Everything is not always as it seems. This is especially true of Vaadhoo Island of Raa Atoll, Maldives. During the day, the island appears to offer just another spectacular, crystal clear blue beach. During the night, however, it is so much more.
The Maldives consist of over 1,000 coral islands, which are grouped into 26 atolls. The islands are located in the Indian Ocean and offer “abundant sea life and sandy beaches,” according to the Maldives’ website. They are a true tourist destination, but perhaps the most interesting one to visit is Vaadhoo.
Vaadhoo Island is home to an estimated 500 people, but what attracts people to the destination is what lives within the sea. Living in the water surrounding Vaadhoo Island’s beaches are phytoplankton, tiny marine microorganisms. These are not just any old sea creatures, though. These phytoplankton glow in the dark.
According to Metro, “This particular type of phytoplankton – dinoflagellates – release a blue luminescence when the water is disturbed by oxygen, and occurs as a kind of [defense] mechanism to deter predators. If fish eat them, the dinoflagellates will continue to glow inside their bellies – which means that they, in turn, will be at risk from bigger predators trying to eat them.”
According to World for Travel, the protists will also light up when they are disturbed by the tides coming in or people surfing, for instance.
World for Travel also says that “the sparking phytoplanktons cannot be seen individually but when together they can be observed as sparkling light.” When the phytoplankton in the water cluster together in small groups, they create patterns of spots in the sea, almost looking like constellations of shining stars. The Sea of Stars off Vaadhoo Island gets its name from this effect.
Travelers do not need to be in the water to be among the glowing phytoplankton. “The glittering can also be observed after placing foot prints on sand. The made impression will glow like a neon display due to the Sea Sparkles,” according to World for Travel. Sea Sparkles is the common name for another type of phytoplankton that also lights up when disturbed.
Unfortunately for the marine life thriving and shining on the coast, their home off of Vaadhoo Island will not last forever. According to the Maldives’ website, “none of the coral islands measures more than 1.8 metres above sea level.” These islands are actually just about five to six feet above sea level.
According to the Washington Post, “oceans could rise by close to two meters in total (more than six feet) by the end of the century” because of climate change and the emissions of greenhouse gases. By 2100, the islands of the Maldives will be completely submerged in water. This will destroy ecosystems and uproot entire communities that have made these islands their home.
For the curious traveler, there are less than 83 years to visit the Sea of Stars before it is completely wiped off the face of the Earth. More importantly, there is always time to contribute to helping our Earth in the face of global climate change.
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