Bioluminescence: One of the Wonders of Earth

told by Marnie (visiting Primate Conservationist)

The magic of the bioluminescence boat excursion begins before you even see the phenomenon in the waters of the Golfo Dulce. As you walk down the path towards the beach, you are serenaded by the nocturnal inhabitants of the retreat. This is a great opportunity to keep an eye out for the iconic red eyed tree frog which gives away its presence with a short “chack", calling for the attention of a mate.

 
Red eye tree frog in our tropical garden at night

Red eye tree frog in our tropical garden at night

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you…

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you…

 

As you arrive at the beach, you hear the soft sound of the waves as they gently lap onto the shore. You then board the boat and head off into the balmy night, a pleasant breeze flowing past as you move peacefully through the water. Being amongst such an unspoilt landscape, the lack of light pollution means that as you cruise through the calm sea, you look up and notice the blanket of stars that envelop the whole of the bay - all of the milky way visible and twinkling above you. As the boat moves further out into the ocean, the spectacle begins. The movement from the boat causes light-producing plankton to vibrate which makes the splashes of water appear as sparks flying off the boat as it glides through the water. You then reach a secluded spot where the boat slows and comes to a stop, the bright lights gradually fading as they trail off the boat. 

The only way to truly top the experience thus far is by entering the water to be amongst the sparkling lights of the ocean. As you jump off the boat with your mask, it is as though a cloud of stardust surrounds you and floats down into the darkness. This darkness is soon filled by more of these twinkling lights as you begin to swim through the pleasantly warm water. Each movement emits a glow of these sparkling particles right in front of your eyes. It really is something you must see to truly believe and feels almost as though you are swimming amongst the stars that you were just cruising under. The single-celled organisms which create this light are called dinoflagellates, tiny marine plankton which use this evolutionary technique to evade predators. It is fascinating how something so scientific can appear so mystical. You could spend hours witnessing the magic of the bioluminescence, waving your hands in front of you in the water creating more and more light with each movement.

 
Light streaking from the side of the boat

Light streaking from the side of the boat

The sea lights up as the boat cruises through it

The sea lights up as the boat cruises through it

 

Capturing this amazing spectacle in pictures is notoriously difficult so you really need to see it to believe it! The bioluminescence really is one of the best ways to end an evening here at Golfo Dulce Retreat, allowing you to go to bed having had an enchanting experience and dream of the twinkling lights that were just surrounding you.


Simon Mezzanotte