jamaica bioluminescent bay with fish
The bay is glowing.
Eat & Play

Splashing Around in Jamaica’s Bioluminescent Bay

By: Jesse Scott - May 17, 2024

I’ll never forget that ooey-gooey feeling in Jamaica’s Luminous Lagoon. Its floor was a squishy and thick cloudlike mud. Perhaps in a normal circumstance, it would have grossed me out. But recently it was part of something special.

It was my first bioluminescent bay experience.

And, probably like most folks, I’d heard about bioluminescent bays but didn’t really understand what they were beyond rare places that you could frolic around in at night and have the waters light up around you.

Between my tour guide duo and some on-the-spot Googling about what in the heck was physically occurring around me in the water, I learned a lot that night. First, bioluminescent bays are super-rare – in fact, there are only five in the world and three of them are in Puerto Rico. Second, I learned about what caused the shine around me – millions upon millions of harmless microorganisms known as dinoflagellates radiating an aqua blue when disturbed.

It was a seamless journey to get to Luminous Lagoon from my resort, Excellence Oyster Bay, which is tucked on a private peninsula about 45 minutes east of Montego Bay. In addition to poolside blackjack, on-site cooking lessons and other beach-y experiences, the resort coordinated a local boat to come pick up our group.

It took about five minutes from Excellence Oyster Bay’s shores to coast to the middle of the lagoon. Upon arrival, you could tell we were not alone. Other boat charters – most with less than 10 passengers – were looming quietly in the waters until their respective passengers hopped in the water and started making a splash. Leaders in the charter space include Island Routes and Glistening Waters.

The whole phenomenon does seem a little bit weird and creepy, but the fun is in underwater wading and seeing the water light up in blue around you. It’s not something you can particularly see very well from the boat or photograph with an iPhone for that matter.

If you have a professional camera, you’ll want to bring it. Otherwise, as in our case, there may be a dude with a digital camera on your boat that will e-mail some to you afterward for a premium.

Regardless, this is one of those experiences that photos just don’t do justice. Beyond the sounds of splashes, hopefully it’ll be quiet and dark as it was for me.

It was one of those quiet moments that really make you marvel at the beauty of this wild — and sometimes squishy — earth we inhabit.

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