Experiencing A Bio Bay In Vieques, Puerto Rico
One of the things I absolutely wanted to do in Puerto Rico, and something that I've always wanted to do, was to experience a bio-luminescent bay.
A bio bay happens when there is a concentrated number of microorganisms that glow when agitated. So essentially, the water glows when you move it. They can be a magical experience, and my research told me that Mosquito Bay (which I later learned was very aptly named) in Vieques, Puerto Rico was one of the best in the world.
Naturally, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.
Getting to Vieques is a bit of an adventure in itself. It's a small island off the mainland of Puerto Rico, so be prepared to do some planning to get there. You can take a short, 10 minutes flight or opt for the ferry. We opted for the latter, although I probably wouldn't do it that way again because it required waking up extra early, waiting in long stagnant lines, and no working bathrooms.
In short, Puerto Rico is great. Their ferry system is not.
We were only here for one night, so we spent the afternoon cooling off in our air conditioned hotel room and seeing some of the beautiful beaches that Vieques has. The island is known for the wild horses that roam the streets, and it was amazing to look out the window and just see them sauntering by!
There isn't a lot to do in the area where the bio bay is, so we ate some great food and waited until it was time to leave for our night time adventure. It's best to try and plan to visit a bio bay when it's as dark as possible. On nights with a full moon, it can be harder to see the glow in the water.
TIP: It's important to remember not to wear any bug repellent or sunscreen with a lot of chemicals, or DEET. You can find DEET free repellent all over the place, and you'll definitely want to lather up because Mosquito Bay lives up to its name.
We left around 8:00 pm for our adventure. Eight of us piled onto a big, dark bus and followed an unpaved road through the jungle and through complete darkness. It was bumpy and rough, but soon we were at our location. There are several tour companies, and a lot of them unload in the same clearing. Of course, it's still pitch black out and you just have to look for the people wearing headlamps.
After strapping on our life jackets, we paired up in teams of two and got instructions about how the adventure would work. I recommend doing this with a buddy, since you'll be able to be a pair. Of course, it's still a lot of fun even if you end up being with a stranger.
Once the instructions were over, we were loaded onto our glass-bottomed kayaks and started out into the bay.
If you look up pictures of bio bays, you might be disappointed that the water doesn't seem as bright as in the pictures. That's because the pictures are essentially fake (it's impossible to capture the real glow), but it doesn't make the experience of seeing the water light up under the kayak and when you paddle any less magical.
We spent an hour out in the bay just kayaking around. We sped up to really get the glow going, and the enjoyed just slowing down, looking at the amazing stars above us and moving our paddles through the water.
The whole experience was, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I've ever done. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I loved being able to check something off my bucket list that's been there for a long time.
Tips for Experiencing A Bio Bay
- Book in advance. Although you can book a bio bay adventure when you arrive, the tours can fill up quickly. We used Fun Brothers, and they were very professional. You don't have to book weeks in advance, but calling ahead is a great idea.
- Be prepared for the bugs! I walked away with my legs COVERED in giant mosquito bites. "All natural" just means no DEET (which can kill the dinoflagellates that make the water glow), so load up and lather up about an hour before you go. You'll have to wade through a little water, so make sure you don't spray right before or else it'll just wash off - something I learned the hard way.
- Take your time. Just sitting back and moving your paddle through the water is just as fun and moving in quick circles and seeing the bottom of the kayak light up. Take your time to enjoy every aspect of the bay!
- Be prepared for some exercise. Kayaks mean rowing, and our group leader was fast. You definitely don't want to lose your group leader and be stranded in the pitch black jungle area, so just be prepared to do some quick moving.
- Book a hotel / guesthouse in advance. Vieques is a small island, and there aren't a lot of options for where to stay. Many guesthouses only have a couple rooms, so booking in advance is essential.
- HAVE FUN. You're basically witnessing real life magic.
The next morning we checked out, had breakfast and got on the ferry to head back to San Juan.
Check back soon to see what we did the next day in Puerto Rico!