A few years ago, I signed up for a night dive while vacationing in the Turks & Caicos island of Providenciales. As my group was about to take a giant stride off the boat into the clear, 80-degree Caribbean waters, the divemaster told us to enter the water WITHOUT our dive lights on. My fellow divers and I asked why. She said she had a surprise for us. It was called bioluminesence. Once we were under the surface and the sun had set, our forward movement underwater created an eerie natural light from a chemical reaction by microscopic plankton
You can experience the same mosaic of greenish glowing light on sunset kayak trips to the mangrove-fringed Puerto Rico’s Fajardo Grand Lagoon. In this salt water lagoon, you can run your oar or hand through the water, or jump in and see the harmless bioluminescence shimmer off of your hands as you swim the breast stroke.
No doubt, you’ve seen this brilliant luminescent phenomenon from the bow wave or wake of a ship. Because you can see bioluminesence in any region or depth as single-cell dinoflagellates feed on blue-green algae that flourishes in the ocean.
The lagoon, the closest to San Juan, is a half-hour paddle trip from a marina in the eastern town of Fajardo. With the brightest bioluminescence occuring most years from August through October, some say it’s like sprinkling pixie dust all over their bodies. During other months, it’s present but not as bright. And this is just one of three bioluminescent lagoons on the island; the other two are Mosquito Bay and La Parguera in the southwestern part of the island.
These environmentally-conscious tours use self-propelled kayaks as the visitors do the oaring. No noisy, leaky outboard motors are allowed. Three companies offer tours:
1) Las Tortugas Adventures, 787.725.5169;
2) Yokahu Kayaks, 787.604.7375; and
3) Eco Xcursion Aquatica, 787.888.2887.