Bioluminescent Kayaking: A Unique Adventure

Bioluminescent Kayaking: A Unique Adventure

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’re new to the outdoors life, bioluminescent kayaking is a unique and fun adventure that everyone can enjoy!

Have you ever heard the words “bioluminescent” and “kayaking” in the same sentence?

If you’re not familiar with this stunning outdoor adventure, you’re in for a treat. Bioluminescent kayaking brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “it’s lit.” With this unique adventure, your vacation will literally glow.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about bioluminescent kayaking before your next vacation. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Bioluminescence?

We’ve all heard of kayaking, but you might not yet be familiar with the magic that is bioluminescence. However, chances are good that you’ve seen it. If you’ve ever witnessed a firefly twinkling, that’s bioluminescence.

Fireflies create their light using a chemical reaction in the abdomen. However, there aren’t many bioluminescent creatures on dry land. Creatures that live in the ocean, on the other hand, produce light much more often. This makes bioluminescent kayaking an ideal way to experience it for yourself.

There are countless organisms in the sea that create light for all kinds of different purposes. Some fish use a lighted lure in front of their mouths to get prey close enough to eat. Certain types of squid use bioluminescent ink to confuse potential predators.

On a kayaking trip, you probably won’t encounter bioluminescent anglerfish or squid – these creatures tend to live in deep water. However, there are also many organisms close to the surface that produce their own light.

Humans see bioluminescence most often when it’s triggered by an environmental disturbance, such as ripples on the surface of the water created by a kayak or paddles. Many animals use their lights to attract food, attract mates, or ward off attacks, but sometimes all it takes it a simple wave to get the bioluminescence sparkling.

These glowing creatures live at every level of the water, from the surface to the deep, so you can see plenty of them from a kayak.

How Bioluminescence is Made

Like the firefly, other glowing creatures create light using a chemical reaction in the body. The chemical reaction can’t happen in just any organism, though. The organisms that can produce light have to have luciferin in their bodies.

Luciferin is a molecule that glows when it reacts with oxygen. There are a number of different kinds of luciferin that can be found in different organisms. Some of these creatures also create luciferase, a catalyst that makes the light reaction happen faster. This can be critical for creatures who use their glow to ward off predators.

The light doesn’t just happen on its own: organisms actually control their own bioluminescence. They regulate their brain and body chemistry based on needs or environmental stimuli to produce the glow.

In some organisms, the luciferin molecule is actually “packaged” alongside oxygen: this is called a “photoprotein.” These are like pre-made bioluminescence bombs that can go off exactly when they’re needed. These creatures can sometimes even change the color or strength of the light they produce.

What Creatures are Bioluminescent?

Many different organisms produce this kind of light, which is why you can always see the glow during a bioluminescent kayaking tour. Algae and bacteria produce a glow, as do jellies and jellyfish. You’re likely to see these creatures light up on the surface of the water as you paddle.

Deeper in the water, sea stars, worms, crustaceans, fish, and even some sharks produce their own light. Once you get to the deep sea, most animals are actually bioluminescent – the light is a powerful way to communicate the water where no sunlight can penetrate. Of course, you won’t see these creatures while kayaking – but there is plenty of glow on the water’s surface too.

Bioluminescent kayaking tours happen all year round. During the warm months, you’ll probably see plankton growing on the surface of the water wherever you disturb it. In winter, jellies will offer their glow instead.

Comb Jellies

Comb jellies are “jellies,” not jellyfish, so they won’t sting you if you accidentally touch one. They tend to glow from November to May. These jellies are one of the world’s few prehistoric species that are still around: they’ve been lighting up the seas for more than 500 million years.

Their glow is used to ward off predators, so they tend to light up when kayaks approach, just in case they will pose a threat. However, these kayaking tours don’t harm the jellies or other organisms in any way.

The colder the weather, the more jellies you’ll see – and the best part is you can touch them without getting stung!

Dinoflagellate Plankton

The other type of surface bioluminescence you’ll usually see in Florida is the dinoflagellate or “dino” plankton.

This algae starts to glow as the weather gets warmer, and shines brightest during summer’s hottest months. It will sparkle brighter when disturbed by your paddle or by a school of the local mullet fish.

The best part about kayaking on these dark nights is that the glow of algae or jellies is reflected by the glow of the stars above. You’ll be far from any light pollution, so you’ll see more stars than usual.

What is Bioluminescent Kayaking?

Bioluminescent kayaking offers the perfect way to experience the natural glow of these sea creatures up close and personal.

Kayaking is an easy, fun way to explore the water that anyone can learn how to do. Because you’ll be creating waves with each stroke of your paddle, you’ll get plenty of chances to see the bioluminescent wildlife light up.

For best results, time your trip for peak bioluminescence during the height of summer or winter. Since the glow of the moon affects how brightly you can see the glow, you should also check a moon calendar when planning your trip.

Ready to Book Your Trip?

There are a number of bioluminescent kayaking tour companies. However, we offer something unique: an intimate tour that seeks to connect you with nature, rather than to pack as many people in as possible.

To get personal with one of Florida’s most unique natural attractions, book one of our tours now – they fill up fast, so book early!


  1. Ginny Dixon says:Reply

    I am wanting to bring granddaughter this summer what month is best

    1. admin says:Reply

      Hi Ginny,

      The best months are July and August usually, but Bioluminescence is bright through mid-October some years. It depends on the heat, rain and weather of the summer months.

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