A small group of LCT Leadership Summit attendees stood in a severely mutated horseshoe around a man whose features were muffled by the night but who most likely wore tan, leathery skin.
He was the tour guide, and he explained the basics of kayak rowing: grab the paddle with your arms roughly shoulder length apart, don't squeeze the paddle, wiggle your fingers to let the blood flow and delay fatigue, make sure the letters on the blades are facing you, don't dip them in all the way, pretend you're taking a nice creamy scoop off the top of some ice cream, yeah, just like that.
Moonlight pooled in his glasses, his eyes looked cartoonish.
People laughed at some jokes the guide told, laughed at the silence in between, laughed because their nerves were charged ticklish. They had come out for a tour of bioluminescent marine life found in Puerto Rico's Laguna Grande bay.
After Kayak 101, the group zip-clicked to their bodies life-vests equipped with one glowing purple ring around a strap in the back to serve as a visual guide for the kayakers behind. The guide would wear a red light and lead the way, off the coast into the sea, where a solid ten minutes went by as kayakers attempted to summon the wizardry required to get their kayaks to line up single-file and go the right direction.
Eventually the group met the entrance of a mangrove channel lit with a blackness darker than limo tint and more humid than an armpit. As people turned into shapes turned into shadows turned into glowing purple circles, the group navigated along the snaking channel in which must have lived a portal to another world, because the deeper and darker it got, the more ghostly the glow rings appeared, the more readily the water showed signs of luminous agitation, glowing as the paddles scooped the cream. It was as if a new world had appeared in place of the one left behind at the El Conquistador, a world more like the great planet Pandora in the movie Avatar.
The channel emptied out into a large bay that housed the bulk of the bioluminescence. Fish looked like snakes as they left glowing winding trails in the water behind them. Hands dunked below the surface could paint a neon lemon-lime stroke, fingers becoming brushes, the water a self-cleaning canvas.
After some history about the bay and science behind the glow, the tour guide instructed us to form in a horseshoe and charge in one direction. This time there was harmony among the group, each kayak heading gracefully in the right direction at the right speed. An electric vibe linked the kayakers in the rush, it felt vaguely ancient, pleasantly aggressive. The goal was to scare fish into jumping out of the water. It was dark, but a few could be seen.
One gentleman got smacked in the head by a frightened fish, and then the group turned back into a single-file organism and paddled back toward the mangrove channel. It passed through the portal once again, transforming into clumsy human beings who bumped into the kayaks in front of them or crashed into the trees along the edges. Through the portal to a world that was just as real as before, but not quite the same.
-- Michael Campos, LCT associate editor
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