Magic at the Bioluminescent Bay

Relaxing on the Beach? Who, me?

Tuesday started at around 8:30. I didn’t get much sleep, particularly when Glen, who’s body had been chilled by the air conditioning, hugged me and jolted me away with his icy skin. Nevertheless, having little sleep is probably good for encouraging me to spend a little time relaxing on the beach.

Those who know me know that I don’t like being idle and holidays where you do nothing but sit by a pool or the beach sound great in theory, but in reality make me itch and think about how much time I’m wasting. Still, I can’t come to a Caribbean island and NOT spend at least an hour by the beach.

Glen, Julian and I headed down to the nearby beach and rented a couple of deck chairs for $5 each and setup our little relaxation station. Julian planted himself in the sun, lay down with headphones and sunglasses on and baked (while tapping his foot and mouthing along to the words. It was very cute.). Glen and I read books. I then went for a swim.

The water wasn’t hugely warm but after a minute you get used to it. You’re also working hard to not get dunked by the waves so that also generates a bit of heat. The waves were coming in heavy and fast, and while not great for surfing, did get up to a height. Glen came in for a little while and then we both got out.

Bec and Alastair joined us a little while later, smoothies in hand. Glen and I went in search of the smoothie store but didn’t end up finding it (a failure we were berated for) so settled on another restaurant where we had an ok lunch. Glen went back to the hotel and I went back to the beach to join the others. I read, and went for another swim.

The sun wasn’t directly overhead and had slipped behind the high rise buildings that line the beach so we were plunged into shade. There was also a cool breeze so it wasn’t the warmest time to be on the beach. We opted to leave. Bec and Alastair walked down the beach to a restaurant, while Julian and I returned to the hotel to shower, dress and collect Glen.

We walked back to where we’d bought ice cream the night before, and sat at a restaurant called Di Parma. We ordered some cocktails and some food and whiled away a few hours chatting, drinking and eating. This, combined with the beach visit, made me feel like I was really on holiday, something I don’t normally get from other trips. There are holidays and then there are holidays. Perhaps for me they would be termed vacations. Where you do little but relax and indulge and recharge. I could do it for a few days I’m sure. Beyond that?

We then headed back towards the hotel, but first stopped in at a couple of local beachfront bars. The question of what to do on New Year’s Eve had plagued us for a while. There was a $160 per person event at the Hilton which included everything, but it didn’t take us all by fancy. There were others but we were struggling for consensus. We stopped in at Oceanus and asked about their party…and were then given five complimentary tickets (which would otherwise cost $85). It’s also opposite a gay bar so we’d found our winner.

We then went to the gay bar for some more drinks, and chilled by the beach for a little while. Before returning to the hotel, we asked at Oceanus about the dress code, and basically everything I was wearing was forbidden: shorts, singlet, flip-flops and hat. Jeans are ok. As are tshirts. Oh and no hats or sunglasses. We were glad we checked.

Bioluminescent Bay

After a bit of a relax and then a quick run to find some food, the taxi picked us up at 8:45 for the start of our bioluminescent bay tour. Glen and I had both expressed concerns that we might end up being shot in the head and our bodies dumped somewhere. Julian messaged Natalie to let her know who had taken us in case we didn’t return in three hours. Not exactly a nice message to receive.

We needn’t have worried though. We were taken to Fajardo on the east coast to an area called La Cabresas (or something similar). It was dark but there were other people there in a kayak. The taxi driver’s wife also came along so unless they were some double-murder act, we were safe. We waited a little while for the boat to come back. In the meantime we watched as people paddled by going into the mangroves and towards the bay. Watching them ricochet back and forth across the narrow channel brought us a few laughs and also made me thankful we were going in a zodiac boat.

Eventually the boat docked, discharged its passengers and we put on their lifevests. We climbed into the zodiac with two other girls and the taxi driver’s wife, who lives in Puerto Rico but had never been. We all said that she should come and cheered when she climbed aboard.

We ventured beneath the mangrove trees, a sight to see in and of itself, especially with the moonlight coming through. It was so atmospheric — and I expected to hear bongo drums any second. The guide spotlighted iguanas — big ones — lounging in the trees. I ducked when we got a little close to low hanging branches, thinking I really didn’t want to get entangled in a vine snake (if there were any).

After a while we came to an area that was completely dark. The tree branches connected overhead and blotted out the money. The guide turned off the engine and put his hand in the water. The bioluminescent organisms lit up with blue light. We saw them dance around the boat and the roots of the mangroves. We soon put our hands in the water and were quickly ensconced in light. It was like having magic powers. Every time we moved our hand, the water turned blue. It was, simply put, magical.

We stayed and played for a little while before the guide took us out into the bay. On a night with no moon and plenty of cloud cover the bay must look magnificent. Even though conditions weren’t perfect, we still had moments where the bioluminescence lit up. The best times were when the fish swam and the water looked like blue fire as they darted away. They were big fish so they were affected by the lights quite strongly. We sat and drifted for a while, watching them flit here and there. It made me think of brain synapses firing.

We then went back the way we came, stopping one last time in the darkness to submerge our hands and make pulses in the water. It was the closest we’re going to get to having magical powers. One really special thing though was just watching what looked like still water and seeing the sparks flash because they were buffeted by the current.

We then returned to the meeting point and disembarked. Everyone was excited for what we’d just experienced, and with good reason. There are only 5-6 places in the world where this happens, and three of them are in Puerto Rico. I feel very lucky to have been able to see it, especially when our chances seemed so bleak a mere 36 hours before.

The taxi drive home took about an hour, and we arrived back at the hotel close to 1am. We all went to bed as we had to be up ‘early’ the next day for the tour to El Yunque forest.

(I’m hoping at least something came out on the video footage I took but I haven’t looked yet. Will post if it did.)

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