Imagine kayaking at night through the Florida mangroves with only the stars above and the water below providing light. That’s right. The water around Merritt Island Refuge glows with every touch. Every stroke of the paddle leaves a wake of glowing Bioluminescence. These late night kayak tours offered by A Day Away get you up close and personal with this beautiful phenomenon. Titusville is the only place in the U.S. you can witness this event and this particular kayak tour only runs throughout the summer months.
What is Bioluminescence?
“Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism”¹. Dinoflagellates are a living organism found mostly in saltwater. Some species create a harmless algal bloom in the form of a blue-green light when disturbed. Any touch at all from a swimming manatee to swirling your hand triggers the glow. This glow ends just as quickly as it started.
Activity level: moderate (paddling for two hours in a moderate current)
Price: moderate ($40/person)
Fun level: high
The Kayak Tour Adventure
Unfortunately, the nature of the tour makes it quite difficult to capture good quality images of the light you see. And by good quality I mean anything other than black. My GoPro Hero4 got a whole lot of black shots. Such is life.
Our adventure begins at a beach house my family rented in Titusville. We ate dinner at the famous Dixie Crossroads where they specialize in good southern seafood, especially rock shrimp. Afterwards, Erik fashioned a homemade fishing pole and we fished off the dock watching the sunset. I caught a stingray! Catch and release only though.
Around 10pm the fam made their down some dirt roads inside the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and we met up with our tour guides from A Day Away. Everyone picked their Paddle Partner and pushed off from Haulover Canal into the night. As we waited for the group to join us Erik pointed at the water “Look!” he said excitedly, “put your hand in the water!” Sure enough, I looked down and every movement caused a flurry of dull blue light. A slow realization fell throughout the group, like fireflies descending from the trees, that the inlet was alive with activity.
The group paddled around the corner and throughout several connecting canals. Erik and I stayed doggedly next to our tour guide and asked a bunch of questions like curious little school kids. The guides are very knowledgeable about everything: the area, the bioluminescence, kayaking. After about an hour we emerged to a large bay where you can see the glow of Daytona off in the distance. Above you are bright bands of the Milky Way and the most stars I’ve ever seen. Below you are hundreds of fish jumping out of the water and creating splashes of light as they fall back in. My mom shrieked as a fish jumped in her and my dad’s kayak and flopped around under her bum. Several people were hit by fish that night.
Paddling back upstream was a bit of a chore and everyone was exhausted after fighting the current. Make sure you get some caffeine in you beforehand because our tour ended around 1:30am and we didn’t get back to the rental until 2. This was definitely the most fun and exciting kayaking trip I’ve had so far.
¹ Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioluminescence
All images (except A Day Away Kayak Tours logo image) are taken by me or my family and are property of PPT.