Last Night + Island Exploring + Snorkeling + Return to Cartegena 

Last night’s eco tour to see the bioluminescent lagoon was indescribable!! But I will try (and pull pictures from others swimming in bioluminescent lagoons)…we started by walking to the lagoon, just Derek and I with our guide, Jeffery. The resort’s employees for eco tours and excursions do not speak anything other than espanol for a reason, they want to respect and preserve the locals. It’s amazing what can be communicated with sign language.

We arrived at the lagoon and were instructed to get into the canoe. Jeffery then paddled us out into the middle of the lagoon. As we left the over hanging trees the sky was opened up before us with millions of stars. It was a breathtaking view. More star than back home in Iowa on a clear night. The lagoon was completely still and the only sounds were crickets now and then and the paddle moving through the water.

We stayed out in the center of the lagoon for a little while and then Jeffery paddled us to a dock where about 10 people were playing in the water. He instructed us to take off our cover ups and put towels down. We did so, then he motioned to the water. We jumped in and instantly around us light reflected and there were popping noises.

Every time I moved to hands, light would follow like sparklers being captured with a camera that had its aperture opened. Derek and I swam away from the others and were out under the millions of stars trending water while the light resonated from every movement.

Our guide had asked us of we knew how to swim but I did not realize that was because we would be treading water the entire time, luckily we are strong swimmers … I have my parents to thank for that as when I failed my first swimming lesson when I was younger my parents decided to buy a pool so we could all learn on our own, what a great decision!! I still get happy and excited when I smell plastic … it reminds me of that first warm day in the summer, spending all day putting up the pool, knowing that we could swim anytime from that day on until school started.

Treading water now, I could not help but laugh everytime I moved, such an indescribable experience!! Dereks chest l up as he moved as the hairs on his chest illuminated the water…giving him a glittered chest 🤣

Derek said we would look up later how this works as it seemed like magic – I wonder if there are places in the world that have lagoons like this and they are seen as holy and secret and have healthy powers? Even though I knew deep down that this was probably some kind of scientific process happening, I could not help but get pulled into the magic. The entire time there was also a popping sound, unsure if it was related but going to read more about the process now so I can share…

What we found on the “Leisure pro” website:

“One of the most spectacular sights on a night dive in the ocean is to witness the hundreds of tiny star-like bioluminescent phytoplankton scintillating like a starry sky as you move through the dark water. Wave your hands through the water in front of you, and be mesmerized by the tiny glowing specs of plankton. So what kind of plankton are these? And how do they emit that bluish glow that you see in the below picture of the plankton washed on shore? Certain creatures both on land and sea can produce light through chemical reactions taking place within their bodies known as Bioluminescence. The bioluminescence results from a light-producing chemical reaction also called chemiluminescence. Certain types of chemicals when mixed together produce energy which ‘excites’ other particles on vibration and generate light which causes the glow. The group of chemicals involved to make plankton glow are broadly termed luciferins and the light is produced by a series of oxidation reactions set off by a catalyst called luciferase. The bioluminescence in plankton is very high in several forms of Plankton and is a form of cold light or luminescence.

Plankton consists of any drifting organism (plant or animal) that inhabit the oceans and provide a vital source of food to larger aquatic organisms such as fish. A vast range of plankton, both zoo plankton and single-celled animal plankton are known to be bioluminescent. Bioluminescent phytoplankton occur in all the world’s oceans.The most common of these are Dinoflagellates which are tiny unicellular marine plankton also known as fire plants”

We could not find anything to describe the popping noise 🤷🏼‍♀️


We decided to end the magic when a speedboat of over 30 people showed up, so did the 10 or so people we were swimming with. We toweled off and got back in the canoe. As we paddled back under the stars, moon and beauty of this lagoon I could not help but think how much this scene reminded me of The Little Mermaid “Kiss the Girl”!! Just in that moment (honestly) hundreds of fish started jumping around us!!! It looked like something out if a fantasy! Stars, stillness, magical glowing with every movement and fish jumping around our canoe ❤

Still in awe of the entire experience, we headed back to our room, shower, changed and got dressed for dinner. The only dress I brought to the island had somehow broke during the commute, once realizing it was unfixable and upset with myself for not just bringing a Jersey dress, I threw on my swimsuit cover up and tried to pass it off as a dress 🤣 maybe I can find someone in Medellin to fix the dress. Dinner was beautiful with a crab crashing and me having to pick my feet up a couple times to not get pinched!


And then the cats 🤣🤣🤣🤣 there were three black cats and I will never forget how they looked when Derek’s seafood rice came out, they straight up moved towards him in a pack acting like they were lions stalking their pray-it was hilarious!!!

Speaking of entrees, Derek had the win with his amazingly seasoned Thai seafood rice. He was sweet and shared as mine was ok but left much to be desired.

My dessert made up for it, the brownie and ice-cream hit the spot before turning in for an early night, we had grand plans to get a good nights sleep and get up early to go exploring.

