Bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon

What is it? Why does it happen in Florida?

The Indian River Lagoon is a very unique and special lagoon, the water is a shallow estuary with a mix of salt water from the sea and fresh water from the local runoff. We call this brackish water.

The waterways contain countless number of plankton called
dionoflagallates, these are a single celled marine algae species. Many different types occur, however only some produce a glowing phenomena. The light is produced by a chemical reaction within the organism itself. The enzyme luciferase reacts with oxygen, converting chemical energy into light energy. Luciferin is similar to the chlorophyll that plants use. The color is always a blueish or green, this is because blue wavelengths travel farther through the water. Marine organisms for the most part are only sensitive to blue lights as well. The reason for the beautiful light show these microscopic organisms display is for predator avoidance. They will actually shoot off a spark of light to be able to distract their predator and escape. It is also proven they use the glow as communication with each other for mating.

The shallow waters of the
Indian River Lagoon provide a perfect environment for the dinoflagallates to reproduce and thrive. Since most of the lagoon is very shallow the sunlight heats up the water to temperatures higher than most average waterways during the summer time. This warmth mixed with the calm conditions of the lagoon are the perfect mixture for the bio to glow bright almost nightly between June and September!

Summer is their time to thrive. They prefer calmer warm water making the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito lagoon ideal locations since it is averaging 4 feet in depth. Our launch location at Haulover Canal is in the middle of 140,000+ acres of land completely dedicated to the conservation and preservation of natural land – the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Being so far away and separated from the city lights makes the brightness of the water glow just that much brighter, so you are able to enjoy it the way it is meant to be seen.

Seeing the water light up with every splash and movement is a magical experience, being able to see aquatic life move all around you is unforgettable. Having clear bottom kayaks though allows you to see the bioluminescence glow in a way you would never be able to experience it before! The chance to see fish, possibly even dolphins swim directly under you while their entire bodies glow is the only way to consider observing this out of the world experience! A lot of people say it looks like ‘warp speed’ or ‘time travel’! One of the best descriptions of it came from a young girl guest of ours who called it ‘sea sparkles’!

Even if you don’t catch a tour, we’d highly suggest checking out this natural phenomenon at least once in your lifetime! Take a look at our bioluminescent page below for more details of the best nights to see the bio shine!

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