That magic of glowing waves… It almost seems like an optical illusion. The surreal phosphorescent world of Avatar is actually not that far from reality. Bioluminescent plankton can create similarly astonishing scenes. Dubbed as ‘Tears of the Ocean’ or ‘Sea of Stars’, the neon-glowing waves can be seen around the world, exclusively by night. And the fantastic thing is that you can experience the magic on your own skin!

Glowing plankton can also be experienced in Maldives

WHAT IS THE BIOLUMINESCENT PLANKTON

The luminous sea is caused by a chemical reaction of marine plankton (also called fireflies), as a result of which the microorganism emits radiant light. As this reaction is used to evade predators and acts as a defence mechanism, it only occurs when the plankton is being stressed.

Therefore, in very calm waters it is only visible when manually triggered, e.g. by swimming, moving and swirling the water, whereas at the open ocean beaches the neon-blue sparkles can be seen as the waves break on the shores.

Marine plankton emits neon-blue light when being stressed, Hong Kong

WHERE TO FIND THE ‘BLUE BEACHES’ AND WHAT TO DO

Although the bioluminescent plankton lives in all world`s oceans, the phenomenon is best seen in calm, warm waters at cloudy nights. Swimmers should keep moving as much as they can (or even dance and paint with the light) to surround themselves with a perfect ‘Avatar World’.

Scuba divers and snorkelers will enjoy the glittering underwater tornado at its best – in absolute dark. Note that the plankton bites and it is extremely difficult to capture it with a camera.

Jervis Bay, Australia

1.AUSTRALIA

Glowing plankton can be seen at many beaches throughout Australia. Jervis Bay is one of them, and if you stay at one of the local campsites on a cloudy night, you can enjoy the water fireworks from your beach chair.

Similarly, the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria is an area known for sparkling midnight waters but if you like to have a swim in the ‘sea of stars’ you will need to travel in the summer months (Dec-Feb).

Tasmania is also home to bioluminescent plankton, and especially the fans of fishing will enjoy the sea light show in the Preservation Bay.

Preservation Bay, Tasmania

2.MALDIVES

Between July and December, the islands of Maldives glow in the dark and it might well be the most beautiful natural light show display on Earth.  Although it is unpredictable and seen only on moonless nights the best chances to take a dip in the neon-blue sparkles are in Vaadhoo and Mudhdhoo Islands. Shallow seas, pleasant temperature, holiday flair and the luxurious seclusion make the show much more enjoyable!

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives

3.KOH RONG ISLANDS

The best-kept secret of Cambodia is out – the marvellous Koh Rong Islands have become known as a road-free paradise and the ultimate hideaway. Yet, not many know that the islands are surrounded by the glowing plankton. Calm water is a perfect hideaway for the blue fireflies, and to start glowing, they have to be manually triggered.

The shallows of Saracen Bay (Koh Rong Sanloem) are ideal for a ‘midnight dance’ in the sea, and one will need to move around a little to get the magic out! Long and Lonely Beaches (Koh Rong) are also fabulous spots where to enjoy the spectacle, particularly when night snorkelling. Koh Rong is one of the best places in the world where to swim in fluorescent seas completely for free.

Koh Rong, Long Beach

4.THAILAND

The whole Krabi area boasts bioluminescent algae and various tours can be booked to encounter the phenomena in the surrounding islands. One can try midnight swim, night snorkelling, plankton sunset tours and other tour packages.

The most famous is perhaps the Maya Bay known from the movie ‘The Beach’ on the Phi Phi Island. It is a great all-year-round experience, but you will need to pay for it.

Maya Bay, Phi Phi Island

5.PUERTO RICO

In 2008, The Guinness Book of World Records officially declared the location where the brightest glowing plankton on the planet can be seen – it is Puerto Rico. Namely, Isla de Vieques is a place where to ‘go with the glow’, and the best way is on a kayak.

Every paddle and splash will agitate the fireflies and result in water turning electric neon-blue,  which almost looks like a special effect. The phosphorescent waves are the major attraction in the Mosquito Bay, and there are numerous tour operators offering various ‘bioluminescent packages’ – the best time is during a new moon night.

Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico

6.JAPAN

Looking like The Milky Way in water, Japan`s Toyama Bay is visited by thousands of blue magic enthusiasts each year. Each midnight, the aluminising shores of Toyama fill with photographers and tourist boats between March and May so they can observe and capture the surreal images.

Travellers who are interested in learning all about the sparkling algae should also pay a visit to the Hotaruika Plankton Museum. Other very cool bioluminescent algae location is Okayama.

Neon-blue plankton waterfalls in Okayama 

7.MATSU ARCHIPELAGO

Taiwan is another destination where to dip in the blue tears of the sea. The glittering tornado can be encountered in the Matsu Islands between May and August.

The archipelago is a popular tourist destination and boasts natural attractions, among which the glowing plankton is the favourite. Although rocky the shores of Nangan and Beigan are fringed with a blue glow, and there are several walking tracks and viewing platforms that allow the visitors to get closer to the spectacle by night at no charge.

Beigan Island, Taiwan

8.FLORIDA

Paddling through the bioluminescent waters of Florida is one of the most popular tourist activities, and it is not a secret that here you can find one of the world`s most accessible bioluminescent waters.

There is plenty of night sea kayak tours to the Indian River Lagoon (Cocoa Beach) where you can enjoy the blue water fireworks from above, but there is no need to spend a cent if one doesn`t like to.

Navarre Beach is a beautiful, clean and not very crowded place where the ‘liquid version of the Aurora Borealis’ occasionally lights up in neon blue in the summertime (May-Sep). Otherwise, Cortez Beach is a good spot for a midnight summer swim in a sparkly ocean, too.

Indian River Lagoon, Florida

9.CALIFORNIA

Similarly to Florida, also California provides fantastic seasonal ‘sea of stars’Summer often brings the bioluminescent plankton close to the shores of San Diego. This is the time of a year when the tides in the Mission Bay, La Jolla Cove and Torrey Pines Beach glow blue at night, and everybody is free to feel it, swim in it and try to paint with the sparkly light; the darker the night sky, the more spectacular the aquatic show!

La Jolla Cove,  California

10.JAMAICA & CAYMAN ISLANDS

The famous ‘glistering waters’ of Jamaica can be found in Falmouth, and it is a must-do when on the island. Sea kayaking through the electric waters of the Luminous Lagoon while listening to Bob Marley tunes is a seriously good combo!

Jamaica and the nearby Cayman Islands both offer some of the brightest phosphorescent seas on earth – it is your choice which one do you pick.

Sea kayaking is the best way to enjoy the glittering plankton in the Caribbean

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Eva Bodova

By Eva Bodova

Sunday 25 November 2018

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