It’s a bird, it’s a plane… No! It’s the biobay.
As most children dream, I always wanted to have super powers. I’d tie a towel around my neck and save the citizens of my small Iowa town (aka my stuffed animals in my backyard) from evil. Depending on the day, I would be able fly, become invisible, or use my super strength. No matter how many times I wished while blowing out my birthday candles or added it to my letter to Santa, I never was gifted with real super powers…until recently.
No, I didn’t enter into a tub of toxic waste, nor have any complicated surgeries. All I had to do was tour the Bioluminescent Bay (commonly referred to as the “biobay”) in Vieques, and I had the ability to make water glow with a simple touch! Puerto Rico has three accessible bioluminescent bays, but the brightest is Mosquito Bay, right here on Vieques Island where I’m doing an internship for Weddings in Vieques. It’s important that we learn about all the natural mysteries and majesties of this beautiful place so we can share the information with the literally thousands of tourists our company attracts to this island in the form of wedding guests each year.
The Vieques biobay provides the perfect environment for the Dinoflagellates, single-celled organisms that emit light when agitated. The bay is shallow, the maximum depth reaching only 14 feet, and is bordered by mangroves that provide nutrients for the Dinoflagellates. There is only one narrow entrance from the bay to the Caribbean Sea. This protects the water from wind and tides, keeps the organisms from leaving the bay, and results in a much higher concentration and brighter glow than many other biobays. One dark night, my intern partner Devon and I were given the opportunity to tour the
Vieques biobay with Fun Brothers in their clear-bottom kayaks. We were both excited, but nervous. Devon had never kayaked before and I had only gone one time prior to that night. Turns out, we had nothing to worry about. Our guides were competent and helpful; they gave us a mini lesson on how to hold the paddle and steer the kayak before we launched.
As we squished our way down the muddy bank and into the kayak, I couldn’t help but look up at the stars. There are no lights in or near the biobay, something the residents of Vieques Island work hard to maintain to protect this beautiful natural resource. You have to solely rely on the moon, which is why they suggest not touring on a full moon because you can’t see as much in the water. The night we went, the lack of light from the island and the moon allowed for even the tiniest stars to shine brilliantly through the night sky. I was in awe before we got into the water.
We followed the small blue light on the back of our guide’s kayak while paddling out into the bay in our two-person kayak. The coordinating colors made it easy to stick with the group, and every now and then our guide would call out “CHECK!” and we’d respond with our roll-call number. With it being so dark, it would be easy to get turned around out there. Better to be safe than sorry! And it reminded me of summer camp.
We had just made our way into the water when I first noticed my new-found super powers. Each time my paddle would dip into the water, a neon green color would appear. My wish had finally come true; I had super powers! We stopped paddling and put our hands in the water; lo and behold, the green light continued to respond to my touch and my fingers turned neon for a few seconds too. As fish swam underwater, beside and beneath our kayak, they left a neon trail allowing us to follow their path.
The clear-bottom kayaks allowed us to be surrounded by the glow. It looked as if someone had dumped a pail of glitter beneath us as the water was sparkling. Or perhaps the water was filled with teeny stars that never made it into the sky. Sadly, the average camera does not have the capabilities to capture the glow. You’ll just have to take me at my word that I do have super powers now because it wasn’t worth risking expensive electronics for subpar photos.
Now I may have had super powers, but my sidekick Devon and I still feared that our kayak would tip over. Fortunately, we had nothing to worry about. Honestly, the water is calm and still, allowing for a smooth ride. There is no current or waves in the biobay that will cause you to rock or move faster than you wish. The closest we came to capsizing was when we were startled by a fish, deciding to use its own super powers when it tried to fly into our kayak. Luckily, the fish missed his target and we stayed in our boat.
Although, falling in accidentally was tempting!
Okay, so you may have figured out my so-called powers have more to do with disturbing the Dinoflagellates than me actually being magic. But honestly, it really felt like I was fulfilling a childhood dream. It was so beautiful – it’s actually something you have to see for yourself.
A tour of the magnificent Mosquito Bay in Vieques is a must on your trip to Puerto Rico, there really is a reason that they call it the “8th Wonder of the World.” Add it to your bucket list and complete it sooner rather than later, so you too can experience what it is like to have superpowers!
Kayla Seeger, Intern at Weddings in Vieques