I came to Puerto Rico entirely because of my desire to see this phenomenon (no disrespect to Puerto Rico, which is beautiful, but this was 100% the deciding factor in where I chose to take my first full vacation in 3 years). The bus ride to the tour was completely silent - the driver made no attempt at pointing out even the biggest, most obvious points of interest along the way on an hour long drive. The most animated part of the trip was them repeatedly reminding us that we would be abandoned in Fajardo if we weren’t back on the bus 15 minutes after the kayak tour ended.
Then we were “taught” how to kayak by the guides having us stand in a semi-circle on dry land while they showed us how to hold the paddle and said which direction to paddle to go left, right, and slow/stop. There was zero practice in the water. Once we were in the boats it was time to go.
I’ll admit that I had a bumpy start. As the only person with no kayaking experience and the only person without a partner, I was entirely on my own figuring the kayak out. I definitely got caught up a couple of times early on but considering that I was brand new and I managed to get myself back on track I felt pretty good about working to develop a new skill.
When we made it to the lagoon we were given time to paddle around and once I was out in the open I was actually fine. I enjoyed practicing further and watching the sunset. Then it was time to finally see the bioluminescence… except we couldn’t. I mean you could make out the occasional spark if you REALLY reached in an agitated the water but only if you did it while under a tarp, which made getting a good look nearly impossible. I felt like we were out much too early to get enough darkness and there was too much light pollution. The tour should really start later in the summer to get any real opportunity to see what the excitement is all about.
Then before it was really dark enough to enjoy anything it was time to head back. Now, over the course of the previous hour I had improved and some of the other guests had started to run into issues themselves - they had also ended up caught on trees or started paddling too quickly and hit one another by not leaving any room for the group ahead to slow down. My earlier mistakes had forced me to learn how to back up and when to make room for others, etc. so I was okay pausing to let others get back into line or moving out the way.
We’d been told repeatedly to stay in a line so that other tours could pass on the outside, but several folks start to clump up instead and rather than hanging back to get into formation, those people just tried to go around the rest of the line. I ended up getting hit not once, not twice, but 3 times as other people focused more on getting ahead than making sure we followed expectations. As a result, I got rammed nearly ashore but I was okay with doing the work to get back on track. It would have been a little tough but not impossible and I’m not one to just give up.
Instead, before I could maneuver my way back out, one of the guides said they were going to give me “a little help” which turned out to be towing me the entire way back. It felt infantilizing to have someone first ignore that I was repeatedly rammed into by other guests because I was allowing another kayak to enter the line (as was asked of us) and then take over the entire rest of the way without asking if I wanted that. If he’d just wanted to get me recentered that would be one thing but it felt really awful to be improving at something and have the opportunity to get better taken from me. Don’t get me wrong, the guides were nice people, but it was frustrating that instead of reminding others to be mindful of their surroundings I was towed back like a child.
All together, it was a really deflating experience to come all this way, excited to see one of the world’s coolest natural wonders, and both not see it AND get the rest of the activity taken away too.