The “sea of ​​stars” is said to only happen once a year, but is that really all it appears to be in the photos?

On a remote island in the Maldives with only 500 inhabitants, there is a rumor that the sea is shining. The illuminated waves lapping the shores are said to be lit from within, showcasing brilliant hues of vivid blue after sunset. In the darkness, the ocean shines as if it were its own sun, blurring the lines between the sea and the star-filled sky just above.

For those who have been to Vaadhoo Island, the phenomenon is very real and seems as bright and vibrant as they say. Its glowing aura can only be seen once a year, but those who haven’t visited probably have questions – and, thankfully, we have the answers.


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How does Vaadhoo beach shine?

One of the biggest questions most people ask is “how does Vaadhoo Island shine?” And it is natural to wonder how this shore acquires such seemingly unnatural luminescence. The island itself sits on the Indian Ocean, and the shores of Vaadhoo, in particular, glow with a process called bioluminescence. In addition to the marine life that can be seen visibly when visiting Vaadhoo Island, there are organisms that are not necessarily visible to the human eye. These are called microorganisms and a very specific type of phytoplankton called dinoflagellate is what actually shines in the water.


How these microorganisms emit light

When under any type of stress, these dinoflagellates undergo a unique chemical reaction and cause them to glow. The constant movement as well as potential threats from other predators in the water can also stress dinoflagellates, which can cause them to glow even brighter. The defense mechanism radiates various blue hues, which explains the appearance of the presence of the dinoflagellates in the ocean at night.

When is it possible to see this event?

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


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

Some people plan trips to the Maldives and never see these bioluminescent waters due to the special conditions in which it occurs. This is never guaranteed and although Vaadhoo Island is the most likely place to see the Sea of ​​Stars, this phenomenon can occur anywhere in the islands. Those who are particularly interested in the sea of ​​stars should monitor the conditions of the islands and follow the weather conditions in order to plan their most efficient trip. However, all visitors should be aware that even this will not guarantee a dazzling view after sunset.


Can visitors swim in the sea of ​​stars?

In short, the answer is “yes”. While it may seem disconcerting to swim in the same waters as microorganisms that can only be seen through their blue glow, it is indeed perfectly safe. Night swimmers will notice that the more movement they create in the water, the more these dinoflagellates begin to glow and pulsate, which is, again, due to the stress caused by the movement. Divers swimming in the Sea of ​​Stars will also have the chance to see the brilliant waters below the surface of the water, which is a unique experience.

  • Fun fact: Since phytoplankton are likely to be preyed upon by larger animals, it’s entirely possible that if large predators consume enough of them, they will also emit a blue glow from within. This can cause other marine life to glow that wouldn’t typically have bioluminescence at night, meaning visitors might find glowing fish swimming around if they look hard enough.


Other places to see A “sea of ​​stars”

Believe it or not, if the Maldives is famous for its sea of ​​stars, it is not the only place where you can witness this incredible phenomenon. Other coastal locations that also have bioluminescent phytoplankton include:

  • Leucadia Beach, California
  • Puerto Rico’s Mosquito Bay
  • The Lakshadweep Islands in India

Although the event is also not guaranteed every year at these locations, the rarity of seeing such a beautiful thing makes it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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