Passenger Pick of the Month
While the most famous outdoor adventures in Cayman may be scuba diving and the stingrays, one additional "must do" is the Bioluminescence Tour. After dark, a boat ride or kayak from Rum Point treats you to a natural underwater light show, 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 Lisha Watling.
PP: How long has Bio Bay been known?
LW: Locals have seen bioluminescence all the way across the North Sound in the past, however Bio Bay wasn’t discovered until the 1960’s when Cayman Kai and Rum Point was developed. We started paddling with our guests through Cayman's fascinating Bioluminescent Bay back in 2006.
PP: That's a good many years. How long have you been here in Cayman?
LW: Grand Cayman is my second home now. I have been on Island for 5 years and been married for 3 years to Tom Watling.
PP: How did you get involved with Cayman Kayaks?
LW: I was looking to come to Cayman to get away from the Canadian cold for a few months of work. Before making my final decision, I was flown down to explore the Island. The Bioluminescent Bay tour with Cayman Kayaks was a “Must Do” activity according to the locals. The Guest relations team took me out to do the tour while I was down on Island for the first time. I chose to return and take the job. I met the owner of Cayman Kayaks through some mutual friends and we fell in love. We were up on a helicopter tour with pilot Jerome Begot over Stingray city at Sunset before landing at a local restaurant for a romantic meal. Jerome with his thick French accent said,“…love is so special and when you find someone you want to love you don’t want to be without them…” he told us how much he loved his wife and loved that he got to work with her every day. Tom and I got married soon after the helicopter experience and have worked and played hard together ever since.
PP: So what is bioluminescence?
LW: Bioluminescence is defined as “Life Emitting Light.” Bioluminescence is a common occurrence, however, finding an area with high concentrations on a regular basis is something not to be missed. On land we see bioluminescence in fireflies, glowworms and occasionally glowing fungi. However, in the ocean bioluminescence is much more common but extremely rare to be seen in such high concentrations. Tiny microorganisms called ‘Pyrodinium Bahamanse’ are responsible for this captivating display. When at rest, they appear to sparkle, but when disturbed they release more light to be seen.
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?
LW: 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 fun and informative. What we do guarantee is an easygoing, educated, well-informed tour guide that is safe, comfortable to be with and of course fun while you play with the Bioluminescence.
PP: Listening to you, it's obvious that you love your job.
LW: You know, growing up in Canada I never pictured myself in the Cayman Islands, but I love the natural world wherever I travel. Its warm here in Cayman and I am able to help build an awareness of the island's fragile ecosystems.
PP: Tell us more about your New Electric Catamaran.
LW: Over the years we have had morepeopleinterested in the bioluminescent tour, but notinterested in getting into a kayak. This catamaran we have had custom built by Compass Marine here on Island helps us bridge the gap. The capability to offer a tour that is ecologically sound with the bioluminescence makes our environmentally friendly guests pleased. The electric catamaran also allows having this tour be available to the youngest, the oldest and the disabled.
PP: Do you allow folks to swim?
LW: We have two paddleboards on the electric catamaran tour so that some guests can get closer to the waters edge to interact with the bioluminescence. We ask our guests not to swim though. There are jellyfish, we don't want to see anyone get hurt. Skin lotions and bug sprays harm the glowing organisms. We are trying to preserve this bay's existence so we ask our guests to be very cautious of the chemicals used on their bodies.
PP: So how can we help as guests to preserve the bay?
LW: If other boat operators are going to go into the bio bay, they are encouraged to use electrical powered motors in and around the bay. We encourage our guests to shower or take a swim before the tour to the bay to cut lotions and sprays off their skin. Please go online and sign the petition to "Save Bio Bay".
PP: How long is the tour and where do guests meet you?
LW: We meet our guests at Rum Point Beach Club. 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 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?
LW: We have chosen only the best nights of the month to go. 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?
LW: No experience is necessary forour tours. We do have a weight restriction of 250 lbs.per person on the kayak tour to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. By boat our weight limit is 275 lbs and nothing but the signing the waiver must be done before boarding the ship. An entertaining and informative tour guide will ensure a comfortable and relaxing guided tour by kayak or boat.
PP: When kayaking how long do you paddle to reach the bay?
LW: About 10 minutes down a sheltered shallow coastline.
PP: What times do you do the Bioluminescent Tours?
LW: We offer tours at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm for the kayaking tour. Both tours are the exact same quality tour, and yes it is just as dark at 7:00 pm as the later tour. The boat tour time is currently 8:00pm, but as it becomes more popular the time may be adjusted.
PP: Do you offer any other tours?
LW: Yes, we certainly do! We offer Morning Mangrove tours at 9:30 am. 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 Birthday Parties, Corporate Team Building, and Private Tours!
PP: Lots of options. What is your favorite part of the tour?
LW: Listening to the laughter and amusement the bioluminescence brings to everyone.
Well folks, whether you go by dayor by night, Cayman's Mangroves and Bioluminescence are well worth exploring. 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.