On one particular night, I found myself staring at a boundless expanse of black sea water – over shadowed by a navy sky, paddling gently in a two-person kayak off the coast of Pigeon Point Bay, Tobago. Sounds rather intriguing for the beginning of a Robinson Crusoe – type novel, doesn’t it?
Let’s go back to August 2017, when two of my cousins and I went stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) at Chaguaramas Bay and started to discuss what we wanted to do for our next ‘adventure trip’. We were trying to decide between visiting Tobago and some other Caribbean island, factoring in some activity to do at our next destination.
After some random deliberation we chose Tobago for our upcoming trip and searched for SUP board options in Tobago afterwards. I came across a blog about Stand Up Paddle Tobago, and their bio-luminescence tour. This was rather surprising to me because we have been to Tobago on numerous occasions and I have never heard anything about bio-luminescence there.
It instantly made me wonder what our nationals have been doing all of these years with such a natural wonder in existence. More specifically, what have I been doing all my life? It was clearly wasted. This adventure suddenly became a #MUST #GO thing! I shared this tour with a few of my friends, knowing that it requires extensive planning and coordination.
Fast forward to September 2018, after months of back-and-forth with time scheduling, flight arrangement issues, reservation cancellations and postponements *, four of us (with one injured) finally made it to our neighbouring isle for this unusual tour.
In spite of the odds, my aunt Suzanne, Latoya, Paulette and I were assembled on Pigeon Point beach with a group of other Eco-enthusiasts, getting ready to go out on the water with kayaks – which is the safer option for persons who have limited experience with SUP.
With only the illumination from our flash lights and two-man kayaks, we followed our guide Mr. Duane Kenny into the water and set out for No Man’s Land. ‘No Man’s Land’ is not a secret pirate destination; but rather a spit (a narrow coastal formation) comprised of coral-sand, extending from Bon Accord Lagoon. It is surrounded by shallow, crystal waters and serves as a popular ‘liming’ spot for locals.
The night’s sky – as my aunt pointed out – was pristine. There were hues of black, navy blue, and grey speckled with millions of stars. She was quite awed by the sight of the stars in the sky and the crazy, night-time adventure we had embarked on.
On the way to No Man’s Land, our guide pointed out a couple of sea creatures that came to the surface of the water; along with nocturnal birds, and a peculiar group of bats (aka Bulldog bats / Noctilionidae) which were snatching fish from the water. Intently focused on paddling, I suddenly discovered that we had arrived at No Man’s Land when our kayak ran aground (we crashed). At this point, Paulette and I clumsily scrambled out of the kayak and pulled the vessel further on shore to rest.
Mr. Kenny led us into the warm shallows among floating seaweed to highlight a school of small, skittering fish. The kids who came with us were absolutely fascinated and wanted to catch the fish. Thankfully they didn’t have any canisters to execute such a crime against the ecosystem. While the rest of us had had enough with the seaweed touching our legs, Latoya compared it to some ‘New Age’ spa treatment.
Glowing Bon Accord Lagoon
With the tiny island bliss aside, we pressed on to head into the lagoon to paddle among the bio-luminescence plankton. By the pairs we hefted our assigned kayaks across the infamous sand bar and entered the lagoon teeming with dinoflagellate plankton. We followed our leader to the edge of the mangrove where our paddles caused the water to “sparkle” upon contact with the plankton living in it. This was merely the beginning of what was in store for us.
As we traveled along the lagoon, the plankton became progressively more concentrated and illuminated the kayaks that were cutting through the water. This was when the main awe-factor hit everyone and the kids’ excitement was amped-up. Mr. Kenny encouraged us to jump in or simply to put our feet in the water to observe them glow.
Those of us who refused to get out of the kayaks (like me who figured that it would be way too cumbersome to get back in), watched the adults and kids glow blue inside of the clear salt water; which was more brilliant than what I had seen at the Ortoire River in Trinidad. We spent some time disturbing the plankton to admire their brilliant blue glow before exploring the remainder of the lagoon.
Circling the area, we made it back to No Man’s Land safely and our guide stopped to demonstrate what plankton felt like. He scooped up some water in his shirt and there we saw the never-failing sign of the plankton. Tiny blue sparks erupted about the material of his shirt as the water filtered out. He beckoned us to gently stroke our fingers across the material – and we all felt the supple, jelly-like bodies of the small creatures. We never thought that it was possible to feel plankton, since it is assumed to be microscopic.
We were at the very end of the tour, and once again hoisted our kayaks over to the other end of No Man’s Land to begin travelling towards the mainland. Paulette and I were trailing behind in the dark, which prompted everyone to wonder what was going on with us. Perhaps I was tired; I don’t know. Then our guide – who appeared to be extremely far out – appeared at our side within seconds on his paddle board, and encouraged us to keep going until we were safely on shore where we started. Whew!
In the end, Suzanne, Paulette and Latoya were ecstatic about the entire experience and I was glad for that. Thanks to SUP and the ever-patient Mr. Kenny for initiating such a unique tour like this one and sharing this wonder of nature with locals like myself and tourists.
If you’re interested in kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding in Tobago to see the plankton bloom, visit SUP Tobago to schedule your booking today.
Read more about Tobago’s dinoflagellates and rare bio bays HERE.
* When faced with challenges; postpone don’t cancel. Especially if you’re determined to get somewhere or achieve something.
- Photo 1 courtesy Buccoo Reef Trust
- Photo 2 courtesy Google Maps
- Photo 3 courtesy Islands of Trinidad and Tobago