Even if you don’t like glitter, a glittery, glowing sea is a beautiful sight to behold. Bioluminescence is the process of chemical reactions in certain organisms that cause them to emit light. In the sea, the main creatures that give off this glow are dinoflagellates, a type of plankton. There are a few places around the world where the conditions are just right and the concentration of these creatures is so high that the water actually seems to sparkle at night. You can swim through these waters, kayak, snorkel, and even dive, for a chance to be surrounded by shimmering water. Here are some of the best places around the world to see bioluminescent in action:
Bioluminescent Bay, Fajardo, Puerto Rico and Mosquito Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico
These bays are perfect places for dinoflagellates because when the tide goes in, the water is trapped in the bay, meaning there is a very high concentration of these organisms in a small bit of water, which equals serious sparkle. The best time to see these organisms is during the new moon phase. In both bays, companies offer small, guided kayak tours, taking you through mangrove groves to enter the bay. The dinoflagellates emit a blue-green light when agitated, so once you enter the bay, you will be paddling through glittering water.
Ton Sai, Krabi, Thailand and Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
The film The Beach did not lie to us. The Andaman Sea around Thailand’s west coast is home to phytoplankton that glow all year long. The best way to see the water sparkle is to go on a boat tour. You will spend the day island hopping and snorkeling, be fed dinner on the beach, then at night the boat will take you to a location with a high concentration of phytoplankton, turn off all their lights, and let you swim or snorkel and marvel at the water as it glows.
Reethi Beach, Maldives
For some reason, the dinoflagellates are concentrated near the shore here, allowing you to see the glitter just by walking along the shore. The Maldives are known to have some of the most dinoflagellates in the world, so this is one of the absolute best places to see bioluminescence in action.
San Juan Island, Washington, USA
San Juan Island is located off the coast of Washington state, where there are many coves dotted around the island. These coves make for ideal bioluminescence viewing because strong currents drive the dinoflagellates into the coves. The cove walls provide shelter from winds, allowing you to really see the plankton when you agitate the water. Here you can take guided tours into the coves, or find a friend who is familiar with the waters and rent some kayaks.
In addition to San Juan Island, there are lots of other locations around the USA, including Cortex, Florida and Torrey Pines Beach, San Diego.
Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia
The Gippsland Lakes are a bit of a different place to see bioluminescence, being lakes instead of the ocean. In 2006 bush fires in the area led to an outbreak of algae in these lakes, which eventually developed into an algae bloom where dinoflagellates could live well. Again, this means there is a very high number of these creatures in a smallish body of water, so you can see a lot of sparkle in the water. There are no tours to take you to these lakes, but you can easily drive yourself there and explore.
Bioluminescence is one of the sea’s most beautiful phenomenons. There are plenty of places around the water to see it in action, but this is a list of some of the best viewing sights around the world. The chance to swim, kayak, or dive through sparkling waters should not be missed!