Belizing Adventures

Amazing Bioluminescent Lagoon and Nighttime River Safari from Hopkins Belize

By Angela Wu 4/23/2019 3 minutes

Just when I thought magic didn’t exist! Well, not “magic” per se, but just the beauty of nature. Who would have thought that little Belize would be home to so much natural beauty and wonders – truly a gem! From the jaw dropping landscapes to the marvelous marine reserves, Belize just stepped up its game with a bioluminescent lagoon. Yes, a BIOLUMINESCENT lagoon! Just like the glowing sea in Australia, there’s a mini, tamer version in Belize called Anderson Lagoon.

This was the first time seeing this natural marvel in Belize – and the only comparison I could make was with an aurora. As soon as I dipped my hand into the lagoon, a neon blue shadow appeared where my hand disturbed the water…it was simply beautiful!

Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize

Our nocturnal bioluminescent river tour started promptly at 5:30 PM with us being picked up at Nuuk Che’il Cottages in Maya Center Village by Get to Know Belize Adventures. The drive took us about 30 minutes. We arrived at River House Lodge on the north bank of Sittee River near Hopkins Village where we met the caretakers of the lodge and our guide for the evening, Clifford.

Clifford briefly introduced himself before ushering us to the speedboat parked on the small dock. We climbed in one by one and headed southeast to Anderson Lagoon.

By this time, it was already dawn. A little skylight was prominent but soon enough darkness fell and we were soon depending on the light of a flash to spot creatures hiding in the trees and bushes of the riparian forest.

Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize

The boat ride took us about 30-40 minutes to get to the lagoon. The boat slowly flowed down the Sittee River, giving Clifford a chance to spot interesting animals and plants in the forest. We saw iguanas resting on branches, kinkajous eating mangoes in treetops, and even crocodiles floating by the water banks.

Soon enough, we arrived at the entrance of a narrow canal featuring massive black mangroves on both sides. Before we entered, Clifford stopped the engine in order to hear if there were other boats passing through, just to ensure we wouldn’t collide with another boat in the very narrow canal.

After riding through the canal, we made it to Anderson Lagoon. Night had already fallen on us; the sky was littered with stars. Mesmerized by the stars, I hadn't noticed what breathtaking wonder was under our boat.

Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize

Suddenly I heard Clifford’s voice introducing the Anderson Lagoon to us. The Anderson Lagoon is located off the Sittee River, near Hopkins Village. The river is fueled by saltwater that flushes from the Caribbean Sea and fresh water that trickles in from the Maya Mountains.

The saltwater and freshwater in the lagoon, which is filled by the Sittee River through a small canal, is home to a dense concentration of dinoflagellates that glow as it gets dark, but will brighten considerably when agitated, such as in the wake of a boat.

To explain a little of the science behind bioluminescence, it is the production of light within a living organism as the result of a chemical reaction. The chemicals that are involved in producing the neon blue bioluminescent glow are luciferin and luciferase or photoprotein.

Dinoflagellates are single-celled organisms that are capable of the chemical reaction and generates the marvelous neon glow.

As fishes and other water creatures swim and dip through the water, glowing ripples are created. Clifford explained that this marvelous event only happens at specific times of the year, usually during Belize’s dry season and avoiding full moon nights.

By this time, there wasn’t anything else to do than to take a dip in the water. Luis, being the daredevil of our team, took off his shoes and was ready to make a splash.

Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize

Keep in mind, it was pitch black! The only light that we had were from the stars and Clifford’s flashlight. That didn’t stopped Luis. He made a cannonball, splashing all of us with the warm lagoon water.

To his surprise, the lagoon was saltier than he had anticipated. Luis swam around the boat for a couple of minutes before climbing back up. While he was swimming, the water that was glowing neon blue! “Beautiful” is an understatement for what we saw.

There’s only so much I can put into words to describe the fascination and awe that we had at Anderson Lagoon. The only way to truly appreciate this is to experience the tour yourself.

Book this nocturnal bioluminescence river tour with Get to Know Belize Adventures today if you want to experience this magical tour. This tour will be available until the end of May, so if you’re planning to visit Belize soon or you're already in Belize, then this is a must-do activity in Belize!

Much gratitude to Josephine from Get to Know Belize Adventures for this spectacular experience! We had such an amazing time on the night safari tour of the Sittee River and, of course, the breathtaking bioluminescence lagoon tour.

Book A Bioluminescence Tour

Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize

Where is Anderson Lagoon and Sittee River?

Anderson Lagoon and Sittee River is located in the Stann Creek District of Belize. Traveling from Hopkins Village, Anderson Lagoon is a 30-40-minute boat ride down the Sittee River. It is closes to Sittee River Village.

How to get to Hopkins?

Getting to Hopkins would require you to travel by land. There are several modes of ground transportation to Hopkins Village such as personal/private vehicle, bus or a shuttle service. For travelers staying in Hopkins, Get to Know Belize Adventures offers pickups from any location in Hopkins.

Book A Shuttle To Hopkins

What is the cost of this nocturnal bioluminescence river tour?

This nocturnal bioluminescence river tour with Get to Know Belize Adventures costs $40 USD per person. For a private tour, the cost of this tour is $75 USD per person.

What to bring/wear for this nocturnal bioluminescence river tour?

Some items that are recommended to take for this bioluminescence tour would be water, a flashlight, a low light camera, a towel, and a change of clothes if you’re going to swim in the lagoon. The night will be a bit chilly so you can wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.

When is the best time to go on a nocturnal bioluminescence river tour?

The best time to go on a bioluminescence tour in Belize would be during the dry season, avoiding full moon nights. Belize’s dry season is between the months of December to April.

Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
Nocturnal Bioluminescence Tour Belize
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Departs From:
Top Hopkins Area Tour *seasonal tour* (Mid December to May) Head out on the 5-minute boat ride to Anderson Lagoon on the Sittee River. The night sky is UNBELIEVABLE. ... more

Thick with stars all the way down to the tree line. Using high powered flashlights to spot the eyeshine of crocodiles, kinkajou, coatimundi, raccoons, birds, resting iguanas, and much more!

Go through the tiny cut to the lagoon and you are surrounded by the giant mangroves and then shoot out into the lagoon which boasts bioluminescent plankton that lights up with any disturbance in the water.

It’s pitch black, the guide’s flashlight beam cutting across the lagoon is the only light and then he turns it off, the boat picks up speed and the wake glows to blue light. As the boat picks up more speed, the tiny algae, which settle in the lagoon during the dry season, get agitated and glow. It’s absolutely unbelievable.

Our guide will stop the boat and you just stare into the water. Schools of fish or any marine life swimming through the lagoon create a phosphorescent trail which can look like a glowing cloud in the water. Hundreds of jellyfish pulsating in the water. They feed on the algae – it’s all along their edges and inside them.

Just moving your hand around in the water is miraculous. You leave aqua blue glowing blue bubbles.

A swim in these waters is almost irresistible so we recommend you wear your swimwear and bring along a towel.

Angela Wu

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