Bioluminecent Plankton, Drake Bay

Bioluminescent Plankton


Guided Bioluminescent Plankton tours begin at 7pm and last for approximately one hour. They include snorkeling gear for exploring the water and take place in a shallow, protected area of the bay. You should bring a flashlight or headlamp and your swimming costume. Some travelers also prefer to wear shorts and a t-shirt while swimming. It is also possible to rent kayaks for the experience.

Should you wish to see the Bioluminescence without a guide, we will gladly explain the best spots for safely paddling at night away from man-made lights.

With any of these options we will endeavor to schedule your activity during the new moon for best viewing potential.

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Bioluminescence refers to an electric-blue light that is emitted from the ocean of Drake Bay. This glow comes from many species of tiny plankton which contain a similar chemical to that which lights up the bums of lightening bugs throughout the Americas. These plankton species use the chemical reaction to scare off predators so it is only activated when something alters it’s immediate environment.

Gringo Curt’s is happy to connect you with a Bioluminescence tour guide if desired. However, it is also possible to experience it by yourself. Without a guide there are two important things to note:

  1. Do not swim in the ocean during bad weather.
  2. Clear skies are optimal.

Glowing lights are best seen in complete darkness so the best nights to experience Bioluminescence is before moonrise, after moonset, or during the new moon. Man made lights can also bring down the quality of this experience so it’s necessary to be as far from human habitation as possible. If the area has unavoidable light, try looking in the opposite direction.

In the Drake Bay area, it is common to experience small waves that sound huge. This often scares tourists from attempting to swim at night. The breaks usually occur very close to shore and thus in shallow water. The seemingly frightening and adrenaline-pumping crashing sound usually takes place below one’s knees. After walking through the same waves that children play in every day, you will reach waist level and notice that the water is calmer. Now you will be in position to experience Bioluminescence, but the further you are from shore the clearer the water will be.

Cloudier water will cause more of a unified blueish glow. Clear water will cause every tiny spec of plankton to be seen individually. Imagine Disney’s Tinkerbell and her blue fairy dust on a clear, black backdrop. When moving your hands through the water, a magical trail of blue will follow behind. Rapidly bringing your hands and arms out of the water will cause tiny blue specs to shower down as gravity pulls the plankton back into the sea.  

When experiencing Bioluminescence it may be convenient to know that even during the blackest nights, coconut trees can be seen. I suggest putting your non-waterproof possessions here so that they can be easily recovered after you exit the water. ie. “my camera is located under the third coconut tree from the left”.