Swimming with the stars in Oaxaca’s bioluminescent lagoon
Looking for a tour of Puerto Escondido’s bioluminescent lagoon? You should be! A Phosphorescence Tour of Manialtepec Lagoon is one of the top things to do on a visit to Puerto Escondido as it’s once of few places in the world where you can actually swim with incredible glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent plankton. Here’s what you need to know about experiencing the unique Manialtepec Lagoon bioluminescence natural phenomenon.
Manialtepec Lagoon Bioluminescence
What is it like to swim with glowing plankton? I was floating in a boat in the middle of a lagoon under an ink-black night sky when I heard a large splash. Someone in our group had jumped into the water.
We were participating in a Fosforescencia or Phosphorescence Excursion with Lalo Ecotours, a experience offered at special times of the year, when a unique alchemy of ocean currents and water temperature draw dinoflagellate plankton into Laguna Manialtepec or Manialtepec Lagoon, a deep lagoon located 20 minutes outside Puerto Escondido. Much like fireflies of the north, the half-plant half-animal organisms glow with a white light creating an eerie shimmer to the water.
Local History of the Manialtepec Lagoon Bioluminescence
“Ancients believed bathing in phosphorescence gave them special energy and made them more youthful,” explained Ebarardo, our guide. His family has lived at Las Negras on the lagoon for generations, one of 150 families who earn a living by fishing and now, by offering bioluminesence tours of the mangrove swamp. If you’re taking a tour of the mangrove, book directly with them or Gina Machorro at the Tourist Office and you’ll help support local families.
“That’s it. You talked me into it. I’m going in,” said Zelda, a woman seated in front of me in the boat. She jumped over the edge and was soon floating, making snow angels in the water, her arms glowing wings of shimmering white. Surrounded by tendrils of black mangroves with the lagoon itself wafting a rather funky smell, this lagoon didn’t bear any resemblance to The Blue Lagoon of Brooke Shield’s 1980’s movie fame.
We could see schools of tiny fish, glowing like radioactive Nemo’s beneath the surface of the water. They scattered in all directions as the swimmers surfaced, their heads bathed in a sparkling sheath of white droplets.
Bioluminescent Plankton Locations around the World
“ There are lots of bioluminescent beaches but only two bioluminescent lagoons in the world,” said Ebarardo. “One here in Oaxaca and another in Puerto Rico. The best viewing times are at the New Moon when the sky is at its darkest.”
I dipped my hand in the water and droplets of sparkly stars poured from my hands.
“It’s like swimming with stars, ” said the woman in the water as she gazed up at the night sky which wrapped around us.
Above me was a dome of constellations, planets and the Milky Way, which to the ancients represented the birth canal of the Cosmic Mother and the starting point of all life. The path led to the Underworld and represented man’s journey on earth.
The night sky was a sight I’d forgotten from my childhood growing up in Canada’s north, far from city lights. I scooped up a handful of water and realized I didn’t have to drink from the Fountain of Youth, I could hold it in my hands.
Laguna Manialtepec Bioluminescence Travel Planner
Best Laguna de Manialtepec Phosphorescence Tour: The Lalo Ecotours 3 hour excursion costs $25 USD ( or 300 MXN pesos) per person ( minimum of 4 people) and includes pick-up at 8:00 pm and drop-off at your hotel in Puerto Escondido at 10:30 PM. It also includes a Oaxacan snack of pescadilla (tuna-stuffed empanadas), the boat tour of the lagoon and guide.
Lalo Ecotours: Visit their website at Lalo Ecotours. Contact them by phone at 954 588-9164 or 954 123-4005 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Laguna Manialtepec Bioluminescence Reservations: You can also make a reservation at the Oaxaca Tourist Bureau information booth. Manned by multi-lingual Gina Machorro, the booth is a valuable source of maps, tour and excursion information as well as tour booking services.
What to Pack: Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long sleeved pants to avoid insect bites. Be sure to bring a bathing suit and towel if you plan to swim. Insect repellent is also a must.
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Updated: April 2018