It’s no secret that Florida is home to an expansive ecosystem of various wildlife. Though the state’s beaches are a huge pull for locals and tourists alike, we’re lucky to have access to natural springs, canals and rivers that allow for a glimpse at a whole different set of creatures that most only see on the pages of National Geographic. Of the many exciting and unique things to do in the state, from swimming with dolphins to petting stingrays, is something very close to home for Space Coast residents: bioluminescent kayaking.
If you’ve lived on the Space Coast long enough, you’ve probably heard mention of bioluminescence at least once or twice. A friend of mine had shown me pictures he’d captured on a bioluminescent kayak ride a few years back, but as time progressed, I forgot that it was something he did here. Certainly, something that captivating couldn’t happen in my hometown, right? I was very wrong.
According to National Geographic, “Bioluminescence is light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism.” This chemical reaction can only occur when two unique chemicals are present within an organism, and with these two chemicals are exposed to oxygen, light is released. Most bioluminescent organisms are found at the bottom of the sea; however, other organisms such as plankton – that can be found without the use of an oxygen tank – are bioluminescent, too. When it comes to plankton, all it needs is energy to emit its beautiful, blue or green glow. It turns out, a kayak is a great source of energy for these little, bioluminescent organisms.
BK Adventure is a local outdoor excursion/tour group. The team gives both daytime and nighttime kayak tours, as well as bike tours. Here, the goal is to engage with the unique and interesting wildlife Florida has to offer.
Both the Indian River and the Banana River – both part of the Indian River Lagoon – are home to glowing algae, so BK Adventures has dubbed this area, “Bioluminescent Bay.” Naturally, this is where you will take a tour if you’re dying to see some bioluminescence. There are four different bioluminescent tour options with BK Adventure: a clear kayak tour, a sunset tour, a family rafting tour and a bioluminescent tour done in a standard kayak. Space Coast Magazines decided to take the clear kayak tour, and if you want to see as much as the ecosystem as possible, we cannot recommend this tour enough.
To see the bioluminescence, you need to kayak at nighttime, and our tour was at 9 p.m. The second our paddles hit the water, we were excited to see a soft, blue glow, which at first appeared to be nothing more than moonlight, but as the sky was still a bit overcast from rain, we knew this had to be nature doing its special show. As we traveled further into the lagoon, and thereby started moving faster, we looked below us to see the water lit up almost like stars against a dark, night sky, which was a bit jarring at first, but impossible to look away from.
As our guides stopped us in the water to talk more about bioluminescence and tell us some nature-related jokes, a school of mullet appeared, creating a blue ripple effect across the top of the water. We very reluctantly followed our guides through the mullet to see more of the river, and Space Coast Magazines was “lucky” enough to have three fish land in our boat. Was this a bit terrifying in the dark? Yes, but the fish were harmless, and our tour guides very happily helped us get the fish out of our kayak and safely back into the water.
As our tour guides quickly paddled around us, the trails of their kayaks emitted a soft, blue glow. Though I’m not big into kayaking, the algae put on a good show for me.
Our tour lasted until 10:30, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the water and get a good workout in. Though, realistically, any kayak owner could go out into the waters themselves, I would recommend seeing the bioluminescence with a tour group, as it is very dark outside and it’s easy to get turned around or lost. Plus, our guide was CPR certified, a lifeguard and was licensed to help with medical emergencies, so if the worst possible situation were to happen, you have help. Of course, our group came back in one piece, with no tipped kayaks, which was impressive considering we were freaking out as mullet flew into our kayak.
Though it’s a bit of a drive to get out to this tour, I would recommend taking the time to check this off your Florida bucket list. The staff was friendly, the tour was beautiful, and it was fun participating in something so unique. So, grab your kayak and let’s get glowing.