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Photo TR: Bioluminescent Kayaking


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Last night, Jacqi and I had the opportunity to check out a Bioluminescent Kayak tour over on Florida’s Space Coast. We had heard about this phenomenon and were very anxious to see it in person. The tour takes place about an hour east of Orlando, on the Indian River Lagoon, just next to the Kennedy Space Center complex. Once we arrived, we were given our safety gear and our safety talk and we paired up and boarded our kayaks. The staff was incredibly helpful and very knowledgeable about the kayaks, the environment and the area wildlife. All participants wore glow sticks so that the staff could keep track of everyone. We headed towards a very dark, secluded spot and as we paddled the glowing effect became more and more apparent. Every bit a motion in the water – the paddles, your hands, fish leaping out of the water, even dolphins and manatees – lit up the surface. It was fantastic. We splashed around and watched streaks of light zip all around us. At times it was almost freaky how much was going on in the water in front of us. And, as a bonus, the night sky was filled with stars that are typically hidden from sight because of all of Orlando’s ambient lights. It was such a unique experience. We highly recommend making the trip out to the Space Coast.

 

A few things to keep in mind…

 

First, its buggy. I mean really buggy. Bring the spray. And use it a lot. There were mosquitoes everywhere.

 

Second, you will get wet. You will have to walk through some ankle deep water and sea grass to get in and out of your kayak. Even though the paddles have splash guards, we seemed to pour a bunch of water into the boat with every stroke. My shorts were soaked in the first 10 minutes. Also, keep in mind that there is always the possibility that you might end up in the water. The guides told stories of rare experiences when kayaks were capsized by startled manatee. For that reason, know that any gear you bring - phones, cameras, electronic key fobs - may get soaked too.

 

And finally, you’re going to be in that kayak awhile – and sometimes you really have to work those paddles to get through some current. The kayaks were pretty easy to maneuver and by the end of the tour, we were pretty good at it. But you do travel a decent distance and you will be tired at the end. Most tours last about 2 hours and there are no facilities at the launch point.

 

But, if you keep all of this in mind, it is an amazing experience unlike anything I’ve seen before. The Bioluminescent season runs from the late summer months through October. Tours cost $36 for adults and $26 for children on Sundays and weekdays. Fridays and Saturdays are $3 more. Because these tours take place in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, only permitted guides and there tours are allowed on the water at night. For more information, visit adayawaykayaktours.com

 

Now for the photos. Unfortunately, even though the effect is brilliant and effortless to see with the human eye, it is nearly impossible to do it justice with a photograph. It was just too dark for our cameras and they weren’t able to grab focus on anything. The PR team supplied us with one photo they were able to capture - just know that it looks even cooler in person.

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Bioluminescence in action. Photo provided by TW Squared.

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Our tour hosts.

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Our Kayaks await.

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Jacqi demonstrating the safety gear.

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The sun is about to set and we're ready to go.

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I didn't know they had this in Florida! We saw the phenomenon in Puerto Rico and it was amazing. Very cool that you got to experience it.

 

First, its buggy. I mean really buggy. Bring the spray. And use it a lot. There were mosquitoes everywhere.

This is a really bad idea because bug spray kills the organisms that bioluminesce. It's actually caused entire bays to "go dark" because all of the dinoflagellates die.

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Well, by kayaking, I think the plastic boat is enough of a barrier to prevent a mixing of DEET with the water. A lot of the outfitters I've seen in the island of Puerto Rico and Vieques both highly suggest the use of bug spray. Better that than tropical diseases.

 

*BUT* seriously I am way bummed out that this is not gonna be available the weekend my wife and I are in Orlando. I might have to plan a trip next year specifically for this.

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Thanks for the comments! It was amazing! As far as the bug spray goes, it was highly recommended by our tour guides that we use the spray. In fact, we stopped in mid-tour to reapply. Our tour guides were very knowledgable and protective of the environment, so I feel pretty confident that they would not recommend its use if it was damaging.

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Well, by kayaking, I think the plastic boat is enough of a barrier to prevent a mixing of DEET with the water. A lot of the outfitters I've seen in the island of Puerto Rico and Vieques both highly suggest the use of bug spray. Better that than tropical diseases.

This. I'm going to guess that nobody on this forum is actually a "bug spray expert" and how it effects organisms nor do I actually believe that bug spray caused an entire bay to "go dark" (c'mon, really? you actually believe that?!??!)

 

I'm going to side with the guides who do this for a living and are experts in the field. If they tell you to use bug spray, use it. I'm pretty sure they aren't going to recommend you do something that will kill future opportunities to do their tour.

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Well, by kayaking, I think the plastic boat is enough of a barrier to prevent a mixing of DEET with the water. A lot of the outfitters I've seen in the island of Puerto Rico and Vieques both highly suggest the use of bug spray. Better that than tropical diseases.

This. I'm going to guess that nobody on this forum is actually a "bug spray expert" and how it effects organisms nor do I actually believe that bug spray caused an entire bay to "go dark" (c'mon, really? you actually believe that?!??!)

 

I'm going to side with the guides who do this for a living and are experts in the field. If they tell you to use bug spray, use it. I'm pretty sure they aren't going to recommend you do something that will kill future opportunities to do their tour.

 

TBH the kind of scientists that would be experts on this are the sorts of people I go to concerts and have BBQs with these days, and I can tell you unequivocally that when in the field they rock 100% DEET. You can't do good science dead. That isn't to say it can't do damage. DEET can flat out melt plastic. But unless you get in the water and swim, I don't think it would be a problem. And who swims in mosquito infested water?

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This. I'm going to guess that nobody on this forum is actually a "bug spray expert" and how it effects organisms nor do I actually believe that bug spray caused an entire bay to "go dark" (c'mon, really? you actually believe that?!??!)

 

I'm going to side with the guides who do this for a living and are experts in the field. If they tell you to use bug spray, use it. I'm pretty sure they aren't going to recommend you do something that will kill future opportunities to do their tour.

 

I'm just going by what my guides told me. They said no bug spray, no sun screen, and not to go in the water. Apparently as long as it's DEET-free, or if you stay completely out of the water, it's fine. I'm not trying to argue or anything, just saying this is what I was specifically told by my experienced tour guides. Other guides might have different advice, and maybe it also depends on where you are, how big the lagoon is, etc.

www.nydailynews.com/life-style/glow-flow-kayaking-eerie-bioluminescent-bays-puerto-rico-article-1.1126777

"Those dinoflagellates thrive in Laguna Grande partly because the nature reserve has limited pollution in the area. They no longer allow swimmers in the water. Sunscreen and bug repellents (containing DEET) were killing off the very organisms people wanted to see."

 

www.amnh.org/learn-teach/young-naturalist-awards/winning-essays2/2011-winning-essays/the-effects-of-deet-on-bioluminescent-dinoflagellates-pyrocystis-fusiformis

"This experiment confirms that a single exposure of DEET is harmful to bioluminescent dinoflagellates."

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