bay?


16 responses to “The Magical Swirl of the Bio Bay

  1. This is an experience that I think the older you are, the better. Why? Because you will know, through your years traveling through life that you have never experienced anything that will come close to this.

  2. Wow! What an amazing world we live in! That sounds like something that i will HAVE to experience for myself. Had never heard of Bio bay Juliann, thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. I googled some pictures to try and get an image in my head but most of what I saw were just people in water surrounded by this hazy halo-like effect. Clearly this can only be experienced in person.

    • I Googled it before I went and saw picture of people surrounded by a green halo-ish aura. But it was nothing like that. I’m not a photographer, so I don’t know how they captured images like that, but what we experienced were tiny white organisms. It does need to be seen in person.

  4. Reblogged this on Browsing The Atlas and commented:

    The last day of the year; a time for reflection. I always find looking back to be melancholy. I fall into the group of people who find December 31st a time to mourn those that won’t see the new year. (Geez. Wonder why I’m not invited to more New Year’s Eve parties?)

    Before I Debbie Downer you too much, I thought I’d take a look back at the travel moment that I’m so glad I experienced in 2013, because it’s one that may not make it into the coming years if we don’t do something about it.

    Seeing the Bio Bay in Puerto Rico.

    A few months ago, one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays went dark. It’s not the one we canoed out onto in Vieques Island, but it’s close by. I read the news article and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and alarm. Being on the water at night, seeing the sparkling dinoflagellates was such a magical experience. It relies on such a fragile ecosystem. But developers in Fajardo cleared out some mangroves and undoubtedly polluted the waters in the bio lagoon. The bay went dark. Scientists still don’t know whether the microorganisms will ever thrive there again or not.

    See the Bio Bays while you can.

    • Believe it or not, when we went and I described what we were going to see, my 7th-grade daughter knew the term! I certainly never learned about it in school. She got extra credit when she went back and told her science teacher about it.

  5. Thanks for sharing the magic. Just breathtakingly amazing. Kind of what it feels when we open our Christmas present way back when we were young and believe in the magic of Christmas. Never too late to believe again, right? Happy New Year!

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