Wednesday, December 19, 2018 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

Best Places in the World to See Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence creates a magical natural lightshow as thousands of living creatures gather and emit their own radiance. Neon bays, glowing caves, or brightly blinking mountains, these are the best places to see and experience bioluminescence.

Whenever a living organism produces and emits light it is called bioluminescence. Most of the time, bioluminescence occurs in marine vertebrates and invertebrates as well as fungi, certain microorganisms, and fireflies. There is a whole chemical reaction that takes place when bioluminescence occurs and it gets complicated. Let’s just say that it includes luciferin, luciferase, and aequorin.

Here are the 10 best places in the world to see bioluminescence:
1    Mudhdhoo Island in the Maldives

The glow that is found on this island is different than the glow that is normally emitted around the world. The organisms that glow here cause the ocean to look like one big bright glowing spot instead of individual sections. The light lasts longer on Mudhdhoo Island and it is possible for people to see the light as they are walking along the shoreline.
Mudhdhoo Island In The Maldives
2    Mosquito Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico

The best way for a person to experience the glow in Mosquito Bay is to go on a kayaking tour. The dinoflagellates found in these warm waters emit bright blue light when shaken or otherwise disturbed. Puerto Rico actually has three bioluminescent bays, but Mosquito Bay has been names the World’s Brightest by Guinness Book of World Records. The best time to go on a tour or attempt to see the glowing lights on the bay is when there is a new moon.
Mosquito Bay In Vieques, Puerto Rico
3    The Blue Grotto in Malta, Filfa

The Blue Grotto is one of the most spectacular sights in the entire world and was a filming location for the movie Troy. It is an oceanic cave that has tall cliffs surrounding it. To be accurate, the Blue Grotto isn’t really an example of bioluminescence, but it’s super cool, so we decided to include it. It’s distinctive blue appearance is caused by sunlight shining through its meter-wide entrance and through the seawater. Objects held under the water appear silver and your hand will appear to glow due to the difference in light refraction. The only way that a person can reach the Blue Grotto is by hiring a specially licensed boat. You can only go at low tide on a calm sea and, even then, have to lay down flat in the small boat to be able to enter.
The Blue Grotto In Malta, Filfla
4    Navarre Beach in Florida

Located on one of the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, Navarre Beach was used as a movie location for Jaws 2, but the wildlife is not that menacing. The plankton move through the waters along Navarre Beach and when they move just the right way, they cause the waters to glow. The glowing waters make the fish look like blue comets in the water and while it is best seen from a kayak or boat in the water, the blue can also be seen from the sand on the beach.
Navarre Beach In Florida Bioluminescence
5    Toyama Bay in Japan

The firefly squid is what causes Toyama Bay to glow in Japan, which makes it different than almost any other bioluminescence location. These firefly squids inhabit the waters from the months of March to June every year when they are breeding. Once their breeding season is complete, they go farther down into the ocean waters, out of view until the same time the following year.
Toyama Bay In Japan
6    Great Smoky Mountains

Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains spend their summers lighting up the region with psychedelic fireworks displays. There is a two-week ritual during this time where the fireflies mate and it is then that people watch in awe at the lights that quickly light up the nighttime darkness.
Great Smoky Mountains
7    The Hawaiian Islands

Tiny bobtail squids glow in the waters off the Hawaiian Islands, but the squids are not what is actually glowing. Instead, it the bacteria that is found on the squid that lights up the nighttime waters. The best way to spot these squids is to snorkel in the shallow waters along the coastline.
The Hawaiian Islands
8    Koh Rong in Cambodia

Koh Rong is the second largest island in Cambodia and people take a night boat tour to see the plankton that light up the water. The blue lights of the plankton get brighter as soon as the people on the boat jump into the water and that light increases more people move around.
Koh Rong In Cambodia
9    New Zealand

The dark caves of New Zealand are often explored by people on a black water rafting trip. During this trip, people lie back in inner tubes as they float through the caves watching the glowworms that dangle and produce a blue-green light. These glowworms light up when they need to attract their prey and they become brighter as they get hungrier.
New Zealand
10    Bermuda

The fireworms of Bermuda mate for a few nights after the full moon during the months of May through November. The females swim to the top of the water and as soon as the males see the light that emits from them, they swim to the top as well. Their sperm and eggs release and cause the water to light up in flashes for a few minutes and then they all retreat back to the bottom of the ocean.
These are some of the best places to see bioluminescence, but people may find themselves staring at the waters as they are lighting up somewhere else. Some places have bioluminescence occur on occasion and, while it is rare in those areas, it is spectacular when it does happen. Sometimes a person only needs to be in the right place at the right time to see something as awe-inspiring as thousands of individual creatures gathering to create a natural light show.

1 Comment

  1. Caitlin
    August 23, 2017 - 5:15 pm

    I have always found the phenomenon of bioluminescence completely fascinating, as well as breathtakingly beautiful. I was aware of the stunning firefly displays in North Carolina, and there are fireflies in my region of the continent, but I had no idea that there were locations as close as Florida where you could go to see such amazing sights in the water, as well! As an American, it’s exciting to know that such a beautiful thing does happen off of my own shoreline without the need for a…


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