Our alarms went off at 6:30….but we decided to sleep in until 8:00 😬 but we did get up and go with our plan to play adventurers on the Island. We learned the island looks much bigger than it is AND this might be a math problem but going by water makes it seem SO far but really it’s a quick walk of you go inland and make an angle. After a couple wrong turns we found what we were looking for – an eco-lounge. We stayed for coffee and then headed back to go snorkeling.

Snorkeling was amazing, definitely a local feel as the guides did not speak English and we were along for the ride. They needed to switch boats due to the wind.

We finally got to the site and I was worried because there were no life jackets or floats- I’ve never snorkeled without them and I was concerned I would have to swim and tread water for an hour. Luckily, when we got in the water it was much different than last night and it was pretty easy to stay a float with flippers on and with a snorkel.

Adding my favorite fish I saw below, I’ve never seen anything like it! Loved the design; surprised to learn it’s a type of parrot fish!

The snorkeling was really cool, we saw lots of schools of colorful fish.

Nothing compares to The Great Barrier Reef but it was the most fun I’ve had snorkeling I think actually because I didn’t have a float so I didn’t get seasick and I could go down lower without a float.

After snorkeling Derek went to relax and I got a massage. I need to remind myself that I should not get beach side massages in other countries- they always look amazing and they are inexpensive ($35/hour) but they are awkward as you are basically naked in front of everyone on the beach. Oh well, it was an experience.

After the massage, it was time to leave, which honestly I was ready for, I’ve realized this trip a couple things, first I enjoy the energy of a city more and have a hard time relaxing on a beach. It’s beautiful and I love the beach/water but I only need a couple hours – my recharging comes from other people so it’s hard for me to be isolated.

I also get frustrated with myself for not knowing the language and I see myself through the locals eyes as being ignorant. I also get on myself for not looking more rugged and down to earth. In the future, I need to keep this in mind, no swimsuit cover ups, just jean shorts and a simple tank top…maybe even a Jersey dress. Something else that has been a challenge on this trip is being the only Americans or the only Americans who want to meet other people and talk. Derek had a good point, when you stay at nicer places or in this case, we are staying at what we know now is the fanciest hotel on the island …this tends to draw people with money, who are older and typically want to be left alone. Moving forward when we travel we should consider this….maybe go to a less expensive more rugged place to hopefully find conversation and more community. Hopefully in Medellin, since we are staying at a hostel, we can meet more people and have a bigger sense of community. These two things, needing to learn the language and staying at more rustic, local and inexpensive places in the future are key to having a larger sense of community (and maybe not feel like we are getting nickle and dimed)

After a very rough and wet boat ride back (lots of wind) we were back in Cartegena!! Derek in a poncho to help with the splash.

We got a cab and as we were getting in the taxi driver said to Derek “mojado” which we couldn’t place, he then said in English “no wallet” we looked confused and he laughed it off. When we arrived at the hotel we asked James at the front desk what it meant. He said there wasn’t an English word for it but it means wet/damp/windy! The taxi driver was asking Derek if he was wet before he sat down….he knew how windy and wet the boat drive probably was.

Once we arrived back in Cartagena we were super excited to see our room, which was at the same hotel was actually an apartment!!! This place is amazing!! James showed us to our massive room which had a washer and dryer!!! And our bags waiting for us. After feeling defeated because there was so much nickel and diming for much of our island getaway, it was great to be surprised with a win! (And not one we will pay for….well the upgrade at least).

We unpacked, did laundry and repacked! I tried so hard on this vacation to pack light and I even reduced what I was going to bring by half, which was a fourth total less than what I brought to Australia!! But I STILL think I brought too much. Another lesson, bring 3 solid outfits to wear during the day, 2 travel outfits, and 2 dresses, that’s it!! There is laundry everywhere and we got lucky where we will now be at two places with washer and dryer. Travel is all about learning and we (mostly me 🤣) are learning a lot this trip.

While we were waiting on laundry we ventured up to the roof for our last sunset before heading to Medellin. We were surprised to see a photo shoot happening, it looked like a hotel photo shot which honestly I think they need updated photos to truly show the beauty of this amazing hotel. We even heard a house and buggy (tourist trap) go by and say the hotel we are staying at is romantico! Around 8:00 we were ready for dinner and decided to go back to where we were the first night, El Baron. I was dreaming about the shrimp rolls all week and it was still the best place we had eaten and drank thus far! We were welcomed back by everyone and ordered some fancy drinks (which were out of this world) and I ordered DOS shrimp rolls 🤣🤣💃💃🥂🥂

Sebastian was not there 😥 we wanted to thank him for all the amazing recommendations- he was the highlight of Cartagena as Everywhere he recommended was such a great cultural and fun experience. I did see on Insta this morning he is in the running for one of the best bar tenders on Colombia!!!!

We closed out the night with some relaxing in our ice cold apartment, getting a good night’s sleep before our adventure to Medellin the next day!

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