Mrs. Testudo and I did the Bio-Bay tour with Cayman Kayaks February 2009 and to say it was really an enlightening experience is an understatement. The wife was not too thrilled about having to participate (paddling around in the dark, getting wet and potentially getting mosquito bites…not her idea of fun). I have been itching to check out this supposed natural wonder in our backyard, ever since I read about a similar bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Luckily this trip the moon went into hiding and we finally had optimal conditions; so she had no choice but to gave in.
We meet our guide Tom, at the Rum Point Club parking lot just after sunset. The group signed liability waivers, settled up payments, applied bug spray, got outfitted with a paddle and life-vest, applied some more bug spray and then walked across the street to the bio-luminescent cove.
Since it was the day before the new moon, the conditions for observing the light emitting dinoflagellates (tiny creatures that emit light like a firefly or glowworm when threatened) that inhabit the cove were near perfect (i.e. really dark and not too windy). I had checked what the phases of the moon were going to be for our stay and purposely booked the darkest night for the tour.
We got outfitted with our kayaks (2 people per) and started paddling out to the far end of the cove, just as the darkness began to gather. About midway, at the center of the cove, the paddle stroke wakes began to look a bit different, but I really couldn’t be sure if just the lights from the homes that surround the bay playing off the ripples or if something else was transpiring. When we reached the far end of the cove we gathered-up kayaks and Tom began to give a thorough explanation of the creatures we were about to witness, why they do what they do, why they are in this one particular cove (one of only a handful in the world), and what we could expect on the balance of the tour.
During the informational session, we started to notice the water around us was sparkling. “OK, neat, but there better be more”, was what I’m sure was going through my wife’s head. As we started to follow Tom back to a dark section on the cove the show really began.
The paddle stroke and kayak wakes began to have and eery glow, that got more and more intense as we paddled onward to the next stop. Suddenly, we could see quick streaks of light darting about the kayaks. “Fish” explained Tom, “wait until you see a lobster or sting ray”. We did not have our waterproof camera yet, so these are stock images, but I’ll update with our own pictures once we get back to the cove.
I do not want to go into more detail, as not to spoil the thrill of actually experiencing this wonderful natural phenomenon in person. All I can say is that it was as awesome an experience as could have been hoped for. Kids (10+) and Adults will be absolutely mesmerized by some of sights that look like they came right out of movie a special effects studio - the Navi’s from Avatar and oozing glowing Alien vs Predator blood.
My wife and I agree that we will recommend this to tour to all our friends, family and guests. The tour lasted a little over an hour. Too bad it is only available two weeks per month. The only thing that could be better is if you were lucky enough to go out on a night on which a black-out occurred for complete darkness. It was amazing and a bit troubling at the the amount of light that was being emitted from the homes that surround the cove. You can really begin to understand that there really is such a thing as light pollution and what the dark skies movement is about. I can only imagine what an even more magical experience it would be in the utter darkness.
The mosquitoes really were not bad, and were most bothersome while we waited in the parking lot since it was dusk (their prime feeding time). So if you are a mosquito magnet, just make sure to apply your deterrent of choice before hanging around the meeting spot.
We are far from accomplished kayakers and were pretty much on par skill-wise with the entire group. You will bump into other kayaks, but everyone just laughed as it happened since they had just hit someone else.
So for a truly unique and informational experience that sets Grand Cayman apart from most other Caribbean islands I would definitely give it a try.
We even went out an bought a kayak so we can experience again on our own.