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Lunch » Tags » Travel » Reviews » Bioluminescent Bay - Vieques, Puerto Rico » User review

Bioluminescent Bay

An attraction at Vieques, Puerto Rico

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A natural wonder of the world.

  • Dec 16, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5

When I first heard about the Bio-bay I was watching a slide show video about it on YouTube. I immediately thought it was one of the many hoax videos you see on YouTube. You know the ones I’m talking about, the flying saucers with the fishing pole visible in every third frame or the media-mashup where Stephen Colbert is having a light-saber duel with Darth Maul to the soundtrack of a John McCain speech. Despite a lack of Colbert flair, the slide show video does show a guy kayaking in a lagoon where the water lights up like a Christmas tree with every stroke of their paddle and a woman swimming in bright glowing water. And then I saw an obviously doctored picture of a couple kayaking toward the camera where their bow wake glows like they’re surfing on some kind of magic carpet water. Seriously, the clip looks like some ad for an alien water park like Magic Waters on Mars.
 
The thing is this place is totally real! On a small island called Vieques (off the east coast of Puerto Rico), there is a salty lagoon that is completely saturated in dinoflagellates. What are dinoflagellates you ask? DFlags are a unique species of plankton that glow neon blue when their watery area is disturbed. Maybe you have heard of Navy ships that have come across these microscopic herds way out in the ocean and see their ship’s wake for miles. Dinoflagellates react very similarly, but in the Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Vieques P.R. there are almost 750,000 of these little guys per gallon. So the glowing effect borders on the absurd.
 
A series of factors contribute to the alien effect at Bio-bay: red mangrove trees surround the entire lagoon and their dead leaves are efficient repositories of the minerals these dinoflagellates thrive on, the lagoon is deep and allows them to congregate in greater numbers, and the channel that connects the lagoon to the ocean is narrow allowing it to be more salty then the ocean. Interestingly, when Spanish conquistadores first discovered this bay, they naturally assumed the glowing blue effect was a clear sign of the devil (“el Diablo”). In order to protect the ocean and their ships from the devil, they narrowed the channel by placing huge boulders in the channel’s entrance, which resulted in increased levels of the glowing plankton and even more of a “devilish” presence.
 
Kayaking out into the deepest part of the lagoon is one thing, swimming with these glowing microscopic plankton is another. Diving into the lagoon on a night where the moon has not yet risen, the effect is brilliant. As you swim underwater others can see a glowing submarine effect that looks like a scene from the movie Abyss. Treading water and raising your hand from the surface you can see the individual plankton slowly drip down your arm like little crystal drops. It’s the closest thing we have to a living, breathing version of the Matrix.  It’s both beautiful and a bit out-of-this-world frightening.
 
The outfitter we used for this adventure was Abe’s Snorkeling (with the eponymous website abessnorkeling.com). They were very accommodating and they made sure we had a great time. There are a number of companies that offer this same experience, a few that were priced 3 times more than the $35/person I paid.
 
A couple tips to keep in mind: bring mosquito repellant to apply before you jump in and immediately afterwards because they will swarm and bite (hence the name Mosquito Bay), bring a snorkel mask, and if you want to take pictures you need to have a camera that can take very low light pictures. CNN was recently there and had specialized cameras to capture the glowing plankton.
 
I have yet to determine if my dip in this neon blue lagoon was really the long-lost fountain of youth or some Senior Citizen pool that has Cocoon pods on the bottom; but what I do know is that the Bioluminescent Bay should be one of the wonders of the world.

 

Here's the slide show video from Abe's Snorkeling. Scroll to the last 30 seconds to view the Bio Bay pictures:
A natural wonder of the world.

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August 02, 2011
The pictures are impressive.
 
February 01, 2010
excellent pictures.
February 06, 2010
Thanks! I wish I could have gotten better photos when I was there, but it's virtually impossible to capture with a regular camera.
 
December 28, 2009
This sounds amazing. Wish I could be there right now!!
 
December 28, 2009
I just did this the other day and we were told NOT to use bug spray as the DEET will kill the DFlags on contact.
December 28, 2009
Good for you! Did you enjoy it? Yes, our guides had us use baby oil as repellent before we got in the water, so it wouldn't hurt the plankton. Unfortunately, the second I got out of the water and dried off I was attacked by mosquitoes and definitely wished I had bug spray along in the kayak.
 
December 17, 2009
Now that I'm back to China, no access to YouTube but I'll make sure I catch it when in Hongkong next week. What a mystical experience! I certainly won't jump into it as I do hate mosquitoes and swimming in the dark with all those planktons sounds eerie enough to me! I do agree this is one of the most unique experience anyone could have though. Way to go, Bethany!
December 18, 2009
Thanks, Sharrie. Yes, it was a bit eerie at first and I didn't plan on going in. But once I got out there, it seemed so magical and peaceful that I couldn't resist!
 
December 16, 2009
Thanks for sharing, Bethany!  I've never heard of this until this review.  This looks amazing, and I am so envious of your experience!  Where's the slide show video though? :P
December 16, 2009
It's a really crazy experience and highly recommended if you're in the area. Did you watch the end of Abe's Snorkeling slide show video? That's the one I'm referencing.
December 17, 2009
Gotta make it out there someday! I know in your review it says that there's a slide show video at the bottom, but I don't see one...
December 17, 2009
Nevermind, it looks like it's just the browser I was using that had issues. Those vids definitely add a nice touch to your review! :)
 
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Quick Tip by . December 28, 2009
One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! I would do this again at Vieques at any opportunity :P
About the reviewer
Bethany ()
Ranked #20
Hello Lunchers!      I am a contributing writer foran onlinelife and style website that highlights hot-spots in Minneapolis and Chicago. As such, I frequent many new boutiques, restaurants, … more
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About this attraction

Wiki


The Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay on the Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico (or "Bio Bay" as it is sometimes called), is the world's largest and brightest. The bioluminescent bay is the most bioluminescent in the World as determined by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008. It contains up to 160,000 microscopic dinoflagellates per liter of water. When agitated, these microscopic organisms (Pyrodinium bahamense or swirling fire) react, emitting a blue-green light for about a decimal of a second.

There are other bioluminescent bays around the island, but the Mosquito Biobay is the one that shines with the most intensity, its shallow and small entrance from the sea impedes the waves from washing away the dinoflagellates; and the mangrove trees, with their decomposition process, provides abundant food for the micro-organisms.

 

The luminescence is caused by micro-organisms (dinoflagellates) which glow whenever the water is disturbed, leaving a trail of neon blue. These half-plant, half-animal organisms emit a flash of bluish light when agitated at night. The high concentration of these creatures can create enough light from which to read a book. A combination of factors creates the necessary conditions for bioluminescence: red mangrove trees surround the water (the organisms feed off the dead leaves); a complete lack of modern development around the bay; the water is cool enough and deep enough; and a small channel to the ocean keeps the ...

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Tags

Travel, Water, Puerto Rico, Swimming, Kayaking, Vieques, Dinoflagellates, Bioluminescent Bay, Biobay, Morgali Photography, Puerto Rico Travel

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