Puerto Mosquito, Vieques’s bioluminescent bay, is considered by many to be one of the hidden wonders of the world. Not the Hollywood, computer generated graphics type of wonder. No, this is the real deal. This is a natural wonder, the kind you remember forever, the kind that assures you that coming to Vieques was a brilliant idea.
The magic in Puerto Mosquito is created by an unusual wizard called Pyrodinium bahamense (whirling fire of the Bahamas). This single cell microscopic plankton is able to create an eerie bluish light by mixing two chemicals whenever something touches it. The result is spectacular. A ride on a pedal or electric boat, a canoe or a kayak puts you front row for an underwater light show where manta rays fly through a sea of ghostly stars and fish trail electric-blue wakes in the darkness. Once in a while, a manatee moves gently through the sparkling scene, large yet graceful in its watery environment, helping us understand why ancient sailors believed in mermaids.
How this sparkling jewel of Vieques works is perhaps more impressive than its glow. Puerto Mosquito is a bay of lights partly because it is a bay of life. A majestic mangrove forest, seagrass beds, a coral reef and neighboring lagoons have combined to create and protect one of the most delicate and unique ecosystems on earth. A true testament to biodiversity the Bay is home to a myriad of creatures, functioning as a nursery to house and protect its occupants. This combination of life along with the interaction with the mangrove forest provides the ideal conditions in the water for this bloom of dinoflagellates (whirling tail organism) to thrive. The stability that comes from calm winds and low precipitation help maintain this recipe and the plentiful amount of sunlight provides nourishment for the photosynthetic Pyrodinum bahamense. The single shallow and narrow entrance helps protect the bay and “trap” these organisms in their perfect habitat.
The bioluminescent bay is traditionally been used by the local fishing community as a safe harbor in storms and as a source for baitfish. In terms of tourism, the bay brings in millions of dollars a year to Vieques as it is one of the main reasons people from all over the globe visit the island.
The brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, Puerto Mosquito is also one of the last examples of a pristine bay. It is featured in the Guiness book of world records and it has traditionally held concentrations that, at it’s highest, range between 75,000 to 132,000 P. bahamense per liter. Bioluminescent bays are extremely delicate and require sustainable tourism practices to survive. The Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust (www.vcht.org), a local non profit, works in collaboration with the agencies and local community to preserve this precious resource.
We have seen the way a visit to the “Caño Hondo” a local name for the Bioluminiscent Bay, can change it’s visitors in just one night. It’s famed rejuvenating powers come from the way it puts you back in touch with nature and helps us remember what is true entertainment, and what is truly important. It is a place that changes its visitors, reconnecting us to nature in a way that makes us feel something inside, makes us love what we experience and makes us always remember it in our minds. We hope it inspires you to protect it and all the natural wonders we have left. No words or pictures can really explain it. It has to be experienced. To do so is to understand how magic and science can exist in the same place.
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