Bioluminescent Kayaking – How Does It Work?

*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.

Bioluminescent kayaking is an eco-friendly, sustainable, and affordable way to experience the thrill of nighttime kayaking. Going kayaking at night time is an excellent activity for those looking for a new way to explore the waterways or find new ways to enjoy their favorite waterway by kayak.

Is bioluminescence safe?

Bioluminescence kayaking is very safe! You won’t need any chemical sprays on your body or lights at night. It’s a friendly and safe way to enjoy the beauty of nighttime. You will be outfitted with a full safe bio-hazard suit complete with a mask and gloves. Plus, the staff at locations where you can experience this will be on hand at all times in an emergency.

How does bioluminescence work?

You may be wondering – what exactly is bioluminescence? To answer that question, let’s take a look at how things glow in nature. Bioluminescence is a type of light emission produce by living organisms. Light emission means that it comes from something that is living. It occurs naturally, unlike flashlights or fluorescent bulbs where the light comes from an electrical source.

Bioluminescent algae create their light by having a chemical reaction with oxygen, similar to fireflies. It is always present in water bodies, but it is easier to see at night or in dark environments like caves. You will witness bio-luminescence at their brightest in dark, secluded bodies of water.

Some animals make their own light.

Bioluminescence is caused by oxygen and chemical reaction within the organism. For example, fireflies are beetles that use this chemical reaction to make their own light. The light happens by mixing a chemical called luciferin with oxygen-sensitive enzymes and a protein called luciferase. (That is a generic term for the class of oxidative enzymes that produce bioluminescence.) The result of the mix causes these chemicals to produce a glow which is called bioluminescence. The light produced isn’t bright, but it is best viewed in dusky conditions when the surrounding area has low light for contrast.

Currently, you can enjoy this sport at the following locations:

1. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (North Carolina)

2. Borrego Springs Resort (California)

3. Camp Cielo Vista (Texas)

4. Cayo Costa State Park (Florida Keys)

5. Channel Islands National Park (California)

6. Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (Virginia, Maryland)

7. Chumash Wilderness (California)

8. Estero River (Florida Keys)

9. Georgia Coast (Georgia)

10. Heceta Beach (Oregon)

11. Junco Lake, Colorado River Headwaters, and the Upper Colorado River Basin in Arizona

12. Mendocino (NF)National Forest (California)

13. Montezuma Castle National Monument (Arizona)

14. Pinnacle Gulch Natural Area Preserve (Colorado)

15. Pitchoff Mountain (New Hampshire)

16. Rio Grande Gorge (New Mexico)

17. Riverside Park (Florida Keys

18. Shasta-Trinity National Forest (California/Oregon)

19. Spring Creek Canyon – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah

20. St. Mary’s River (Georgia)

21 .Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge (New Mexico)

22. Wills Mountain Roadless Area (Virginia, Washington D.C.)

23. Yuma Sector Office, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (Arizona)

24. Zzyzx Roadless Area and Searles Valley Wilderness (California)

How should I dress for a bioluminescent kayaking tour?

It is always a good thing that you bring a waterproof or water-resistant phone or camera, so both the camera and your phone will be protected. You can also bring your favorite snacks in a waterproof container. You will be outfitted with a full safe bio-hazard suit complete with a mask and gloves.

How does the trip work?

The bioluminescent kayaking trip will last roughly 2 hours and take you to areas that are not easily accessible by large boats. Bring your own kayak, paddleboard, or standup board, and they will provide everything else! They will also guide you for the duration of your time in the water. Use the opportunity to enjoy your surroundings in a safe and eco-friendly environment.

Wear comfortable clothing, sunscreen, and any other gear you might need for a day on the water (shoes, etc.). Remember: bring your positive energy!

It’s completely safe.

Is it possible to take photographs when on a bioluminescent kayaking tour?

Yes! You will be able to capture unique photographs of the beautiful bioluminescent glow. However, you have to make sure your photography equipment is waterproof or water-resistant if you fall into the water. Think about how to best frame your shot and consider using a long exposure method to capture bioluminescence images at night or in dark areas.  

Is the kayak a 100% transparent kayak, or is it a regular kayak and the light reflects the transparent material?

