Swim with glowing bioluminescent phytoplankton

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Shutterstock image: Noctiluca scintillans in Taiwan

Bioluminescent waters

You've seen the photos. These picture perfect shots of night swimming where your friends are bathing in what looks like an other-worldly neon glow. That's called bioluminescence, and now you can swim in it too.

Bioluminescence in its simplest form is when a living organism emits light. Think of a glowworm and you're there.

That means bioluminescence in the ocean isn't actually caused by the water alone. It's the result of tiny plankton (bioluminescent phytoplankton) in the ocean in droves producing little beams of light for themselves.

Interestingly, bioluminescence in the ocean was documented by Charles Darwin, who described it in his journal after seeing it while sailing on a ship during one of his expeditions. Darwin described it as a 'wonderful and most beautiful spectacle' as the ocean 'glowed with a pale light'.

Bioluminescent algae -- aka Noctiluca (or Sea Sparkle) -- is another related phenomenon.

Where can you find bioluminescent water?

There are four beaches, bays and bodies of water you can experience bioluminescence around the world:

Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico

Sam-Mun-Tsai Beach, Hong Kong

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Mission Bay, San Diego

Toyama Bay, Japan

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