When you think you've seen all of the natural wonders in the world, something else comes along to make your jaw drop.
We're talking about the wonderful world of bioluminescence.
Bioluminescence is when the ocean sparkles with natural neon blue, red, or green. We humans love seeing this kind of glow coming from nature, which is why catching bioluminescence in real-time is on the bucket list for many people.
The question, however, is why does this natural phenomenon occur?
Come dive in with us as we explore the beauty of bioluminescence.
What Causes Bioluminescence In The Ocean?
Bioluminescence is a natural chemical process found in the ocean that allows it to glow and glitter like the stars in the sky. There are many different creatures, including squid, fish, algae, and tiny crustaceans, that produce bioluminescence.
These sea creatures produce bioluminescence to attract prey, confuse predators, and to lure potential mates.
Humans standing on shore can catch beautiful displays of bioluminescence in the water in the form of an algae bloom.
What Is An Algae Bloom?
An algae bloom of plankton occur when a mixture of environmental conditions exists, including warmer temperatures, abundant light, increased nutrients, or stable wind conditions.
When conditions are ideal, a single species can become dominant over another, forming a bloom.
However, not all blooms are natural. When poorly functioning septic systems or agricultural run-off get in the way, these blooms can become far more excessive.
These are known as Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). They occur when large colonies of algae get out of control, producing harmful toxins that can negatively impact marine mammals, birds, fish, shellfish, and even people. These harmful algae blooms are also what create a red tide.
While it is quite rare for a person to suffer a fatal or debilitating illness due to HABs, it has happened before.
Top 5 Places To See Bioluminescence
Toyama Bay, Japan
While the glow of the waters at night might make Toyama Bay, Japan look like an inviting place, it is anything but!
Toyama Bay, Japan, lies about three hours east of Tokyo and features some of the most impressive bioluminescent displays on Earth, all thanks to a unique creature known as the firefly squid.
If you go to Toyama Bay between March and June, you can catch firefly squid during their breeding season.
When mating, they emit a bluish glow that lights up the dark waters, making this place feel otherworldly.
Matsu Islands, Taiwan
Glowing bioluminescent algae known as noctiluca scintillans live off the coast of the Matsu Islands in Taiwan, creating a beautiful sight to see.
When disturbed, these algae emit blue light.
In recent years, this phenomenon has become so popular that people on the islands refer to it as the "blue tears" because the clusters of algae glowing look very similar to floating teardrops. The best time to catch this phenomenon is between April and August.
Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico
Don't worry. Mosquito Bay does not have an abundance of mosquitoes as you might think.
Instead, it has one of the best bioluminescent displays in the world.
In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records named it the "World's Brightest Bioluminescent Location."
This is all due to the fact that Mosquito Bay has one of the world's highest concentrations of plankton, which results in a blazing display.
Mosquito Bay sits in the southern part of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico. When disturbed, the plankton in the bay emit incredible lights, which produce phosphorescence. The plankton use this as a defense mechanism, though for us, it's the ultimate display to capture on film!
Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica
If the name doesn't say it all, we don't know what will.
Luminous Lagoon lies about five minutes from the Falmouth Docks on the northern coast of Jamaica. If you want to witness a serious bioluminescent display in action, there is no better place.
Dinoflagellates inhabit the warm, shallow waters around the Lagoon, producing a greenish-blue glow that reveals outlines of plants and fish beneath the ocean's surface.
If you end up going, we recommend taking one of the boat tours, as they let you jump in the water to capture some incredible pictures amid the glowing bay.
Mudhdhoo Island, Maldives
While the Maldives lure plenty of tourists each year without any thought of bioluminescent nature sightings, it can be the cherry on top of an already gorgeous vacation.
One of the most stunning sights in the Maldives is not its pristine beaches or over-the-water huts but rather its massive clusters of sparkling plankton. During this special time, strolling by the seashore on a dark evening or taking a splash in the water is nothing short of amazing!