[7/19/17- Kelsey, Naturalist]
If you ever come to the San Juan Islands (because you know you want to), you should make it a trip during July or August in order to see the bioluminescence. What is bioluminescence, you ask? Bioluminescence is a natural light phenomenon that occurs in fireflies, deep-sea fishes, jellyfish, etc. But, the organisms you would be looking for here are much smaller, and they are in the form of quinoa-sized plankton. The San Juan Islands are surrounded by incredibly nutrient-rich waters filled with various types of plankton and other marine life. At night, when disturbed, the plankton will emit a visible blue light to ward off predators. But in our case, we are not hunting them- we are watching for an ethereal and surreal experience.
The San Juan Islands are within the top 5 places in the world to spot bioluminescence. On a warm summer evening after a clear day of sun and a night with little moonlight, explore any of the small bays, inlets, or harbors in search of this natural beauty. The waves brush the shorelines and leave trails of glowing small blue specks the size of quinoa or rice. After a day full of whale watching, you can go on a night kayak trip and float the waters while you watch the specks glow as you brush your paddle through the water. As your kayak trails blue swirls, you will see small flashes beneath you as startled fish or seals dart away and leave dashes of light behind them. You may choose to simply stand or lay over the edges of docks and see the sides sparkle while barnacles and small fish are wafting and darting to and fro. Leaning forward, you may run your hands through the water and watch your fingertips glow blue and leave trails of sparkles behind. The light emitted from these organisms is organic and fleeting, needed only momentarily to support the critter and then vanishing in an instant. It can best be described as magical, perhaps even as one of the best natural experiences one could enjoy.
The bioluminescence is phenomenal and breathtaking, and it is worth making time to see while on your spectacular trip to the San Juans during the summer months!