MY DREAM CAME TRUE!
Reviews of bucket-list-worthy things to do all over the world

Swimming in bioluminescent water!

Our boat motored quietly through the night. Above us, countless stars twinkled in the sky. Our guide talked about the constellations. I glanced up, but quickly returned my attention to the black water. I focused on the boat’s propellers churning in the darkness. As we traveled deeper into the bay, I started to see a faint glow in the boat’s wake. At first, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was imagining it, but, before long, the glow became unmistakably real. I could see it along the sides of the boat too. Occasionally, small glowing torpedoes would shoot through the water. Inside the torpedo’s glow, I could make out the outline of a fish. I could hardly contain my excitement. We were about to join them on a nighttime swim in bioluminescent water.

We had booked our Bioluminescent Bay Tour with East Island Excursions. The company arranged for us to be picked up at our hotel, the Gran Melia Puerto Rico, and driven to Marina Puerto Del Rey in Fajardo. From there, they took us on a beautiful sunset catamaran ride to the island of Vieques, about eight miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico.

After a van ride though the sleeping island, a casual dinner, and the harrowing (but also really fun) experience of off-roading in an old school bus as tree branches slapped the half-open windows trying to reach inside, we arrived on the muddy shore of Mosquito Bay. We boarded an electric motor boat and headed into the darkness.

Mosquito Bay is filled with high concentrations of microscopic dinoflagellates called Pyrodinium bahamense. A chemical reaction inside the dinoflagellates creates magical sparkles of light, only visible on dark nights, around anything that moves through the water.

Once we were far enough from land to decrease the amount of light pollution, our guides found a spot to anchor. Then it was time to enter the water. I was first in line. I was about to take a leap of faith. I had heard that there are jellyfish in the bay, and there really could have been anything in the water for all we knew. As long as the creature was still, we couldn’t see it.  One of the guides secured a floatation belt to my waist and I climbed into the warm water. I looked down as I let it engulf my body. Tiny pinpoints of light shone wherever I disturbed the water. I moved my hand in front of me. Mini glittering flashes marked its path.

One by one, other people joined me in the water. We naturally formed small groups, talking, awestruck, about the experience and experimenting with our new “magic powers."

“Kick your legs,” my friend urged. I did and looked down to see that my legs were now visible beneath the water, a faint glow surrounding them. Below the surface of the water, I closed my fist and then opened it. Little sparkles radiated from my hand. It looked like I was throwing pixie dust. I threw pixie dust over and over again letting the images of this magical world burn into my memory.

We only spent about thirty minutes swimming in the bay that night, but the memories that we made there will last forever. To this day, whenever I remember my night in the enchanting bay, I can still see the pixie dust.

I did this in 2007 on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, USA.

Jen (California, USA)