Nature Shines a Light: Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bay


Keilianette DeJesus, Student writer

 When at times the world seems a rather dark place–if one focuses too much on news feeds–it is always a good idea to detach from our digital world and “get ourselves back to the garden,” as Joni Mitchell’s 1969 song, “Woodstock” once urged.  Such “gardens” exists in Puerto Rico within an extraordinary marine ecosystem named the “Bahía Bioluminiscente,” or Bioluminescent Bay.  Just a few miles off the eastern part of Puerto Rico is Vieques Island, whose Mosquito Bay, at the southern part of the island, has waters renowned for their glow in the dark effect, produced by single cell marine plankton organisms–dinoflagellates–that glow when disrupted by movement.

Guinness Records stated that “When agitated, these microscopic organisms react by emitting a blue-green light for about a decimal of a second.” Windsor resident, Matt, describes it as,  “like being in a sci-fi movie–like a million white fire flies that stick to your body but you can’t feel them—kind of like when you light a sparkler and move it real fast, very cool…being in the middle of nature at night out in the water.”  Guinness adds that “There are other bioluminescent bays around the island, but the Mosquito Bio Bay is the one that shines with the most intensity; its shallow and small entrance from the sea impedes the waves from washing away the dinoflagellates, and the mangrove trees, with their decomposition process, provide abundant food for the micro-organisms.”

There are only five bioluminescent ecosystems in the world; three exist in Puerto Rico with populations that contain 160,000 microscopic organisms per liter of water. In The 2008 Guinness Book of World’s Records, Vieques Island’s Mosquito Bay was pronounced the world’s brightest Bioluminescent Bay that glows all year round. If you are at the southwestern part of Puerto Rico, the waters of La Parguera offer sojourners a similar bioluminescent “garden” experience.

Nature’s other “Gardens” exist everywhere if only we come outside and explore Her wonders. One such bioluminescent wonder we can enjoy on the fast approaching summer evenings are our own “fireflies.” Shine a light.

  If you have a “bioluminescent experience” in one of Puerto Rico’s mystical waters that you’d like to share, leave a comment below!