Mexico

PUERTO ESCONDIDO: SWIMMING IN PHOSPHORESCENCE

My gumption had abandoned me. Yep. Just as I was about to jump into a dark, murky swamp. As I suffer from a girly fear of all things unseen lurking beneath the surface, I cannot say the timing was great. But no one wants to back out, especially when there is a six year old behind you eager to dive on in. 

    We are on Laguna de Manialtepec, located on the pacific coast of Mexico, twenty minutes drive from Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca. During the rainy season (between May and November), when the lagoon is connected to the ocean, plankton utilize it as a breeding ground as the combination of fresh water, sea water and spring water provide pockets of hot and cold which are optimum conditions. When the plankton are aggravated, enzymes that become luminescent are triggered as a defense mechanism. Humans are not deterred however, as rather than looking scary and sending a warning message, it makes the water look like fluorescent glitter which I gotta say is really really pretty. And sparkly. 

    As I peered over the side of the boat, I discovered that I could now see what was residing beneath. The phosphorescence highlighted all the fish swimming around, reminding me of a trance warehouse party, but instead of glowsticks it was fluro fishies. It was then that I decided I would be ok. See, If there was a crocodile in the lagoon (I had been assured there wasn't, but the name comes from Nahuatl "manine" (lizard) and "tepetl" (place) so I wasn't convinced) I would see it coming. Can you imagine if the last thing you saw was a fluro croc coming towards you? It wouldn't be a fun way to go, but definitely unique. Of course my last word would be "crikey" as apparently that is what us Aussies say all the time. It would be hilarious. So I jumped in (thankfully just before the six year old) and to my horror I could touch the bottom. 

    My natural reflex was to start kicking, which inadvertently aggravated the plankton. Multiply this effect by eight (the number of tourists on the boat) and you have a fluorescent jacuzzi. To avoid touching the bottom again, I took refuge near under the ladder of the small fishing boat for about five minutes and thought, "wow, really pretty, but I'm done now", and started to emerge. But as I pulled myself out, the glittery water cascading over me inspired a change of heart. I was no longer a traveler looking for kicks, I was "Natasha - The Resplendent Swamp Nymph". So I immersed myself again, pulled myself out, and repeated: all the while thinking, "Lady in a swamp. Voila, resplendent swamp nymph". 

    When they told us we had five more minutes, I was prepared to get out, which left me for a moment alone on the boat. I attempted to take some photos, but could not capture the sparking in a manner that would do it justice. Instead I squeezed my bikini top to get the water out, but as it was filled with irate plankton, it was twinkling. So I started humming Jingle Bells in a low voice while I squeezed the what seemed never-ending supply of twinkles out. Because that is what us nymphs do: we sing. 

    These elevated feelings remained with me for the twenty minute boat ride back, and then the fifteen minute car ride, but when I got back to my room and saw my straggly reflection I thought, "Voila, traveler who just got her kicks".