Night Kayak on Lough Hyne

Driving to Lough Hyne as the sun was setting

Lough Hyne is unique. A sea-water lake with a range of rare plants and animals, it was designated as Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve back in 1981. I had visited the area a number of times before but was returning this time on a warm August evening hoping to see the famed bioluminescence often found in the waters here.

We drove down as the sun was slowly slipping behind the hills ahead of us and arrived at Lough Hyne at dusk. The air was mild and still as a small group of us unloaded kayaks and a paddle board. The others were in wetsuits but I wore swimming shorts and a padded jacket beneath my life jacket. We also wore hats and head torches.

As we climbed into the kayaks the last light was fading into memory. There were other kayaks out but we only heard the rumour of their paddles or glimpsed a faint light in the distance. A few people partied on the shore as we struck out onto the silent lake. There is something so calming about the splash of an oar in the water and the gentle propulsion of a small boat.

Tantalising glimmers of light appeared here and there as we slowly paddled close to the rocky shoreline. Gradually the sky darkened and as we passed through the shadows the bioluminescence began to appear as though sprinkled like fairy dust. A splash of the paddle produced shimmers of tiny lights, specks of phytoplankton like stars flashing through a distant cosmos. We edged our way along, enraptured and excited. The further into the darkness we went the more the waters teemed with miniature lights.

We made slow progress along the side of the lake, marvelling at the stars above and the lights below. At one point we gathered to see the lights shining beneath the surface undisturbed, caught up in the seaweed. It was as though someone had turned on a string of Christmas tree lights underwater. If you put your hand in and pulled it out small spots of bioluminescence remained on the palm or on the fingers. We took our time heading back to Kelly’s pier savouring the quiet, peaceful moments amongst the wonders of nature.

Back ashore we loaded the kayaks back onto the roof racks and briefly returned to the water for a swim. It was 11pm now and the chatter around the lake had stilled. The water was black and warm but as I pushed off mini flashes of light still emanated from my every movement. We dried and changed before enjoying a small picnic- hummus, tortilla chips, salad and a couple of cans of cider. The drive back home was tranquil, no other cars on the road and a comfortable silence as we thought about the night we’d had.

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