Phosphorescent Plankton, Manialtepec Lagoon

by Josée

Manialtepec Lagoon is very biodiverse area. The brackish lagoon water, a mixture of sea water and fresh water, is surrounded by mangrove trees and is the perfect host for hundreds of creatures, big and small. I really wanted to go on an eco-tour of the lagoon with Hidden Voyages Ecotours but with five young children we knew it would be a challenge. Instead, our friend arranged a tour for us to witness the lagoon’s phosphorescent plankton at night.

At seven o’clock at night we were picked up by a white van and driven at high speed to Manialtepec Lagoon, about 16km from Puerto Escondido. Once we arrived at our destination we were ushered onto a motor boat and then taken over the lagoon’s dark inky water. Our guide, who only spoke Spanish, talked about the unique biodiversity of the Lagoon. I did not understand much but Maria, our friend, translate bits and pieces for us. Eventually our tour guide stopped the boat and instructed us to dip a hand into the black water. The black water sparkled and shimmered as it slid between our fingers. It was amazing! These bioluminescent dinoflagellates (phosphorescent plankton) glow as a result of a chemical reaction that takes place when they are disturbed; it is a defense mechanism. The boat guide then lowered a ladder into the water and we were allowed to jump in. Those that jumped left a glowing splash behind. I quietly slid into the warm water and gently glided along the top. As I did the water sparkled and glowed over my arms, like the stars above. It was a magical experience for all. When I came out of the water my skin felt a little slimy and when I rubbed my arms and legs my skin continued to sparkle.

Because of the darkness my camera could not capture any pictures and even if I could take pictures I doubt it would do justice to the experience. If you have the opportunity to swim with phosphorescent plankton I highly recommend taking the plunge!

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1 comment

Alice McCrea February 16, 2016 - 5:43 pm

Wonderful. What an experience. Hope we can see some of those sparkles when you come back, which should be very soon I hope.


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