A Mind Blowing Travel Moment

Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico
Commandeering Kayaks for our Magical Voyage

It was just after 11pm as our inebriated guide maneuvered his beat-up Jeep wrangler through the pitch-black dirt roads of Vieques Island. 

From the back seat, I was tiptoeing that fine line between having faith and being responsible.

Just a few hours prior, I was researching bio bay tours from a hostel in Fajardo when I was approached by a busty blonde and her squirrelly sidekick asking if I wanted to venture to Vieques for a rare and almost mythical experience.

I jumped at the opportunity when they said their friend was a local guide and had the night off to show us around.

After an hour and a half ferry ride and a few strong cocktails, I found myself racing through the backwoods of the Island off the Puerto Rican coast with three strangers and an appetite for the unknown. 

We parked the jeep and reached the water’s edge just in time to catch the last “official” tour group pulling their kayaks onto shore. 

There were no signs of a magical glowing bay at first glance, just a dark and murky creek lined with mangroves and uncertainty. 

Our guide (we’ll call him Tato to protect his identity and job) convinced the other tour leader to let us borrow their kayaks if we promised to return them to the shop when finished.

The much larger, more organized and equipped group looked at us sideways as we commandeered a few of their vessels and quickly followed Tato into the water and onto the kayaks. 

Little by little I could see a dim light growing brighter through the narrow opening ahead. 

We paddled harder until the tree branches above were replaced with an endless star-sprinkled sky and the narrow creek turned into a giant body of water without a boat or artificial light in sight.

This was heaven.

And if the perfection of complete serenity wasn’t enough, Mother Nature stepped in and said, “Please, allow me to blow your mind.” 

With each stroke of the paddle a blue light in the water illuminated around the movement and the kayaks were highlighted as they cut through the calm surface.

In a few words, the bay contains an algae-like single-cell organism that emits a flash of bluish light when agitated at night. 

In two words, it’s amazing.

We had the entire bay to ourselves and the stars provided just enough light to keep us moving.

You could see fish dart past like shooting stars as the water lit up with each agitation.

I skimmed my hands over the water, finger-painting the surface.

Tato led us to an abandoned boat in the middle of the bay where he gave us the green light to tie our kayaks up, climb aboard and jump off.


Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico
Swimming the Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico (photo escapefromtheandroid.blogspot.com)

The splash from my cannonball sent a ripple of blue from my surrounding area. The black water turned bright blue as I rose to the surface and watched as the other two followed me in. 

The water was warm and the air was perfect. I took my eyes off the blue water flowing through my hands just long enough to notice the big dipper above me.

I was happy.

We spent 45 minutes splashing, spinning, diving and laughing around that boat. It was a laugh that comes from deep happiness, awe and appreciation… let’s be honest, it was really more like a grown man giggle. A very manly giggle, of course. 

Travel is one of the few things in my life that consistently gets me to this point. To make me smile uncontrollably and make me feel completely satisfied… these experiences are what keep me going. 

It’s hard to rank travel moments in order because they overwhelm you in different ways, but night swimming in the bio bay of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico was definitely up there on the list. 

What’s next?

The first photo is the only picture I took while exploring the Bio Bay because I decided to leave my camera behind after already loosing the GoPro Hero 3 that week while surfing in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Watch my Puerto Rico Road Trip experience here.

Bio Bay Vieques Island Puerto Rico

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My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


    1. it is illegal to swim in the Vieques Bio Bay due to the damage the chemicals on our body create to the dynoflalgelites. Reputable tour companies will not let you and those that do are endangering the future of the Bio Bay.

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