Kayak Through Glowing Water

two kayaks on dark ocean
by Toni Keesee

Have you ever seen ocean water glow in the dark? If not, you need to reserve a trip to Bioluminescent Bay on your next trip to Grand Cayman. Both kayak and boat tours are available on specific nights of the month (when the sky is darkest) for optimal viewing experiences where you can literally see the water glow when you move through it. I recently went on a kayak tour of the bay with Cayman Kayaks and had an awe-inspiring time seeing this phenomenon of nature first hand.

Cayman Kayak offers bio tours by kayak or by electric boat. The electric boat is the first of its kind in Cayman and has been built specifically to preserve the integrity of the bay while providing a unique viewing opportunity. My husband and I love kayaking, so we chose the paddling option. When we arrived for our 7:30 tour (which departed from Rum Point on the North Side) we were assigned a group and tour guide, David. From there we headed to the shore and began our trip to the bay.

The paddle from shore to the bay takes about 10-15 minutes. This was my first time kayaking at night, but I felt completely comfortable as the water was calm and we all had red blinking lights on the back of our kayaks, so David could keep a close watch. The stars were really bright and beautiful, and one could see a few twinkling lights from West Bay across the North Sound. David knew a lot about the stars and used a cool astronomy laser to point out constellations like Cassiopeia and planets like Jupiter and Saturn. He even described how one could use the North Star to determine your approximate latitude above the equator.

When we drew near to the Bioluminescent Bay, David stopped the group for a quick lesson on what we were about to see. He described how the glowing water was all thanks to a tiny plankton creature—or more accurately billions of tiny plankton creatures. As he wrapped up his spiel, he told us all to dip a hand in the water and share what we saw. I saw little sparkles as I moved my hand. It was quite intriguing, but I would soon discover it was the tip of the iceberg!

As we moved into the bay the sparkle turned to a bright blue glow, and with every paddle it got brighter. The glow is activated by movement, so it looked like paint strokes were following us all. It was gorgeous and so unique. We moved around the bay as David explained it can be more intense in different areas depending on the concentration of the plankton. He shared more science about this incredible organism as we all continued to dip our hands into the water and move our paddles about to see the vivid blue glow. He gave us all plenty of time to get our fill, and then we headed back.

glowing waterIt was next to impossible to capture on camera, but our favorite part was moving our kayak paddle through the water to make it glow. You can kind of see it here. :)

Before we exited the bay, though, we pulled ashore so David could locate something cool to show us—an upside down jellyfish! It didn’t take long for him to find one. They live in the same bay as the glowing plankton, and are very interesting. David said their sting isn’t as strong as some jellyfish, so he picked one up to show us but highly recommended we not touch them ourselves. This is also why he previously offered us the option to swim in the bay if we REALLY wanted to, but gave us a big disclaimer that many of these jellyfish do swim in the area. He said they generally discourage swimming because of this, but wanted to give us the opportunity if we were set on it. We all happily decided to stay in our kayaks and not complicate the evening.

upside down jellyfish swimming

We had a nice paddle back to the shore we started on, all of us with new stories to tell our friends about the glowing water we saw in Grand Cayman. And the cool tour guide that told us all about the stars. I’d recommend checking out this amazing glowing bay with Cayman Kayaks next time you're on the island. You won’t regret it!

Make a reservation at our condos today, so you can experience glowing water and so much more in Grand Cayman!