Day 1 - Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Saturday, July 26, 2008: We headed south via Chicago and Tom was thrilled to see the shuttle launch pads at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
|A little further south, we passed the islands of the Bahamas.
|Finally, we arrived in Puerto Rico, ...
|... where Tom parlayed his window seat vantage point into the first Maersk win of the trip. It's blurry, but it's a win.
|We descended into San Juan over this lovely bridge lined with United States and Puerto Rico flags.
|We arrived mid-afternoon and picked up our rental car, then headed south to Fajardo.
|We had just a few minutes to check into the Fajardo Inn before we were due at Marina del Rey for our tour to the bioluminescent bay on Vieques Island.
|We enjoyed our first rum punch of the week before our power catamaran departed the marina.
|Onboard the boat, we perused a book of marine life and recognized our friend from Coco Cay, the spotted eagle ray. We ended up buying a smaller version of the same book, Snorkeling Guide to Marine Life by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach, when we returned. It was immensely helpful in identifying many many of the fish, coral, and other creatures that we saw.
|We shared a table with our new friends Debbie and Keith during the 45-minute cruise to Vieques, and toasted to our twelfth anniversary with a couple of cans of Medalla, a Puerto Rican beer.
|Vieques is a lovely little island.
|The sun was starting to set as we arrived at the dock.
|We were met by several vans which whisked us on a 15-minute drive through the island to ...
|... Island Adventures. Their tour center consists of a small visitor center, a restroom, a gift shop, and an open-air restaurant.
|We took seats along the edge of the restaurant facing out over the island.
|Debbie had pork chops and tostones, which are fried plantains, while Tom enjoyed mofongo with chicken, both washed down with passion fruit juice. We had placed our dinner orders back at the marina in Fajardo so they were ready shortly after our arrival.
|We finally got a shot of the restaurant as our group moved into the visitor center for the next part of our tour.
|The stars of the evening are these little creatures, single-celled bioluminescent dinoflagellates called Pyrodimium bahamense. (You can be sure we copied that directly from Island Adventures' website!) This painting of one of these creatures is on the floor in the room where we received our briefing.
|Next, we piled onto an old school bus for the drive to the biobay, officially known as Mosquito Bay, which included a bumpy trip down a narrow dirt road.
|We boarded a pontoon boat powered by an electric motor. We found seats at the very back of the boat by the motor. Shortly after we left the dock, the water started to glow blue as if there was a spotlight underneath the boat. Of course, it was the little biobay creatures lighting up as a result of the water moving. It was surreal and completely unphotographable. We were lucky to have a very dark night with clear skies, and the stars were out in full force. Even the Milky Was was visible.
|Our guide explained the unique ecosystem that contributes to the high concentration of these organisms, and used a flashlight to point out the mangroves along the shore that help feed them. On either side of the boat, fish darted through the water, leaving blue streaks in their path, while the boat's wake continued to glow long after we passed.
|The most amazing part of the evening came when we were given the opportunity to swim in the bay. We learned that there is no way to capture this phenomemon on film, despite our best efforts with a normal and an underwater camera, so you'll have to take our word for it that this was an unbelievable experience. We swirled our arms and legs in the water and made the water glow. We lifted our arms out of the water and watched our arms sparkle in the darkness. We cupped water in our hands and let it trickle down our arms like fast-moving lava.
|When we looked at our underwater photos, every one of them was completely black, or so we thought. When we zoomed in quite a bit, we found that we did indeed capture these little creatures as a series of very tiny points of light.
|When our swim was over, we went back to the biobay dock, along the bumpy road in the bus, back to the Vieques pier (shown here) in the van, ...
... and back to Fajardo on the catamaran. Total tour time: 5 1/2 hours. Debbie was sleepy but we declared it one of the best tours we had ever taken.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy