On a remote island in the Maldives home to only 500 residents, there's a rumored legend of a sea that glows. Illuminated waves that lap at the shores are said to be lit up from within, showcasing brilliant hues of bright blue after the sun sets. In the dark, the ocean glows as if it were its own sun, blurring the lines between the sea and the sky full of stars just above it.

For those who have been to Vaadhoo Island, the phenomenon is very real and does appear as bright and vibrant as it's rumored to. Its glowing aura can be witnessed only one time of the year but those who haven't visited probably have questions - and, luckily, we have the answers.


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How Does Vaadhoo's Beach Glow?

One of the biggest questions that most people have is 'how does Vaadhoo Island glow?' And it's only natural to wonder how this shoreline gains such a seemingly unnatural luminescence. The island itself sits on the Indian Ocean and the shores of Vaadhoo, specifically, glow through a process called bioluminescence. In addition to the marine life that one can see visibly when they visit Vaadhoo Island, there are organisms that aren't necessarily visible to the human eye. These are called micro-organisms and a very specific type of phytoplankton called a dinoflagellate is what actually glows in the water.

How These Micro-Organisms Emit Light

When experiencing any kind of stress, these dinoflagellates go through a unique chemical reaction and cause them to glow. The constant motion as well as potential threats from other predators in the water can also cause stress to the dinoflagellates, which may cause them to glow even brighter. The defense mechanism radiates various blue hues, which accounts for the appearance of the dinoflagellates' presence in the ocean at night.

When Is It Possible To See This Occurrence?

This event only happens during one time of the year and it's actually quite a rare thing to witness in person. The only time when the dinoflagellates in the water at Vaadhoo Island are actively glowing is during the late summer months in the Maldives. However, there are various factors that can affect the timing, making it more unpredictable:

  • The particular climate from the late summer until the end of the year
  • Growth of the phytoplankton which can be affected by the weather
  • Conditions of the water including the temperature
  • The pH level of the water can affect the strength of the glow from phytoplankton

Some people plan trips to the Maldives and never see these bioluminescent waters due to the particular conditions under which it happens. It's never guaranteed and while the Vaadhoo Island is the most likely place to see the Sea of Stars, this phenomenon can happen anywhere in the islands. Those who are especially interested in seeing the Sea of Stars should monitor the conditions of the islands and follow weather patterns in order to plan their most efficient trip. However, all visitors should be aware that even this won't ensure a glowing sight after the sun goes down.

Can Visitors Swim In The Sea Of Stars?

In short, the answer is 'yes.' While it might seem unnerving to swim in the same waters as micro-organisms that can only be seen via their blue glow, but it is, indeed, perfectly safe. Night swimmers will notice that the more motion they create within the water, the more these dinoflagellates begin to glow and pulse, which is, again, due to the stress caused by movement. Snorkelers who are swimming in the Sea of Stars will have a chance to see the glowing waters underneath the surface of the water, as well, which is a unique experience.

  • Fun Fact: Since phytoplankton is prone to being prey for larger animals, it's entirely possible that if large predators consume enough of them, then they, too, will emit a blue glow from the inside out. This can cause other marine species that wouldn't typically have any bioluminescence to glow at night, which means visitors could find glowing fish swimming around if they look hard enough.

Other Places To See A 'Sea Of Stars'

Believe it or not, while the Maldives has a reputation for its Sea of Stars, it's not the only place where one can witness this incredible phenomenon. Other coastal locations that also have bioluminescent phytoplankton include:

  • The beach at Leucadia, California
  • Puerto Rico's Mosquito Bay
  • The Lakshadweep Islands in India

While the event is not guaranteed each year at these locations either, the rarity of seeing such a beautiful thing makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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