The kayak is 100% clear. The light shines up through the clear kayak from underneath.

How many times do you have to go through a zone for it to be active?

The algae give off light when they are disturbed. It depends on the speed you are paddling, tidal movement, whether it’s a full or new moon, etc.

Is there a bioluminescent season?

In the spring and the full moon in June is a good choice because it creates a continuous light source. For the best experience, consider going between the middle of May until early in October. For the most bioluminescent effect, schedule your night kayaking trip about five days after a full moon.

Do you have to be a professional kayaker?

No.  The locations are relatively calm and easy to paddle through if you know how to brace yourself for the waves that come at you while on the water. There are not many rapids or waterfalls, and the current helps you float along.

How do you know where to go?

See if any local kayakers in your area know where the bioluminescent zones might be located.

What is the scientific proof that bioluminescence occurs?

The National Geographic Society has taken the time to film and study this phenomenon for a long while.

These are some places where bioluminescence can be found, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Great Barrier Reefs in Australia. The Great Barrier Reefs are home to some of the brightest bio-luminescence on Earth.

Experiencing kayaking in this way is a chance to explore our waterways through the twilight hours of the night experientially. And, if you’ve ever seen bioluminescence in action, you know why it’s so popular with kayakers. Bioluminescence is created by living organisms and can appear as a blue-green light when agitated.

These organisms include bacteria, dinoflagellates, and fungi.

The bioluminescence occurs primarily in the locations listed above and in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, Florida is the only state to have a commercial bioluminescent kayaking company that runs dozens of tours each year. It’s a remarkable experience some call a must-see phenomenon for kayakers.

An important thing to understand about bioluminescence is that it’s not just phosphorescence (light generated by chemical reactions). Phosphorescence is what most of us are familiar with because it’s created by decaying organic matter like the glow in blacklight. Bioluminescence happens through biochemistry, and it requires living organisms to be present to create the reaction.

The organism responsible for creating bioluminescence in the waterways of Florida is called dinoflagellates.

They’re known as micro-organisms because they’re smaller than bacteria and fungi. Dinoflagellates are a group of organisms that includes about 4,000 species, and all of them are single-celled protists. They propel themselves through the water with whip-like appendages called flagella. When disturbed, the flagella creates a flash of blue-green light to warn the dinoflagellates’ predators that they’re toxic. It’s hard to believe that such a little thing could create so much of an impact.

Luminous organisms grow in the water’s depths, or planktonic, and have to be nocturnal to avoid predators during the day.

Scientists know very little about these creatures because it’s so difficult to study them. Most of them live at depths that scuba divers can only reach.  Still, kayak tours make it possible to see them through bioluminescence diving.

The neat thing about bioluminescence is that it’s a phenomenon that not only produces light but includes chemicals that don’t create light.

The chemicals create a photoluminescent glow that’s orange or green in color. By looking through the blue light, you can see the colorful glow. That’s what makes bioluminescence kayaking interesting because you have to see the blue light to view the glowing organisms. You can see this glowing for yourself in the incredible photos below.

It seems odd that something so small could create such a big splash

Dinoflagellates are indeed really small, but they’re not the only organisms that make bioluminescence possible. Occasionally you see bioluminescence due to the presence of micro-organisms like bacteria, protists, and fungi. Whatever the case may be, bioluminescence is one of Mother Nature’s best tricks. It is impressive to see the little things take on such a significant role in nature. But it’s not just the little animals or organisms that create bioluminescence. The large animals do too! Whales use bioluminescence to attract krill by flashing bright blue light and then sucking them into their mouths. It’s gross, but it does demonstrate the power of living organisms to alter ecosystems.

Wrapping Up

Going on a kayak trip where you can experience bioluminescent kayaking will highlight your kayaking activities and is highly recommended.

Like This Article? Pin it on Pinterest!

kadriegbeyemi

Travel is an experience that enables me to uncover and realize important things about myself. This feeling is what I wanted to share with as many people as possible. There's still a lot of adventures that we get to experience - Kayaking is a great way to get out into nature, explore waterways, and get an excellent workout.


More to Explore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *