If you’re in the Maldivesbetween July and February, you’ll be lucky enough to witness the spectacle of the Sea of Stars. But why is there a glowing sea? What happens in the water that makes it glow at night? The answer is floating in the water: fluorescent plankton.
Plankton are small, plant-based and animal micro-organisms in the water that keep floating around and follow the water’s every movement. When a certain type of plankton is put under stress, such as movements in the water for example, they react by glowing. The light is supposed to act as a defence, since everything in the wild that glows is usually dangerous or poisonous. It’s a way for the plankton to say to its enemies ”Careful, I’m glowing! You better not eat me!”
At the same time the mini-organisms defend themselves in another way. For example, the light alarms the birds flying by who are happy to eat any fish that can be dangerous for the plankton. If a hungry bird is flying over at night and sees the glowing sea, it knows that ‘Ha! The plankton is glowing! There are a few small fish for me to eat.” In practice the light acts as an alarm system.
This glow is called bio-luminescence and can be found in wildlife much more often than you might think. The glow of the fireflies serves communication. It helps partners find each other in the mating period. Some jellyfish in the deep waters glow in order to confuse their prey. The light blinds the predator, the jellyfish is able to eject a part of its body and outsmart its enemy to flee.
Where can you spot the Glowing Sea?
If you’d like to experience the natural spectacle yourself, you have the best chance of spotting it at these three places:
Maldives: As I’ve mentioned earlier on, the Maldives are the best place to witness the fluorescent plankton. The beaches of Mudhdoo, Vaadhoo and Rangali islands are perfect for it in the period between July and February.
San Diego: The sea glows in blue at irregular intervals here. Unfortunately, I can’t name a specific period, but the locals say that it occurs most often between April and August.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico houses the Mosquito Bay, or rather it used to. Because of the fluorescent plankton it was unceremoniously renamed as the Bioluminescent Bay. Unfortunately the sea here doesn’t glow as strongly any more, as the wind has carried the organisms from the hidden bay into the open sea.
I’ve said it before and I’ll gladly say it again: Nature is and will remain the most beautiful artist. :) If you’re planning a trip to the Maldives, San Diego or Puerto Rico, you should definitely try to discover the glowing sea. Please send me a photo, I’d love to see it!