When picturing the perfect vacation spot, two things usually come to mind – sandy beaches and clear blue seas. Vaadhoo Island, located in the Maldives, takes the latter to a whole new level.

Known as the Sea of Stars, the tide of the Indian Ocean sometimes glows a bright, luminescent shade of blue when the sun goes down on this resort.

The Sea of Stars has to be seen to be believed. In fact, you may already have done so on the cinema screen. Ang Lee’s movie adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi featured the ocean to eyeball-saucering effect.

It’s quite understandable if you’d be reluctant to take a dip in this particular ocean. Fluorescent colors and liquids are usually assumed to be related to unnatural chemical reactions. You can relax in the case of this effect, though. While it’s worth thinking twice about a late-night swim in the Maldives ocean due to the presence of sharks, the Sea of Stars has a more benevolent explanation.

Among the countless marine animals that call this ocean, home are dinoflagellates. These are a form of phytoplankton that generates light as a defense mechanism when under stress. Think of these organisms as water-dwelling fireflies. When the tide starts to come in, it dislodges the plankton from their feeding and rest spots. This sparks the bright light reaction. The more the waves move, the brighter the plankton will glow. Eventually, the entire sea becomes one giant, neon watery blanket.

If you’re thinking about plucking one of these planktons for yourself and dropping it in a goldfish bowl to act as a nightlight, think twice. Dinoflagellates can be harmful to humans. As we have established, they are easily spooked. If one of these planktons managed to impart toxins within its body into a human, the entire neurological system could come under attack. Dinoflagellates are best viewed from afar.

You don’t necessarily have to head to Vaadhoo Island to see this astonishing phenomenon. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness it on any of the 1,200 islands located in the Maldives. Vaadhoo Island is widely regarded as the most stunning location, though. It’s the ideal place to end a romantic stroll on the beach.

If you’re already typing the URL of your travel agent of choice to book a flight to the Maldives, we should make something clear. There is never any guarantee that the Sea of Stars will light up in such a fashion. It depends on a range of factors, none of which you can control.

You’ll need an appropriate climate, a clear sky, and a healthy dinoflagellate population. This range of circumstances is most likely to coincide late in the summer, but it’s still impossible to make promises. On the plus side, there is plenty more to love about the Maldives as a vacation spot. Witnessing nature at its breathtaking best after dark is just a bonus.

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