Jammin in Jamaica – Luminous Lagoon

Luminous Lagoon, a glowing body of water in Jamaica’s Montego Bay area, is a spectacular natural wonder. The lagoon derives its radiance from a phenomenon known as bioluminescence, meaning the light is generated from living organisms such as marine creatures, fungi, or microorganisms. With the help of Ingrid, the tour planner at our Riu Reggae resort, TW and I arranged our visit to the legendary lagoon. After sunset, a private driver whisked us away to a dock about 30 minutes from the resort, where a boat was awaiting us.

We joined a group of other tourists on the boat…and then we were off! The lights of the city grew smaller and fainter behind us as the boat blazed a trail of froth through the dark waters. If you squinted, you could almost see the faint glow surrounding the foam. The guide explained that the radiance was activated by motion; the waters had to be disturbed. But we needed to speed farther away from the light pollution of the land before the real show could begin.

Finally, the boat sputtered and slowed toward the center of the lagoon. The darkness pressed in upon us. The black waters glinted and swelled, but did we really see a glow, or was it a trick of the eyes? The guide encouraged us to strip down to our swimsuits and jump in.

One by one, tourists around us plunged into the lagoon. As they treaded water, the area around them glimmered bright blue. It was like an enchanted sea…or, at least, a swimming pool with backlights.

Soon, I worked up the courage to jump in. The water was not as cold as I had feared; in fact, it was rather tepid. It felt soft, dulled…and it tasted salty. After dog-paddling with a life jacket, I discovered the lagoon was shallow. I discarded the life jacket. My feet touched down upon the marshy floor…but if I stood too long in the same spot, the ground seemed to suck my feet under little by little, like patient quicksand. Or would that be considered slowsand?

I swam, marveling at the luminescence that trailed the motion of my arms and legs. It was like a call and response…the lagoon was a living thing, responding to my call.

I shouted for TW to join me, but she was looking down from the boat with uncertainty in her eyes. She had a fear of drowning. And the waters looked murky and dangerous from her vantage point. My multiple demonstrations of standing straight up in the lagoon, coupled with the guide’s words of motivation, finally spurred TW to descend into the darkness. Which then turned into light.

And she loved it!

We swam around the hull of the boat as the guide snapped photographs of us. It felt surreal, wading through the middle of a lagoon in a foreign country at night…making the waters glimmer with our every touch, like we were King Midas…



When the boat had transported us back to the dock, our driver eagerly awaited us. He capped off this enchanting experience by warning us that if we had swallowed too much lagoon water, our pee would glow. I can neither confirm nor deny this statement.

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