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Tag: paddling

Kayaking in a Bioluminescent Bay

Fajardo Bio Bay Kayking

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There are five bodies of water in the world where you are able to experience the magic that is bioluminescence year-round. Three of them are in Puerto Rico. The glow-in-the-dark effect known as bioluminescence is caused by microscopic organisms known as dinoflagellates that absorb energy from the sun and then will light up at night when the water is disturbed by a paddle or hand. You are not permitted to swim in these “bio-bays” because sunscreen and other products that we put on our skin will kill these organisms. Some of the bays are noticing a dimming because of this and also pollution from boats.

You are able to experience this bioluminescence in Puerto Rico on kayak tours. We regretted not being able to experience this on our first trip to Puerto Rico so it was one of the first things I booked after we had our flights. For the best experience, it is recommended that you take your tour as close to the new moon as possible. Since we had less than a week in Puerto Rico, we picked a day that fit best in our schedule and the tour organizers covered us up with tarps so we could best experience the glowing.

Since we were staying in Fajardo, we chose a tour of Laguna Grande. We met at a beach near the bio bay where we got a brief safety demonstration and basic kayak instructions before loading into our kayaks and getting a paddle-away picture taken (top). At the beginning of the tour, we paddled along the beach until we came to the opening of the lagoon and we waited for the groups ahead of us to paddle through. The sun was setting at this point, and paddling through the mangroves was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It is probably silly to compare a real-life experience to a Disney ride, but it made me think of the Jungle Cruise. I kept waiting to see the backside of water.

When we got through the mangroves, we huddled our kayaks together for an explanation of what we were about to see as our guides searched for the best bioluminescent activity. When we re-grouped where the light could be seen the most, the guides passed out tarps for us to huddle around so we could experience the glow-in-the-dark activity without the light from the moon interfering. It was not super comfortable under the tarp, so I didn’t stay under very long. This phenomenon is not easy to photograph so I didn’t even attempt it. I left my phone in the car and just enjoyed the experience. That is why the only picture I have is the one they took for me.

Laguna Grande is not the most active bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico but it is very convenient if you are staying near San Juan. If you want the best experience, you have to go to the island of Vieques. Honestly, the bioluminescence was not the highlight of this experience for me. I really enjoyed the paddle through the mangroves at dusk. It made me realize that I need to figure out how to go night kayaking at home when the weather warms up.

We chose Yokahu Kayak Tours on Viator and I would recommend them to anyone considering a bio bay tour from Fajardo. One thing to note is that most of these tours only have tandem kayaks. For seasoned tandem kayakers like us, this is not a problem, but my mother-in-law was traveling with us and as an odd number, she got paired off with a teenager she didn’t know and had never kayaked with before. She had more of a challenge with this tour and did not enjoy it as much as we did. In hindsight, one of us probably should’ve stayed with her and one of us stronger kayakers should’ve been paired up with someone else.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Returning to Puerto Rico Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Lovers Leap Arch

Lovers Leap Arch

Wordless Wednesday: Paddling Pictured Rocks

Paddling toward Indian Head

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

Kayaking towards Lover's Leap Arch

This past summer I got to do something that has been a dream of mine for over ten years, kayak Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I have hiked the Lakeshore Trail and seen the rocks from the water on the boat cruise, but I have wanted to get up close and personal with the rocks since my first visit. So, when we were able to score a campsite at the lakeshore, I started doing my research for kayak tours.

Before I get into the tour, I want to talk a bit about Lake Superior and boating safety. Lake Superior is notoriously rough and can be dangerous if you are not in the proper boat. It is not recommended that you take a recreational kayak to see the rock formations. A sea kayak with a spray skirt is the recommended boat for this trip. If you are not a seasoned sea kayaker, it is best to see the rocks on a guided tour.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking Boat

There are many companies that offer tours of Pictured Rocks, but we decided to go with Pictured Rocks Kayaking (paddlepicturedrocks.com) for one main reason: they launch from a boat (left). Most of the tour operators launch from a beach in the park and you paddle from the beach out to the rocks and back. With the boat, Pictured Rocks Kayaking is able to take their guests out farther and allow them to paddle the most impressive rock features. The boat follows the tour and if someone needs to go to the bathroom or gets too tired, they are able to go back to the boat.  Also, if a storm blows in fast, they are able to get everyone back on the boat to safety.

As of 2022, Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers two tours, the shorter (2-3 hour) Miners Castle Tour which gets paddlers up close to the famous Miners Castle rock formation, and the 4-5 hour Ultimate Kayak tour. Being a bucket list experience, of course we chose the Ultimate Kayak Tour.

Paddling through a cave

Our tour started in Munising where we had a quick kayak basics and safety demonstration before getting on the boat for a 40-ish minute ride to the spot where you get in the water right from the boat. The water was unbelievably calm on the day we did the tour. You can see in the pictures, the water was like glass and it was a very easy paddle.

It was amazing how close we were able to get to the rocks. We paddle into caves and felt the water dripping from the rock above (above). We got to paddle under the iconic Lovers Leap arch (top). The tour ends at Chapel Rock where we headed back to the boat to eat our picnic lunch while the boat took us back to town.

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

My only complaint about the tour was the speed it went. As pretty avid kayakers (and experienced tandem kayakers at that) we had a hard time going as slow as the tour dictated. I understand that it is a long time on the water and we didn’t want to tire anyone out, but my back go sore sitting in the seat before my arms were tired.

If you are visiting Pictured Rocks and want to get out on the water, I highly recommend Pictured Rocks Kayaking.  You get to see more than other tours with the comfort and security of knowing the boat is there if you need it. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and gave great restaurant recommendations! I would absolutely take the tour again if I was in the area.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Camping at Cheboygan State Park

The bay from our campsite

Before our tour of Michigan State Parks last summer, I was watching a lot of Trekker’s Michigan State Parks videos on Youtube. When they did their drive through Cheboygan State Park, I knew I needed to check it out for myself! The park is located in Northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron. Its location, only half an hour from Mackinaw City, making it a good home base for exploring the straits area. The campground is small, only 75 sites, and with only 20 amp service, some might call it outdated, but it is perfect for the kind of camping we do.

Camper under canopyI decided to head to Cheboygan for Memorial Day weekend and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get a waterfront site without much fuss about six months out. For some reason, this campground isn’t as popular as others in the area. Our site (site 27) was wooded on three sides with a path to the lake. Most of the other sites in the park are just as private. This is very unusual for a Michigan State Park campground. Most of them are big open fields. The bathhouse at the campground was small, but with most people relying on the bathrooms in their rigs, there was never a wait for the showers.

Path through the woods

The path to the bay from site 27

It was really nice to be able to put our kayak right in the water at our site and be able to paddle around the bay when the water was calm. We went a little way out and floated over two shipwrecks, the Leviathan and the Genesee Chief (unfortunately, forgot my action camera when we went out the first day and when we went back it was too cloudy to see them so I don’t have any photos). When we got back to camp, I looked these wrecks up and was interested to learn that they were both intentionally sunk in the bay. I did feel better when we returned to the site knowing there were no casualties, but it’s always sad to realize that in the 19th century, the Great Lakes were thought of as garbage dumps.

Besides the Mackinac area, Cheboygan is not a far drive away from the only named waterfall in the lower peninsula, Ocqueoc Falls, The waterfall will be the topic for next week on the blog, so be sure to come back! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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