There ain’t no summer like a teacher summer. And there ain’t no teacher summer like one that is spent marooned on an island in the Caribbean amidst a global pandemic. Where to even begin?
This summer has presented me with some experiences I would have never imagined I would partake in. Between getting stung by jellyfish in bioluminescent waters, suffering a turf burn while playing Gaelic Football, and accidentally becoming a “VIP” at one of the hotels on island, I barely had time to process!
Let’s start with the jellyfish fiasco. In the northern part of the island around Rum Point, there is a bioluminescent bay. Bioluminescence is the emission of light from the high concentrations of bioluminescent phytoplankton that live in the water. When you move the water (with your hands, feet, or a paddle), they activate and emit a beautiful blueish-green light. There are professional,, organized excursions in Grand Cayman that take people kayaking and snorkeling through these waters at night so as to experience the amazing glow-stick-hued water. But why pay for a tried and true, organized excursion when you can go on a DIY bioluminescent tour on a friend’s inflatable raft?
We set off after sunset with our two friends from Argentina; drinks, sandwiches, and our inflatable raft in tow. After driving around 40 minutes to Rum Point we unloaded and proceeded to douse ourselves in bug spray as the mosquitos had graduated to the level of “savage” as we like to say. With the raft inflated and refreshments on board, we flopped ourselves onto the raft sporting our sexy water shoes and headed out to sea. With only 3 paddles amongst the 4 of us, I found myself in the “princess role” sitting at the top of the raft looking out at my dark ocean “kingdom”.
Our DIY excursion started out beautifully with all crew members in high spirits. Our friends showed us how it was done and took the first turn snorkeling in the bioluminescent waters. Amazing, I thought. Can’t wait! Once they had climbed back into the “boat,” it came time for Bryan and I to take the plunge into the night sea.
Showing no fear, feeling on top of the world, I curpluncked myself into the water and as soon as I did, my feet abruptly hit the ocean floor. What! It’s so shallow! I had been warned about the jellyfish that lurk near the ocean bottom in this bay so I immediately bounced up, lifting my feet to tread water. Nope…too late. Ahhh! I screamed out. The jellyfish had gotten me. I felt a shooting pain up my leg and immediately propelled myself forward wanting to swim in the other direction as quickly as possible. I was afraid I would encounter more of them in my path.
I yelled for Bryan a few times, trying to get his attention, thinking maybe it had happened to him too. Bryan was unreachable, he had his head in the water as happy as a clam and totally oblivious to my sudden distress. I swam to the raft and let our friends know I was coming back on board. Hurling myself onto the raft, I exhaled and shivered at the breeze –our friends deeply concerned, me deeply embarrassed, and Bryan deeply enthralled by the bioluminescence without a clue that I had left the water (at least one of us had fun in there). Finally, Bryan got light of the situation and boarded our “vessel.” He had mistaken my thrashing movements for me having so much fun with the bioluminescence that I wanted to create as much light as possible. Ay-yay-yay.
After my traumatic run-in with the jellyfish, I resumed my princess duties of sitting at the front of the raft, nursing my “wound” (a few angry red slashes on my calf) and waving at the village people. (Just kidding, we were the only crazy people in the bay that evening — there was no one to wave to.) There we were, in the middle of a dark bay, wet from snorkeling in the jellyfish infested waters and hungry for our gourmet sandwiches. We began eating them there on the raft when suddenly we realized we were being blown away out to open water. The wind, while subtle, was powerful and if we didn’t act quickly, we would be well on our way to Cuba.
The three amigos jumped into action with the paddles (the princess poised at the front of the boat) and booked it back to shore. An easy task it was not…at least I don’t think. I did not partake in the paddling. After a hard fought effort, the raft bottomed out on the sandy shore and the now disheveled members of the DIY bioluminescent excursion deboarded onto solid land.
Thankful to be alive we celebrated our return to the shore with more sandwiches, a round of sparkling seltzer (for badasses only), and some more bug spray. We made ourselves at home on someone’s dock and parked our butts there to drink in the starry night sky and glassy black water…a peaceful end to an exciting night!
In reflecting on this experience, here is what I will tell you…if reliability and safety are your top concerns, you should probably pay the money for the organized bioluminescent tour. BUT, if you want a kickass story and some hilarious memories, find someone with an inflatable boat and have yourself an adventure! Major thanks and shoutout to our friends Pablo and Lu for an unforgettable night!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more stories from this Summer 2020!