Bioluminescence in Florida – Where and When to see it!
Bioluminescent Kayaking Tours – Orlando, Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, Titusville Area
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Did you know Florida is one of the only places in the world you can do bioluminescent kayaking?
True! There are only 6 places in the world to see this natural phenomenon and Florida’s east coast is one of them. You can go out on one of our tours most months of the year to see the phenomenon, but here’s some quick facts on what to expect. We take you to see bioluminescence almost year round with our unique kayaking night tours. They are easy to book online, and we depart tours most nights throughout the year when bioluminescence is visible. This is a Florida Must-Do Tour! Read on!
There are 2 types of Bioluminescence Tours in Florida – Night Kayaking
Dinoflagellate Bioluminescent Algae – This type of bioluminescence covers the water so it glows an other-worldly blue or green color when your paddle, hands or kayak disturb it. If you pick it up and play with it, it will create sparkles on your hands and arms. Your guide will show you how to kayak at night. It is important to go with a guide who knows the area, as the best times to go are on low moon shine nights.
Comb Jelly – These are NOT jelly fish as the name might suggest. They are jelly-like sea creatures that glow in the water. Some kayakers actually like this bioluminescent kayaking tour more than the popular dinoflagellate tours. On this tour, your BK Adventure guide brings a net and some containers so you can hold the glowing comb jellies. Remember, they are not jelly fish, so they do not sting. They are fun! This is a great experience for kids (8 years old and up).
Here are the best times to do Bioluminescent Night Kayaking
Florida Summer May – Nov – The water heats up and the bioluminescence starts to glow. This is a perfect time for kayaking as the nights cool down and you are out of the sun, but the water stays warm. You will see the river light up with sparks of bio as you paddle through the water.
Florida Autumn/Winter Nov – Mar – This is Comb Jelly weather. In certain areas where we kayak, the water will cool down and bring out the glowing comb jellies! We start this early in October as part of our Sunset Tour. For the month of October, you can do both types of Bioluminescent Kayaking in Florida. Some areas will have Comb Jellies, and other areas will still be warm enough to see the Dinoflagellates that cover the water.
How to go these Amazing Neon Night Tours? Running almost every night – Easy – BOOK NOW!
We invite all Orlando, Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral and Central Florida area visitors to phone us or email us with your questions about our popular bioluminescence tours. 407-519-8711 or [email protected]
If you are ready to jump on tonight’s tour, booking online is EASY – Click here!
Check this Video of our Night Kayaking Bioluminescent Tour near Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Do You Want to Know More About Bioluminescence in Florida?
Check out these great facts about the Indian River Lagoon’s bioluminescence compiled by our own team marine biologist Nephtali Palma.
What is Bioluminescence?
- Light produced or emitted by organisms through biochemical reactions. Simplified: chemical reactions that take place in living things which release energy in the form of light.
- Uses: Acts somewhat as an alarm system when the organism is excited/disturbed/stimulated. Some other uses include communications to other members of the species, to evade or warn predators and lure in prey.
- What color is it? Usually Blue Greenish. Why? Red light is the first in the light spectrum to be absorbed in water so it does not penetrate or travel very far. Blue light travels the deepest and furthest in water. Also, marine organism are sensitive to mainly or only light near the blue spectrum.
What organisms mainly contribute to the bioluminescence in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon?
- Comb Jellyfish
1.What is the Dinoflagellate (bioluminescent plankton) ?
- Scientific name: Pyrodinium bahamense
- It is a single cell organism. Microscopic.
- Photosynthesize during the day time (like plants). Photosynthesis is how they get their energy or “food”. They use this energy to produce bioluminescence at night.
- Part of a group called phytoplankton- Plankton that photosynthesize.
- Phytoplankton such as the dinoflagellates in the IRL produce up to 50% of the planet’s oxygen. How? There is more water than land on earth, this water is filled with phytoplankton producing oxygen everyday.
- When the organism receives pressure on its cell walls chemical reactions take place and causes the bioluminescence. Predators may shy away from the light thus the dinoflagellate avoids being eaten (Alarm system), or the predator’s location is revealed thus it becomes prey for other organisms.
- They produce a powerful light that is hundreds of times greater than their actual size.
- Usually referred to as Plant-like organisms.
- Body is composed of plate like structures and a flagellum (looks like a little tail) that it uses to swim.
- Main predators include filter feeders (oysters, barnacles etc.), zooplankton or fish that feed on plankton. The Northern end (Haulover canal) of the IRL is where it is most abundant in the lagoon because ocean water isn’t flushing it at a high enough rate and may be due to low population on filter feeders in the area.
- Most abundant in Summer months because days are longer (Sun=food) and conditions (salinity, pH, turbidity, predation etc.) are ideal.
- Locals used to refer to the phenomena as “Fire Water” because as the boats were in motion it appeared as though the water was on fire.
- May be toxic (*Guests not to worry, usually only through the consumption of shellfish or fish like the puffer fish in the IRL Northern end).
- Reproduce through cell division.
- Believe to operate on an internal clock or rhythm (circadian rhythm), photosynthesize at day, rest and bio-illuminate at night. Same way we get sleepy at night and active in the day if we are trained this way long enough.
2. Bioluminescent Comb Jellyfish
- Scientific Name: Mnemiopsis leidyi
- NOT an actual jellyfish. It is a Ctenophore, pronounced: Ten-uh-fours. Remember 10:04’s.
- Jellyfish have one opening where they eat and excrete; Their mouth is also their butt. Ctenophores however have two separate openings, one for eating and the other for excreting.
- Life span is a few months
- They look like a walnut of goo.
- Produces bioluminescence to stun predators.
- They have eight rows of cilia or “combs”. These are tiny little appendages or hairs that move back and forth and allow the organism to swim. These combs refract light (think of Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the Moon album cover. Light goes in one side and is separated into different spectrums on the other) and create the effects of different colors lights moving up and down the combs. So even in the day time when diving or snorkeling, you can observe comb jellies refracting the available light into different colors like a rainbow.
- About 95% water
- Do not sting
- Two ways of feeding: They have sticky feeding tentacles that capture prey. They also swim with their lobes or “body” open and any food that passes their mouth gets ingested.
- They are GREEDY! Why?
- May eat up to 10 times it’s weight in food per day
- They appear to not get full. As long as food is available they will continue to eat. What they can’t fit in their bodies they vomit out but continue to eat.
- They are hermaphrodites (male and female simultaneously). They release sperm and egg in the water. They can self-fertilize. They do not need other individuals to reproduce. They can produce up to 10,000 eggs if large enough and enough food is available.
- They mainly feed on zooplankton (typically the larger plankton) as well as meroplankton like fish larvae and eggs. They can be cannibalistic and eat other comb jellies as well.
- When are they common? Most common in Winter in the IRL. Why? Possibly: 1.Upwelling. Cold water is more dense than warm water. In summer months warm water stays at surface and cold water stays below. Cold water has more nutrients and oxygen. In winter the different waters mix and is more nutritious. More nutrients = more food = more comb jellies. 2. Its predators may be more common in the summer months. This has to do with their life cycles.
- They seem to prefer brackish and polluted near shore waters.
- Do they have a Brain? No, they have what is called a nerve net, helps them to sense changes in water chemistry or the presence of other organisms. They also have specialized structures that help them detect what position they are in the water (upside down etc.)
- They can be invasive in other parts of the world and crash fisheries; they reproduce too quickly and consume too many fish eggs and larvae.
Florida Bioluminescent kayaking tours are launched nightly near Space Center and Orlando on the Banana River and Indian River. BK Adventure’s kayak launch is becoming known as Bioluminescence Bay Florida.