The El Yunque National Park, Vieques Island, And The Bioluminescent Bay In Puerto Rico
Today we went horseback riding and hiking in the El Yunque National Park
We enjoyed a nice long horseback ride in the El Yunque National Forest. This forest is located in northeastern Puerto Rico, and is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. There is no distinct wet or dry season in El Yunque, it just rains all year long.
Our guide showed us small rocks we found on the river's edge would make different colors when they were rubbed on our faces. We dipped our fingers into the mud and smeared it on our cheeks. We were amazed at the different colors on our faces. He explained that’s the way Indians made their face paints.
A Beautiful Video Tour Of The El Yunque National Park, Puerto Rico
Headed To The Island Of Vieques
The Island of Vieques
The Town On The Island Of Vieques
The Bus That Took Us To Bioluminescent Bay
We Go To The Island Of Vieques
We booked a tour to take us to the island of Vieques. Vieques lies about eight miles East of the Puerto Rican mainland. It is about 21 miles long by four miles wide. We will visit the Bioluminescent Bay. 10,000 people live on this island. Today, this island is a national wildlife refuge. The beaches are listed among the top beaches in the Caribbean because of the azure colored waters and beautiful white sand.
The tour company picked us at the hotel at 2:00 p.m., and we drove about an hour before arriving at the marina where a ferry took us to the Island of Vieques.
We were then driven to a restaurant on a van where we enjoyed a typical Puerto Rican dinner. After dinner, we boarded an old rickety bus to reach the Bioluminescent Bay. There are quaint little houses and inns all along the road.
About 10 wild horses ran alongside the van. They were not afraid of the van at all. A group of them stood in the road, and our driver had to wait for them to move on this narrow dirt, bumpy road for another 10 miles or so. I was curious as to how wild horses arrived on the island of Vieques, but no one could tell me!
What Makes The Bioluminescent Bay So Special
In essence, a bioluminescent bay (or biobay) is a rare and fragile ecosystem. There is bioluminescence all over the world, but few places classify as a biobay. Biobays are formed by microscopic single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates (pyrodinium bahamense, if you want to get technical). When these little guys get agitated (i.e. when any object in the water comes splashing through), they release energy in the form of light. That is, they glow. And when they glow, so does anything that comes in contact with them, like fish, the oars of a canoe, or people.
There are many reasons why this Bay is one of the most bioluminescent bays in the world. The bay has a very narrow opening to the sea, which offers excellent protection from winds and tides and lets the dinoflagellates thrive in a calm environment. There are over 700,000 of the organisms per gallon of water; no other biobay comes close to this concentration. Also, the mangroves here are a vital source of nutrients for the organisms, and the temperate climate helps.
At one time, tourists were encouraged to jump into the water and they would literally glow in the dark, as the dinoflagellates spark into action whenever they come into contact with swimmers. It used to be a breathtaking experience, but now conservationists are beginning to exercise caution. They now believe the oil from a human skin can harm these tiny creatures. Even if you can't go swimming, though, you will see darting fish appearing like streaks of lightning when the oars of the canoe dips into the water and comes out dripping neon green. Your hand will glow bright green when you dip it in the water. It's a beautiful, ethereal experience, and one you won't forget.
If you can, try to go when it's a new moon. (In fact, tour operators may not even offer a tour during the full moon, because the effect is so diminished.) A black night dotted with stars makes for ideal conditions. And if it starts raining, don't curse your luck. The raindrops on the water will look like emeralds skipping along the surface.
It was a clear moonless night when we were there, and the stars were beautiful. We were directed to look at the rear of the boat where the propellers churned the water, and sure enough, the water fluoresced. The tour guides filled a bucket of water, and we put our hands into the water and stirred up the water. Then they had several volunteers stand on the back of the boat and they poured water over their bodies. Sure enough, their bodies glowed in the dark.
An Update About the Bioluminescence Bay
The Bay has astonished and thrilled thousands of tourists just to see the water in this bay radiate like a "glow stick" at night. In January of 2014, the shimmering microscopic plankton (dinoflagellates) just stopped!
This has alarmed government officials, scientists, and the islanders who depend on tourism. One tour operator has already shut down. This has happened before, but never more than a few days. Visits to the Bay are now limited to the weekends only.
No one knows if and when the Bay will ever come back to full strength. There are many theories as to why this has occurred. The latest theory is that a wind shift, OR sediment from the long rutted dirt road that leads vehicles to the Bay has caused damage, OR just too many visitors!
Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources has now formed a task force to study and monitor the bay. The bay has always been popular with kayakers, but that has now been curtailed, and only licensed operators can bring them.
Other strict measures are being put in place. Park Rangers now count the number of people who visit the bay. The dirt road is being improved.
A Good Video Of The Bioluminescent Bay
National Geographic's: Bioluminescense On Camera
Even though we were not allowed to get into the water, we really enjoyed seeing the Bioluminescent Bay. It was truly a wonder to see. When you go to Puerto Rico, don't miss this tour, you will be glad you did!
I am so glad I had the opportunity of seeing this wonderful sight. I am hoping the Bay will restore itself so other people can see this wonder.
Excellent Hub By docmo on Bioluminescence
- Animals that Glow : The Science of Bioluminescence
In the olden days it was called cold-fire. When walking through the forest, our ancestors discovered glowing mushrooms on rotting wood. They called it ‘fox-fire’. They were fascinated by the fairy tale nature of insects flying through the forest with
An excellent Hub by aliciac on Bioluminescence
Day One Of Our Six Day Vacation In Puerto Rico
These are more Hubs I have written about the Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico:
- Why Do I Love Puerto Rico? Let Me Tell You!
After spending three weeks in Puerto Rico, I am in love with this Enchanted Island. I'd like to tell you why I feel this way!
Would you like to visit Puerto Rico?
Luggage For Your Trip From Amazon
© 2012 Mary Hyatt