Bioluminescent Sea Sparkle (Noctiluca scintillans)

Bioluminescent_SeaSparkle_Maldives_4702 People are always asking me to name my favorite: country, city, beach, etc. Over the course of my travels the last 15 or so years i have seen quite a few interesting things. But by far one of the most unique experiences took place during the two years we were living in Hyderabad, India, when we decided to spend Thanksgiving in the Republic of the Maldives.  A location in and of itself which is one of my favorites of all time. This island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean consists of 26 atolls, many of which are occupied by a single resort.  In most cases you fly into the capital of Malé, which is also an island, making for
pretty cool hotel transfer…..either by boat, sea plane, or helicopter. We were staying at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, which will require its own blog post one day.

Each night i was amazed by the amount of stars that were visible, like nothing i had ever seen before. I was convinced that i was going to capture these amazing nighttime skies, but at the time it was still a bit out of my skill set. Each night after dinner, i would go out and experiment. On Thanksgiving evening as i walked up to the shoreline i saw something inexplicable,  the shoreline where the water meet the sand was a glowing blue neon color. What on earth is this? What caused it? Is is safe? Was it some sort of chemical spill?    Then of course my thought process quickly turned to how do i capture a photo of this? Time was of the essence, because i don’t know how long it would last…..and I’m not sure anyone will believe me without a picture!!  So i quickly did my best to capture what i could. The sky was fairly overcast, making for a pretty difficult shot. I wasn’t very experienced at manually focusing a lens in complete darkness, but i did my best because for all i knew this could be my only chance. As i snapped away i began to grow more comfortable with this unknown phenomenon, so i began to walk in it…..wondering if it was safe to touch. Then when that went okay, i started drawing patterns along the shoreline with it. I was like a kid with a new toy, completely consumed.

The next day i woke up with a purpose, armed with my camera full of images, i set out to find answers about exactly what i had witnessed. I started at the Recreation and Water Sports Centre, where I spoke with one of the dive masters. He explained to me that it was Noctiluca scintillans, commonly known as the Sea Sparkle, which is a free-living non-parasitic marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate that exhibits bioluminescence when disturbed. Of course i went out the next evening ready to photograph this amazing occurrence, but no dice……….nothing, it was gone! So if you ever have the amazing opportunity to experience this rare occurrence, enjoy it because it might be the only time in your life!!

Click here for more of my images from the Maldives.

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