Ever since I found out that the Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica has some of the best views of bio-luminescence (in the world!), the glistening lagoon has been on my #wanderwishlist. There are only about four places in the world where you can experience nature’s light show on water, called bio-luminescence. Here’s what it was like swimming in the lagoon in bright neon water at night.
Explore the Luminous Lagoon
The Luminous Lagoon is a bay and natural phenomenon with harmless microorganisms called dinoflagellates that emit blue-looking light when disturbed. When this happens we get bio-luminescence which causes a mesmerizing glow of ultra blue light across the lagoon when the water is splashed or touched.
It is a unique bay that is surrounded by mangroves and was formed where the fresh waters of the Martha Brae river meet the Caribbean Sea. The mixing of both fresh and salty water fills the bay with brackish water, creating the perfect environment for these tiny creatures to thrive.
Tour the Glistening Waters
The lagoon is located just outside the historic town of Falmouth, Jamaica, about 30 minutes from Montego Bay. For this trip, I drove up from Kingston and that me took a little over 2.5 hours on the North-South Highway (or Edward Seaga Highway).
I wouldn’t advise that you try to get to the lagoon by yourself as you will need a boat to really experience the wonders of the luminous lagoon. It is much simpler to book a tour. There are several tours running from most hotels in Montego Bay and for locals, like myself, you can book directly with tour guides in Falmouth.
I booked with Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon Tour. It seemed to be the most established and popular tour from my research. There are clear signs for the turn off to Glistening Waters so driving there wasn’t a problem for me.
Bonus: The Knutsford Express bus stops directly at Glistening Waters, if you’re not up to driving.
The tour begins after sunset…like 6:30pm and has about 4 boats taking persons out onto the lagoon every 30-45 minutes. The wait time is short. The cost is around 1500JMD for locals and approximately 20USD for tourists. Also, a complimentary drink is included with your purchase – I was very keen on that hahaha! (I chose non-alcoholic fyi lol.)
Swim in Awe
The moment finally came to swim in gorgeous, bright, ultra blue water! Luckily for me, I came on a day where there were good conditions to experience breathtaking bio-luminescence. The sky was clear, it wasn’t a full moon, and not a lot of people were waiting for the tour. YaY!
There are bathrooms to change into your swimsuit before heading out. If you plan on swimming then it is best to do this beforehand because changing in the boat is a little cramped and awkward – there are no changing rooms and you will be surrounded by people.
After a quick 5 minute boat ride and an informative talk about bio-luminescence from our tour guide and captain, it was time to jump in. Oh! try to get a seat on either side of the boat in order to get the best views.
Jumping in is the most exciting part. You will be swimming at night which makes it even more fun! The tour guides reassured us that there was nothing to worry about and that it is safe to swim in. Make sure to make a big splash and see the water light up in blue all around you!
It is spectacular. Nature is amazing and our planet gives us the most beautiful gifts. Photos and videos hardly do this place justice; words cannot describe the awe I felt looking at my skin glow as I swam in glee.
Speaking of, the water in the lagoon is a little unusual in colour (grey-brown) and there is no sand. But the lagoon floor feels a bit like jelly or a soft peat mud due to the mangroves and silt that comes down from the river and rain. It’s an odd feeling but you get used to it pretty quickly. Also you can just keep threading the water to avoid the feeling altogether.
Non-swimmers: you are able to put on life jackets before jumping in. The water is not very deep (about 5ft) but it is a bit difficult to stand in due to the jelly-like peat.
We oohed as we splashed around and watched the dark waters turn bright blue. And then we aahed as we watched the blue light disappear with a flicker.
Take a Photo, Capture the Glow
Taking photographs of the luminous lagoon is very challenging. You can forget about selfies or any shots taken by yourself when you are in the water. Trust me, I tried. They were horrible. A quality camera is needed and it is not recommended to use flash.
There’s a photographer on the tour aptly named “Paparazzi” who can take your photos for you (for a price of course…you can negotiate that but it’s a little pricey). If you are a solo traveler like me then this is the way to go. Don’t stress about the price too much, capturing this phenomenon is worth it.
If you are traveling with friends then take turns going into the water and snapping photos of each other. Again, make sure you have a high quality, high resolution camera to get the best shots. If you don’t have a quality camera then get your photos from Paparazzi (and then you can all jump in for a group photo).
For capturing videos, you will want to turn up the ISO settings on your camera. I wasn’t able to get a good video but you can see amazing views of the lagoon in the short video clip above. (video source: Nicole Morgan youtube channel)
This is definitely something to be included on your #wanderwishlist. Being able to experience a phenomenon so rare in the world (and in my own country) is very cool. I wish the tour was a little longer but it is well-worth every minute.
Did you know?
The phenomenon of glistening water only occurs in Indonesia, Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.