Have you ever witnessed ocean waves that light up the night sky? This dazzling display of glowing waters almost looks like the northern lights and mesmerizes people everywhere. But what causes the sea to suddenly glitter like that? Read on to learn all about bioluminescent beaches and where you can find one yourself!
What is bioluminescent algae?
Microscopic marine critters light up throughout oceans around the world and are called bioluminescent algae. These types of algae emit a supernatural blue-green hue on the surface of the water and as a result, the water sparkles.
The characteristic glow at a bioluminescent beach is caused by a chemical reaction within the algae themselves and is used to defend against predators, but it also helps them search for food.
The light that’s produced by bioluminescent algae is known as “cold light”, which means it doesn’t generate any heat. However, they can still pose a threat to humans. Some bioluminescent algae are toxic and if humans get close enough, they can get very ill, develop skin infections, or it may even lead to death. So, look but don’t touch!
What causes bioluminescent waves?
A bioluminescent beach will tend to have a large population of algae that has grown in one area. This is known as an algae bloom. An algae bloom occurs when the surrounding conditions are ideal for rapid growth like water temperature, light, and nutrients. So, if the algae bloom at a bioluminescent beach is disturbed by movement, pollution, or a change in the salt content and temperature of the water, the algae will begin to glow.
Where is the best place to see a bioluminescence beach?
One of the best places to see a bioluminescent beach is off the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico. The bioluminescent Mosquito Bay was recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records in 2008 as the brightest in the world. Sadly, in 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed the island, and the glowing waters went dim. Miraculously, the bay began to glisten again!
Considering the sensitive nature of the algae, you need to arrange a licensed-operated tour to visit the bioluminescent beach of Mosquito Bay. While on tour, it’s illegal to swim in the waters and throw anything overboard as it can disrupt the fragile environment.
Where to see bioluminescence beaches in the USA?
Indian River Lagoon, Florida
Located in Florida on the east coast of the United States is the Indian River Lagoon. This bioluminescent beach boasts more than 4,300 species of both plants and animals. It’s no wonder it’s been named as having the richest ecosystem in the northern part of the globe. The best time of year to visit is from June to October when the bioluminescence is at its peak.
Manasquan, New Jersey
Again on the east coast of the United States, we find Manasquan bioluminescent beach. Its warm waters radiate bright blue glitter at night and pair well with its white sands, making this area on the Jersey Shore a breathtaking place to visit.
San Juan Island, Washington
And finally, we make our way to the west coast to San Juan Island in Washington. Due to several ocean phenomena happening at the same time, the waters surrounding the regions become dense with nutrients—creating the perfect breeding ground for algae blooms. As the night approaches, you can see the onset of green flickers of light dancing across the water.
Long story short…
There are many locations around the globe to marvel at bioluminescent beaches. Including Puerto Rico, the US, Jamaica and Vietnam. Always remember to practice caution and to respect this natural wonder.
Written by Arista Caldera