17 January 2010

The Bio Bay of Puerto Rico

I never really wrote much about my Christmas adventures to Puerto Rico, but they were a hugely significant part of my life the week I was there. How could I just pass over something so warm and sticky?
One highlight of the trip was our midnight sea kayaking excursion. Puerto Rico is home to a bio-luminescent bay, which is a scientific word for "We have no idea why the heck this body of water glows at night bay." The picture above doesn't really do it justice, but the basic idea is that there are protozoa in the water that light up when agitated (I'm semi-sorry if you're offended by the woman's choice of bathing suit. I think it's a bad pink, too). It makes for a reeeeealy cool effect in person. But the even more reeeeeealy cool thing was getting to the bio bay. Here's how it all went down.

Everyone and their mother from Timbuktu shows up at the shore -in the dark- and tries to sign a waiver that they can't read because its too dark and it's in Spanish. Since there were no pens we had to sign it in blood, a strange custom that was justified by the man in charge as a "Puerto Rican Ritual." Why the officiators didn't have a flood light or a strobe light or at least a torch is beyond me. Nevertheless, receiving instructions in the dark was entertaining. Then the 'guide' tells people which kayak to load into,  mostly using hand signals since the Tower of Babel had recently been relocated to Puerto Rico. Two Asian friends tipped their kayak before they even had it in the water. Note to self: Don't both people try and get in at the same time from the same side. Someone will lose their glasses. Now we have blind people trying to paddle a kayak in the dark.
After everyone was situated and two boats had drifted off to sea, we headed through the mangrove channel to the Bay. Kayaking through the channel made me feel like I was an American Gladiator. The low lying branches were waiting to take my scalp off at any moment, and other boats were constantly ramming into us as if we were a castle being sacked by Vikings. The communication between me and my Scandinavian boatmate was certainly not visual (since we couldn't see each other) and certainly not linguistic. It mostly consisted of grunts, wheezes, and, ironically enough, ABBA lyrics which we both understood. It's hard to warn "Watch out for the mangrove branch!" using only the lyrics to "Dancing Queen." There were hundreds of other kayakers in different companies cruising the channel in the dark, just like us. With no light but the radio-active water and glowsticks, collisions were rampant. It was a two mile boat trip to the bay. One young couple decided to bring their 6 month young child with them. That was a strange decision. Would you bring your child onto American Gladiators? Oh Puerto Rico. Anything flies there, including kayaking at midnight in the dark.  The Bay was pretty illuminating though.


Michelle said...

I'm so glad you finally talked about Puerto Rico more! I barely have a memory of that bay, but from what I remember it was way cool!

Emily said...

Seriously a hilarious experience. You forgot to mention the fact that our tour guide took about two years to explain the history of the bioluminescent bay since the beginning of time.

Megan said...

We did a similar outing when we were in Thailand. Ours was a half day shindig where we explored a bunch of islands and caves and ate incredible, authentic Thai food. When it got dark, we went in a cave so the moon wouldn't disrupt our view of the glowing water. That kayak trip was by far our favorite part of our Thailand trip. I'm glad you got to experience something similar.

Becky said...

Wow, I've never heard of such a place. It sounds so mystical, right up my alley! I want to go now. Very cool.