When you look at sun-splashed photos of golden beaches and turquoise waters in The Maldives, do you ever wonder if this archipelago has anything special to offer at night? If you have never heard of glowing beaches in The Maldives, this is your chance to understand the phenomenon of bioluminescence that makes this paradise even more magical.
If you are thinking, ‘Is there bioluminescence in Maldives?’, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ Only a handful of Maldives tour packages specialize in showing you the glowing beaches and waters.
Before you chalk out a plan to see a Maldives beach glowing at night, it helps to understand a little bit about bioluminescence and the factors that contribute to this natural ‘glow’.
Why do Maldives Beaches Glow at Night?
Some beaches in The Maldives glow in the dark due to a phenomenon called ‘bioluminescence’. There are some marine organisms that produce their own light and emit a glow.
The Maldives is home to some of these living organisms, and hence, a beneficiary of bioluminescence. But why does bioluminescence happen? From the seafloor to the surface of the Indian Ocean, the presence of bioluminescent organisms at various places contributes to the ethereal glow at night.
Interestingly, bioluminescent organisms include bacteria, phytoplankton and even some types of sharks! The phenomenon occurs due to certain chemical reactions which undergo inside the body of the living organism. When energy is released as a result of these reactions, it is manifested in the form of light.
Light is emitted by the organisms, making them and their surroundings (such as sand and water) glow. This is the secret behind the gorgeous glowing beach of Maldives. Such living beings do not glow for nothing, though.
They primarily use bioluminescence as a tool of self-defence. Predators often perceive this glow as a sign of danger, helping the bioluminescent organisms to evade them. In some cases, even prey is caught through the emission of light – which acts as a source of illumination (to enable hunting) and also attraction (as a lure for the prey).
Within the same species of bioluminescent animals, this ability to glow aids in communication, including warning one another of any potential predator. If you are still wondering, ‘Why does the beach in Maldives glow?’It will help to understand that camouflage is another advantage of bioluminescence, often used by certain squids in the ocean.
What Beaches Have Bioluminescence?
There are about 1,200 islands in The Maldives, but only very few exhibit bioluminescence. A good indicator of a large number of bioluminescent planktons in the sea is the presence of red algae. This is not a fool-proof technique to spot bioluminescence, though. Some of Maldives’ glowing beach location possibilities are:
Vaadhoo Island is the first place that comes to mind when we think of where to see bioluminescence in Maldives. Famous for its ‘Sea of the Stars’ effect created by phytoplankton, this inhabited island gleams with a fluorescent colour when bioluminescence is in season.
Part of Raa Atoll, this local island turns blue due to the presence of microalgae noctiluca scintillans, which when agitated, emit light. Also known as Mudhdhoo Island, it is possible to reach this public island via a seaplane from Malé International Airport.
This will come at a steep cost of USD 450 for a return trip even though the flight time is about 3 hours. You may also take a domestic flight to Gan Island and catch a ferry to Vaadhoo. Ferry prices to Vaadhoo from the islands in Raa atoll cost around MVR 500.
Speaking of the glowing beach, Vaadhoo Maldives is ideal for a walk in the evening, especially after dark, when the sparkling shoreline is better visible. Home to 500 odd Maldivians, the beach is also a great place for a swim.
Hulhumalé is another answer to the question ‘Where is Maldives’ glowing beach?’ One ordinarily does not expect a natural spectacle such as bioluminescence to occur so close to the Velana International Airport.
However, it is true that this densely populated public island sometimes glows due to the chemical reactions of the phytoplankton on the beach. Even though Hulhumalé Beach is not a hotspot for bioluminescence, it is important to remember that bioluminescent sea creatures are present all over The Maldives.
This tiny island is a part of Alif Dhaal Atoll and houses one of Maldives’ glowing beach hotels. It is not difficult to see the bioluminescent activity of the dinoflagellates that often swim near the over-water villas on this isle.
To arrive here, you can either take a 30-minute seaplane from Maldives International Airport or go on a more affordable ferry, which will take over 2 hours.
Located in Baa Atoll, the private island of Kihaadhuffaru is home to one of Maldives’ glowing beach resorts. When free-floating marine microbes that have the chemical ‘luciferin’ react with oxygen upon agitation, bioluminescence is faintly visible on the shoreline of this island. This chemical itself is either produced by some planktons on their own or acquired from other marine organisms upon ingestion.
To get here, you will have to catch a flight (which will only last for 20 minutes) from Malé – capital city of The Maldives to Dharavandhoo Domestic Airport, before taking a 5-minute ferry to this secluded island.
With a glowing sand beach, Maldives offers visitors another private island for some night magic – Kuredu. Part of the Lhaviyani Atoll, this island hosts a luxury 5-star property that you can stay at while waiting to see bioluminescence.
When the lagoon is warm, it is a good time to catch the glowing blue colour emitted by lingulodinium polyedrum – the plankton behind all the action. Kuredu is a hotspot for these marine organisms.
To reach this island which is 151 km away from the Maldivian capital, you will need to fly for 40 minutes on a seaplane.
Located on Fonimagoodhoo Island, Reethi Beach is well known for its bioluminescence. Before you can even ask ‘Is bioluminescent algae toxic?’, you will fall in love with this glowing algae beach Maldives boasts about.
Situated in Baa Atoll, this private island houses the opulent Reethi Beach Resort. From the Velana Airport, you can either take a direct seaplane transfer of 35 minutes or first fly on a domestic plane for 75 minutes to Dharavandhoo Airport and then ferry over to the island.
Sitting on South Ari Atoll, Athuruga Island is not only private to the gorgeous Diamonds Athuruga Maldives Resort and Spa but also a lesser known destination for sighting bioluminescence.
Catch a 20-minute seaplane from Malé – the world’s smallest capital to arrive on this island to watch Maldives’ glowing ocean phenomenon. It helps to note that the iridescence is not always blue or green in colour. Sometimes, the glow takes on an orange tinge.
When to See Bioluminescence in Maldives?
Understanding Maldives’ glowing water is all very well, but when can you see bioluminescence in Maldives? To answer this, it becomes necessary to ask another question – Can bioluminescence be predicted?
The answer is not straightforward. It is certainly difficult to predict bioluminescence but not impossible. Bioluminescent proteins (BLPs) in algae can be theoretically mapped and there are some bioluminescence forecast models that are often applied to track this natural phenomenon.
However, it is not easy to tell when Maldives’ glowing blue tide will grace the shore you might be vacationing at. Some months prove to be luckier than some others though.
Maldives’ glowing beach season is in the warm months of April to November. Sightings of bioluminescence are often reported in September and October. If the lagoon you are looking at has a narrow outlet into the sea, you will catch a more luminous glow as the plankton will be trapped in a small area.
Maldives’ weather makes it a nice time to spot bioluminescence almost all around the year, even in December, especially if it is a moonless night – dark enough for the glow to be seen. If you ever think, ‘Is bioluminescent sand real?’, know that it is not the sand that is bioluminescent but the phytoplankton present in the waters that come ashore.
What Time Does Bioluminescence Occur?
The best time to see a glowing beach in Maldives is when it is dark. If you are staying in one of the beachside hotels in The Maldives, wait by the shore until after sunset. When it is pitch dark, you will have a better chance of photographing bioluminescence.
But when is the best time to see a glowing beach in Maldives? It is usually at least two hours after the sun has set. Tidal currents also have a role to play in making the bioluminescent effect more pronounced.
When phytoplanktons are washed up onshore by the strong waves, they gather together and glow brighter against the Maldivian sand. If you don’t get lucky with tides, try throwing a stone in the sea or simply splash around in the water to agitate the planktons.
Do not be impatient though. Like all animals, planktons too have a circadian rhythm that adds to the process of bioluminescence. If you hear of sightings from locals or other tourists, be sure to stroll on that beach at night for the next few days as it is highly possible for the bioluminescence to be repeated.
Does Bioluminescence Happen Every Year?
When selecting Maldives vacation packages to experience bioluminescence, you can rest assured that this archipelago displays the phenomenon almost every year. However, in some other parts of the world, bioluminescence is not a yearly occurrence. It is only sighted once every few years.
Does bioluminescence happen every day? This generally depends on the weather condition, the temperature of the water and the concentrated presence of red algae or phytoplankton in the sea. If you are looking for bioluminescence in the winter, you might get lucky in the open water where comb jellies sometimes glow at night.
How long does the bioluminescence last? Every night, when the phytoplankton are agitated, they continue to glow for about a couple of hours. On any bioluminescent Maldives island, glowing beach can be seen regularly for at least two weeks to almost two months.
Nevertheless, do not expect this spectacle to continue through different seasons as the planktons only live for a few months. Their nourishment determines their lifespan, as do other factors like the weather.
Whether you can rattle off Maldives’ glowing beach names or not, you will be able to see that sparkle when it is the darkest and on shorelines that are the most secluded.
Can you Swim in Bioluminescent Water?
Swimming with bioluminescent planktons is one of the most exciting activities to do in Maldives. While some tour providers take their guests on a night cruise in dhonis – traditional Maldivian wooden boats, some others even organize night swims in the shimmering Indian Ocean.
‘Is bioluminescence harmful to humans?’ – a question that bothers some tourists. Many local Maldivians are superstitious about getting close to phytoplankton. However, these marine organisms only release cold light, which is harmless as more than 80% of that light will not even produce heat.
When you swim in a bioluminescent Maldives beach at night, you can do so without the fear of being electrocuted or stung (as in the case of a poisonous glowing jellyfish). If you know what beaches have glowing plankton, you can take a dip in the water and feel like you are in a fairytale.
On any Maldives beach, glowing plankton respond better to agitation. Swimming only agitates the water more, ensuring a better show of bioluminescence. For the purpose of photography, remember to keep all other sources of lights off. That means torches, phones and even fluorescent or glow-in-the-dark clothing, shoes or accessories.
If you can peel your eyes off the glowing beaches in The Maldives, this country offers plenty of other ways to attract your attention. Plan a holiday with Samudra Maldives and discover the beauty of the Indian Ocean.