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12 Places to See Bioluminescence Around the World

What is bioluminescence? Is it harmful to humans? Get all the facts on this fascinating natural phenomenon and find out where to see bioluminescence around the world.

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Photo: James Stone/Getty Images

Tasmania, Australia

Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon produced by oceanic organisms like dinoflagellates when they're disturbed by movements in the water. Chemical reactions inside their bodies emit this cool blue or greenish light. "The bioluminescence is actually the defense mechanism of microscopic phytoplankton called dinoflagellates," says Josh Myers, operations manager at Florida Adventurer. The bright flash is meant to scare off predators.

You can see bioluminescence all over the world, but you have to look in the right places at the right times — usually mid to late summer. Dark or cloudy nights are the best times to see bioluminescence.

Bioluminescent tours and experiences are trending, so read on to find out where you can make a spectacular selfie when you wade into glowing waves under the Milky Way as seen here in Tasmania.

Before you travel, check for possible COVD-19 restrictions or closures.

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Photo: Shutterstock


The island nation of the Maldives, in the middle of the equator, is known for its lovely beaches, crystal-clear water and overwater bungalows. It's also known for the sparkling blue lights scattered across the shores of Mudhdhoo Island on Baa Atoll. The sea is home to glowing plankton year-round, but the best time to see them is usually from June to December when they're present in large numbers and there's not much moonlight.

Tip: Another great place to see the glow is on the "Sea of Stars Beach" on Raa Atoll, Vaadhoo Island.

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Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica

Of the few bioluminescent lagoons in the world — there are reputedly only four or five — Jamaica's Luminous Lagoon is said to be the brightest and largest. You can boat, raft or kayak in it.

Can you swim in bioluminescence? "According to some biologists, it is best if you avoid swimming in bioluminescent waters as there is potential for toxicity in extreme conditions," says Jeremy Edgar, owner, operator and tour guide at Fin Expeditions Kayak Tours. "That being said, I personally swim in the bioluminescence many times a year with friends and family and have never heard of an adverse reaction. Our local biologists tell us you would need to ingest something, like an oyster, that had bioaccumulation, so I do recommend people avoid eating anything from waters with heavily concentrated dinoflagellates. In other words, steer clear of glowing oysters."

Tip: Bring bug spray for your tour. Some brands are eco-friendly.

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Photo: Getty Images

Matsu Islands, Taiwan

When they're disturbed, certain algae species glitter with blue light on the shores of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands. They float and form teardrop-shaped clusters commonly known as “sea sparkle” or “blue tears.” The best time to see them is from April or May into August or September. Some researchers think tiny shrimp, called ostracods, can also cause the lights. Click here for a map of the best places to see the blue tears.

Tip: Matsu locals suggest visitors allow extra days to look for the tears, since they're not always predictable and luck plays a role in spotting them.

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