Recently, images and videos from the Maldives emerged. The beachy paradise was lit up with bioluminescent phytoplanktons, which drift ashore, making the water glow an electric blue. However, the Maldives (or beaches, for that matter) aren’t the only places that experience this phenomenon. Check out these destinations that you can visit, which also experience bioluminescence.
What is bioluminescence?
Bioluminescence is a naturally emitting light, which emerged from a living organism. This light is formed due to chemical reactions, which leads to a glow being emitted by the said organism. It is a cold light, which means that it generates less than 20 per cent heat.
Most bioluminescent organisms are found in the ocean, which is why there are so many beaches around the world (as well as in India) where one can observe bioluminescence. In India, people have witnessed this phenomenon in places such as Havelock Islands, Juhu Beach and Mattu and Padukere Beaches, to name a limited few.
These bioluminescent marine species include fish, jellyfish and bacteria, among others. Phytoplanktons are some of the most common organisms which produce this natural light. Other bioluminescent species, which can be found outside water, too, include fireflies, glowworms, and fungi such as some varieties of mushrooms.
Bioluminescent places around the world that aren’t beaches
While we do know that beaches are probably among the most common places to see bioluminescence, the phenomenon isn’t unique to them. Several other places that have the right conditions and weather witness these glow-in-the-dark creatures. Here are some of them.
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
Waitomo Caves are located in Waitomo village in New Zealand. These caves are unique because of the presence of glowworms, which illuminate the place with their bioluminescent light. The caves attract lakhs of visitors from around the globe each year, who come to witness this phenomenon.
The best way to get the full experience is by opting for a walking or boat tour of the caves. You’ll be able to see the organisms in their natural habitat and see the light they emit. The best time to visit is between November to April, when the weather will be warmer and more humid than the rest of the year.
Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa, India
The many wildlife sanctuaries in Goa hide many secrets – and some house beautiful sights, too. One of them is Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the state’s Swapnagandha Valley. Nestled in the Western Ghats, the sanctuary is also home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. However, what makes it unique is the presence of bioluminescence here.
The sanctuary has thick deciduous and evergreen trees, which hold moisture. Growing in this moist environment is a variety of bioluminescent fungi (mushrooms), called Mycena. These mushrooms emit a greenish-yellow or violet light during the monsoons when the air has a lot of moisture. This makes the forest light up, turning it into an almost magical place to be in – almost like a fairytale!
Purushwadi, Maharashtra, India
You must have heard of the Fireflies Festival that happens in Maharashtra, India. The festival happens during the monsoons, in places such as Purushwadi, Rajmachi and others around. This is because the monsoons are the time fireflies come out in millions, emitting their glimmering light to attract the opposite sex and procreate.
This phenomenon is also bioluminescence since it occurs naturally in these types of bugs. You can book special tours, which can be one-night packages or longer when the fireflies season approaches. These tours will take you to the forests of Maharashtra wherein you can see these flies and capture some mesmerising photos to take back as memories.
The Blue Grotto, Malta
Though technically in water, The Blue Grotto in Malta is a sea cave where you can see healthy amounts of luminous light. Characteristic to the destination is the distinctive blue (hence the name) creatures that glow in the water, while the objects themselves appear silver, orange, red or yellow.
The effect in these caves is a result of the sun, but the effect creates a bioluminescence-like glow, bringing it at par with other destinations that have glowing creatures. This effect is created as the water enters the cave through a narrow opening. To witness this phenomenon, you will have to reach here via a licensed boat, which will bring you here during calm, low tides.
Matsu Island, Taiwan
Among the best places where you can witness bioluminescence is in Taiwan. The Matsu Islands here have bioluminescent algae, which emit a blue light when they are disturbed. Visible as clusters, they make for the most stunning sights to see.
What also makes the bioluminescence of these islands unique is the shape these lights form. They are called ‘blue tears’, as the clusters formed by the algae resemble teardrops floating in the water. The best time to visit is April to August when these algae will be most active, giving you magnificent views of the blue tears.
Other places that have bioluminescence outside of the water are Ahupe Village in India, Springbrook Park in Australia, Krang Shuri in Meghalaya and the Big South Fork in the USA. The bioluminescence in these destinations can be attributed to various reasons – glow worms, glowing larvae as well as fireflies, which are all seasonal and hence, tough to capture on camera.
Hero and feature image credit: Daniela Turcanu and Patrick Fore on Unsplash