My La Parguera Bioluminescent Swim


                                                    As above so below(Photo by Andrew(Flickr))

As I swam, the tiny sparkly fairy lights of the Bioluminescent organism made me glow some sticking for a few seconds more on my skin before it cascades into the water at the La Parguera Bay. I couldn’t stop myself but think who says Magic is unreal. Nothing compares to watching your hands and feet shine and move like a spirit mermaid touched by flittering organisms of light.

                                               Bioluminescent Bay (Photo by Josh (Flickr))
A moment that my phone camera refused to capture, a moment that can be best experienced without distractions, just with our bare-naked eyes. What made it more outwardly was, there was twinkles in the stars above, and twinkles on the water with me.

How to reach La Parguera? 

From Old San Juan, we drove to Playa Vega Baja to Cabo Rojo Pink Salt Flats to La Parguera. It was almost a 4 hour journey. If you take the direct route i.e going through the center of the island, its going to take you 2 hours 30 minutes. We took that route while coming back, however that route is hilly and we also encountered really bad rain in the region.  

We had booked a private charter for 7:30 pm for the BioBay Powerboat Tour online. We parked our car in the public parking area just before the walking bay city of La Parguera. There are small restaurants and seafood joints in the area. We quickly grabbed onto our shakes from a shop and started searching for the boat dock of the tour. The dock can easily be missed, but people in the area know him, so we asked someone and he pointed us to the board which is:

We were in the boat with Captain Ismael of Aleli Tours, and he was very knowledgeable of the area and the eco systems. Captain Ismael Ramos Soler Ismael is a U.S.Coast Guard certified captain, marine biologist and ecologist with over 30 years of experience. Before boarding the boat, we used the restroom and we were all set to go. When the boat started, we could see lights from the decorated and lighted cottages and home at the shore. It was dark at 7:30 already.

As the boat moved ahead, there was us, going in the sea which I wouldn’t lie was a little intimating knowing that it was the darkness of the night and the sounds of the waves that was with us. And a thought that was constantly passing by me and my hubby was, even though we sometimes swim in our swimming pool, this was a big mass of water at night, and we really weren’t sure if this was for us. But I certainly had saved my initial gusto to just go for it having known that it was one of the most unique experiences and it would be foolish to miss, and thought to myself, I will do the best I can, or try to.

One thing that calmed both of us down, or at least me down was, when the boat Captain said, don’t worry we aren’t swimming here, we would be swimming in the bay which has shallower water and that is the reason why the microorganisms accumulate themselves there and are most visible. And when we asked him if that was a good day for the glow (go for no-moon nights), and he said today is doing pretty good so we will see. My concern was, to me shallow means me being able to touch the waterbed with my feet, anything more in the dark is not shallow to me. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Bay from the dock.

After about 25 minutes ride in the sea, the boat was stopped in the middle of the bay that was looking like an inky black water in the night. One of the most spectacular forms of marine bioluminescence is produced by dinoflagellates. Just as we were nearing the bay, he showed us how microorganisms were lighting up on each movement. So, it was like, we were in the vast sea, and then he takes a turn towards the left and there it was, a water area like a lagoon. Here the water was calmer.

One thing though still was, I wasn’t really sure. So, I asked him if he would jump with me, and he said, you know, you try on your own. I still remember the moment, I was sitting there on the edge of the boat and wiggling with my legs trying to make an excuse that the boat is taller for me to jump and quietly and honestly thinking to myself, is this a good idea to jump in the middle of nowhere in the dark with no life jacket. The water did not look shallower either. And then I quietly pulled my leg in and asked him, is that a life jacket? He said, take it. I felt a relief go inside me.

My hubby did not swim there, but the life jacket gave me confidence to just go. So, I jumped into the water. And I made sure, that I swim but I don’t swim too far that I lose sight of my only boat with these two men in the bay. Because once I tried to swim too far, and could manage to go a little further away from these guys after I started enjoying it more, I was warned by the captain that there are jellyfish on the shore that stings, so don’t go that far either. I wouldn’t have had needed the life jacket, if I was not scared of my initial plunge, that too alone. In another forum, I read that someone said that the salt content of the bay is more, so it lets you float.

After a moment of anxiousness on how could I swim in the dark, there was a moment of joyousness on how beautiful and exciting and enjoyable it felt

                                             The touch of Bioluminescent (Flickr)

The whole experience was no less than magic. Totally recommend to anyone coming Puerto Rico. I didn’t want to leave the bay until I got tired of taking circumference around and near the boat.
I still remember those moments when I would pick up water in my clenched fist and open it up on me, and let the water burst into sparkly glitter cascading through my fingers. Or I would just wade into the water with my hands and feet moving, and then it would be all over me. The most time that I had, I was staring at my legs the most and with each backstroke, I felt I was a mermaid. I wish I had a snorkel with me.

For those who wonder, if they look similar to blue light as it is in the photos on google. No, it does not look like that, at all. The camera captures it like that.

It looks like fireflies of the water.

                                             Something similar to these (Flickr)

I was given a lot of time to enjoy. The captain seemed to not to be in hurry. I did swim to my fullest until I got tired. The tough part though was me climbing back into the boat without the stairs as he had forgotten to bring it that day. I would hold onto something on the edge of boat, would try to get both my feet onto it, and then would fall backwards as I would attempt to get myself up. Both men tried twice, and were disappointed and then finally on my third try and with these two men dragging me up, I was inside the boat.

My hubby was feeling nauseated on the boat ride (as he had smoothie before the start of the ride - bad idea!) and also when he watched me get back up, he said he aren't going down no way! Although he would have loved it, knowing that he can swim better than me.

A few things that we learnt from this was:

  • Check for moon status. Preferably go on no moon or crescent moon nights than full moon.
  • Don’t eat something heavy before the boat ride. If you have a tendency to puke, have something light. I was fine with the smoothie, my hubby wasn’t.
  • It’s easier to miss the dock. So, took out for signs. And once in the dock, go to the loo before the ride.  
  • Just ask captain Ismail if he has lifejacket and stairs and even snorkel with him before the ride. That day wasn’t a good day for him, as he was going through some personal loss at home, but he was still there with us because he committed to us and we really appreciated that.
  • Everyone who can swim can do that even kids or with a life jacket anyone would float.
  • Go in a group to share the cost and enjoy more. The cost of our private charter with Aleli was $127 for the whole boat. If you are in a group of 6 or 7, that will work out great too, because you’d be sharing cost. My hubby wanted a more personal experience so we chose just 2 of us on the boat.
  • There are other cheaper boat tours like Johnny Boats ($10 per person) in the area. We did not try it, because we read online that they just allow 5 minutes to swim in the bay and we wanted more.
  • Do not forget to visit Cabo Rojo Pink Salt Flats which isn’t very far from La Parguera.

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