Passenger Pick of the Month
While the most well-known outdoor Cayman adventures may be Stingray City and scuba diving, one adventure that is an absolute Cayman "must do" is the Bioluminescence tour. After sunset, a relaxing paddle by kayak from Rum Point treats you to a magical underwater light show in Bioluminescent Bay. A phenomenal experience. As this month's Passenger Pick of the Month, we wanted to learn more about the story behind Cayman Kayaks, so recently we caught up with co-owner Thomas Watling.
PP: Tom, when did you get started with this tour?
TW: We started paddling with our guests through Cayman's wetlands and the fascinating Bioluminescent Bay back in 2006.
PP: That's a good many years. How long have you been here on Cayman?
TW: Grand Cayman is my home. My parents came here for a Honeymoon in the early 80's and decided to stay. So I grew up here.
PP: What drives your passion to run the Bioluminescent Tours?
TW: When I first discovered the glowing water by throwing a coconut into the bay, I was shocked with wonder and amazement. As I got older and started working in the tourism industry, I instantly discovered my passion not only for teaching, but also to share my passion of nature with guests.
PP: So what is it that makes the bay glow?
TW: The bay has an abundance of microscopic organisms, which use Bioluminescence to avoid predators. When agitated, they glow brighter creating a breathtaking underwater display. On the tour your guide will be sure to give you more in- depth information about how things work.
PP: Yeah, that glow is just spectacular! It's unexpected! So what can island guests expect from the tour you provide; what will they see?
TW: I wouldn't use the word expect, as everyone's appreciation for this phenomenon is different. Everyone has his or her own unique way of enjoying this experience. Some guests explain their adventure as magical, while others say it is informative for all of those science buffs out there. What we do guarantee is an easygoing kayak tour that is safe, comfortable and of course fun while you play with the Bioluminescence.
PP: Listening to you, it's obvious that you love your job.
TW: You know, growing up here I never pictured myself sitting in a kayak being a tour guide. But I really enjoy being on the water and sharing knowledge of the bioluminescent bay ecology as well as the flora and fauna inhabiting the mangroves. So bringing guests into the bay each night does not feel like a job to me. I get to share my home and all of its wonders, but I am also able build an awareness of the island's fragile ecosystems. Specifically on this tour I explain how combustion engines and other chemicals are harmful to the organisms and how we can help save Bio Bay.
PP: So is that why you choose only to use kayaks to explore and experience the bay?
TW: Yes. Kayaks use clean fuel. Kayaks are also close to the water's edge allowing us to interact more closely with the glowing water without having to swim in it. Combustion Engines, diesel or gasoline both use ocean water to run in and around the engine to keep it cool, the water picks up grease and oil and then spits it back into the ocean. Also, the exhaust is under the water so all the fumes from the exhaust goes straight into the ocean. This is a cause for concern inside of the Bioluminescent Bay. Studies of boats with combustion engines going into the Bio Bays in Puerto Rico and Jamaica have shown to be detrimental. If tour boats are going to continue to go into the bay, they should care enough to be using electrical propelled engines. Skin lotions also harm the bioluminescence and we encourage our guests to not wear lotions and to use only DEET free bug sprays if they choose to spray. Please search and sign the petition online to "Save Bio Bay". "Travel By Paddle" is our slogan!
PP: Do you allow folks to get out of their Kayak and swim?
TW: We ask our guests not to swim as there are jellyfish all over the belly of the bay and we don't want to see anyone get hurt. Skin lotions and bug sprays harm the glowing organisms. We are trying to preserve the bay's existence so we ask our guests to be very cautious of the chemicals used on their bodies.
PP: So you got married recently. Congratulations! Would you introduce us to Lisha?
TW: Sure. Lisha is originally from Canada and she is awesome! She'll help you make your reservation a smooth process and will gladly assist you with any questions you have regarding the tour, places to eat and other things to do on island.
PP: Does Lisha share your same passion? And how has getting married changed Cayman Kayaks?
TW: Lisha shares the same passion of what God has created here on the earth for us to enjoy. She is creative, always coming up with great marketing ideas and fun things to incorporate into the tours. She is kind, courteous and has an attractive phone voice. Her experience in business administration and the systems she's put in place has made our process smooth and efficient now. Together we are able to share our passion with our guests.
PP: How long is the tour and where do guests meet you?
TW: We meet our guests at Rum Point. Cayman Kayaks can only be found at Rum Point at night when the tours are running. The duration of the tour is 1.5 hours. Rum Point is about 45 min.-1 hour drive from George Town – Seven Mile Beach. We will gladly help you out with arranging transportation for your tour.
PP: What are the best conditions to experience the Bay, or do you do the tour all month long?
TW: The Bioluminescence is always in the bay and you can see it whenever you go, however we have studied the cycles and chosen only the best nights of the month to go. "Quality Over Quantity" is what we go by. The dates we have scheduled the tours are on our website; www.caymankayaks.com or you may call or e-mail to find out when the tours are running.
PP: What kind of physical condition do you have to be in to do the tour?
TW: No experience is necessary for our tours. We do have a weight restriction of 250 lbs. per person to ensure a safe and enjoyable tour. Our easy to paddle, 2 person sit-on-top kayaks with back rests as well as an entertaining and informative tour guide will ensure a comfortable and relaxing guided tour.
PP: How long do you paddle to reach the bay?
TW: It is only a 10 minute relaxing paddle along the coast.
PP: What times do you do the Bioluminescent Tours?
TW: We offer tours at 7:20 pm and 9:00 pm. Both tours are the exact same quality tour, and yes it is just as dark at 7:20 pm as the later tour.
PP: Do you offer any other Eco tours?
TW: Yes, we certainly do! We offer Morning Mangrove tours at 9:30 am. You will not want to miss the opportunity to experience first-hand the importance of such a unique ecological resource and find out what Cayman looked like before humans set foot on its shores. We also offer evening Sunset Tours where you get to combine the best of a mini eco-tour with the best part of the day in the Caribbean—on the water! Paddle about the Cayman wetlands and enjoy a stunning Caribbean sunset. We also can arrange Private Tours!
PP: Lots of options. What is your favorite part of the tour?
TW: Listening to the laughter and amusement the bioluminescence brings to everyone.
Well folks, whether you go by day or by night, Cayman's Mangroves and Bioluminescence are well worth exploring – and a kayak is the ideal way to reach the more inaccessible -and therefore undisturbed – areas. Go with a well –informed guide and it's bound to be a real eye opener. Having experienced the tour ourselves, we heartily recommend it.