#19 of 49 – Bioluminescence Tour

I’ve been slacking a bit on my adventures the past few weeks.  Hurricane Irma, like for most Floridians, threw a wrench in our plans for a lot of things.  While I wasn’t impacted personally in my home by the hurricane, there’s not a person in Florida who still didn’t get knocked off their game a bit.  I was no exception.  I used her as an excuse for not working or staying focused, and in this case, not doing my weekly adventures.  Sure, I could use “Survive a Hurricane” as an adventure, but frankly, it just seems too easy and it’s not like I strapped myself to a tree and rode out the storm.  I stayed in my high-rise fortress and frankly just slept through it.  So I’m just going to dig a bit deeper and work a little harder to come up with some future adventures in the time frame needed before I turn 49.

This adventure happened before the hurricane.  And it was a blast!!  I can’t recommend this one highly enough.  The Banana River, part of the Indian River Lagoon eco-system is one of the few places in the world where you can see real bioluminescence in nature.


Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria and terrestrial invertebrates such as fireflies.

This phenomena happens in brackish water:  a combination of salt water and fresh water.  When the mixture is just right, the only word I can use to describe it is magical.

I went with BK Adventure and they really made the experience even that much better.  Wyatt was my guide.  He gave me just enough info so I knew what was happening, but didn’t bore me down with minutiae.  He kept the tour organized and on track, but gave me plenty of room to go out and explore on my own.

Here’s what BK Adventures say on their website about the natural occurring phenomena:

The Indian River Lagoon is an estuary that is fed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean making it a unique natural habitat. The high salt content in the water here makes it a perfect home for dinoflagellates which create a natural light to protect themselves. This neon light produced by these tiny sea plankton is called bioluminescence. However, they are not the only marine life that create bioluminescence. There are bioluminescent jellies, squid, and plant life in the ocean.

You can only see the bioluminescence at night, but the registration and prep happens at dusk.  This means you get a second adventure for no extra cost:  swatting mosquitos on your legs.  If you do this tour, I highly recommend bringing bug spray.  You won’t need it when you’re in the water, but it will be your best friend on the shoreline.

Since the entire tour happens at night, unless you are equipped with high-tech camera gear, bringing your smart phone will mainly be a pain in the butt.  The stress I carried worrying about getting my phone wet (I don’t have a new waterproof one – I’m old school) didn’t outweigh the terrible quality photos and video I took of the bioluminescence.  Frankly, the juice just wasn’t worth the squeeze.

As Wyatt moves his paddle through the water you can see the bioluminescence light up

Record the memories in your mind, and just stay in the present moment.  You’ll have way more fun.  Besides, the pictures and video do not even remotely reflect how cool the actual bioluminescence is.  If you are watching my video in this blog, brighten it up by 1000 and that might give you a sense of how it really is.  The colors are bright neon blue and green.  Straight out of the movie Avatar.

The whole process still seems magical to me, even though they did a great job explaining the science behind it.  As I remember in the way they explained it.  The bioluminescence plankton only glows when it becomes “startled” or “shocked”  So when the paddle (or any object for that matter) enters the water, and brushes up against the plankton, it glows to protect itself.  So with every stroke of the paddle the water instantly lights up and then returns to normal.

Perhaps the coolest part of the tour is when they find a school of Mullet and paddle through them.  All the fish dart around the water and also brush up against the plankton creating these neon blue bolts of “lightning” under the kayak.  On my particular tour, we were fortunate enough to see a pod of dolphin swimming through the water making the waters glow as well.

Out of all my adventures so far, this will be one that I’m absolutely going to do many times over.  The next time I have someone visiting from out of town, this is on the agenda for sure.


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