Friday 21 Mar, 2014

The Glowing Bays of Puerto Rico

Stunning night shot of Laguna Grande in Fajardo (Photo by Christine Huan Wang)

Stunning night shot of Laguna Grande in Fajardo (Photo by Christine Huan Wang)

In the seventeenth century, Spanish settlers stumbled upon the bioluminescent bay in Laguna Grande in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. This normally wouldn’t be as exciting, except that this particular bay was illuminated by something in the water!

Believing that this was the work of the devil, the settlers attempted to close off the bay by dropping boulders in the channel leading to the ocean. Needless to say, that didn’t completely contain it. In fact, it only increased the luminescence in the bay, making the glow even more potent.

What these settlers didn’t know was that the glow is a natural phenomenon known as bioluminescence.  This phenomenon exists in various locations throughout the world, but it is very rare to find a contained ecosystem like a bioluminescent bay.  Throughout the world, there are only five of these bays.  This is great news for any travelers going on a student tour to Puerto Rico, which is home to three of the world’s five:

  1. Laguna Grande in Fajardo
  2. Mosquito Bay in Vieques
  3. La Parguera in Lajas

So, what is it that causes that stunning glow? Well, the dinoflagellates, of course! Dinoflagellates are tiny microorganisms that emit an emerald green light when they are agitated. The greater the disturbance, the greater the glow – kayaking and boating normally create the brightest spectacles for your viewing pleasure.

To get the most of your experience at one of these bays, make sure you go at night – the darker the better for experiencing the magical glow. You’ll also want to make sure to get as far away from the lights of any nearby towns and also try to avoid nights where the moon is full, as that is when the natural light is at it’s strongest. Going on a night with just the right conditions can make for a truly unforgettable experience.

If you’re ready to add a bioluminescent bay to one of your travel to-do’s, check out our student tours to Puerto Rico on our website or give us a call at 800.503.2323.