A Well Kept Secret – Fluorescent Plankton in Cat Ba Vietnam
There are many amazing natural wonders in the world, but none can truly compare to the first time you experience a valse with fluorescent plankton. I can say that without hesitation, this experience was one of the most magical and exquisite in my life. Imagine yourself walking, swimming, and dancing in the water during nightfall. Now imagine that with every movement, you create hundreds – if not thousands – of tiny little blue lights, as if you were Tinker Bell from Peter Pan!
You look up to the sky, and find a starlit universe to gaze upon. You look down at the water, and see just as many transient stars appear and disappear. You become one with the water, entering a true symbiosis between the water and yourself. Sounds pretty magical doesn’t it? I sure think so! And so do the 5 people I showed it to on my second trip to this wonderful beach. Hopefully you will too once I share with you where to find the fluorescent plankton in Cat Ba!
Where to find fluorescent plankton in Cat Ba, Vietnam
1) Cat Co Beach 2 – Personal Favourite
The best place to see the fluorescent plankton in Cat Ba is Cat Co Beach 2. About an hour after sunset, I invite you to go walk in the water and experience the raw beauty of this natural phenomenon. Make slow continuous movements with your hands and fingers, and discover true beauty. The only hiccup is that this beach has been privatized at night time by the Bungalows that are on the island, so you either have to go early enough to see a bit of the plankton before you get kicked out by the guard, or convince them you live there, by arriving at the right time and hiding your gear in the rocks (I probably shouldn’t be telling you this!). The other safer and easier option would be to rent 1 night at the hostel, which is a mere $9 a night. Then you have the beach all to yourself (unless people with option #1 come to the beach hahaha). Beware though, a tripadvisor forum talked about how they caught on of the owners looking through their stuff in the room!
2) Cat Co Beach 1
You can also expect to find bioluminescence in Cat Co Beach 1. It doesn’t even compare to the amount there is in Cat Co Beach 2 though so keep that in mind when choosing your location. Like its sister beach, this beach closes pretty early at night, so you will have to go incognito if you want them to let you in so you can experience the bioluminescence.
3) Out on the night boats around the Halong Archipelago
If you go out for the 2-3 day trips by boat around Lanhai and Halong Bay, I am sure you would be able to see a bunch of fluorescent plankton if you jump in the water near one of the hundreds of empty beaches. Your biggest hurdle will be to convince the boat captain to stop and let you try it out, as you need to be in an environment where there is 0 light to see them properly.
Why does the fluorescent plankton light up?
Great Question! Fluorescent plankton, also commonly known as bioluminescent plankton, come in many different shapes. They can either be plants or tiny organisms, which light up as a defence mechanism against predators. When they light up, predators are often surprised and will fear being seen and preyed on themselves. The bioluminescence comes from a set of chemical processes that occur natural within the plankton. For a more detailed explanation, I invite you to check out this great article on the explanation of bioluminescence.
Going to Thailand? Don’t miss the bioluminescence in Thailand
Where you can see fluorescent plankton around the world
The best places where I saw fluorescent plankton were both in warm tropical climates. Their appearance come and go according to ocean currents, so I would advise you check the region in which you will be traveling for the best times and it seems the water needs to be a certain temperature to offer safe haven to these magical creatures. The following come from personal experience, but I am certain there are countless places to experience bioluminescence.
An Bang Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam
Many friends of mine said they saw a whole lot of the blue magic in An Bang Beach. This beach is about 6 minutes by motorbike from Hoi An. I actually went to check it out but the full moon was out and I didn’t see anything because it was too light out. Check it out for yourself if you are ever in the area! If you do find some let me know in the comments!
Starfish Island, Panama – Summer Months – Personal Favourite
Named after the hundreds of starfish lying around the beach during the day, Starfish Island offers you the opportunity to see green fluorescent plankton at night. To this day, I have never seen more than in this place, probably due to the fact that Starfish Island is not usually accessible at night unless if you are living on a boat. At the time I was living on a boat, due to a findacrew opportunity. No joke, we would dive out of the boat, and see each other light up like the green lantern. Starfish Island is about 30 minutes away from Bocas del Toro by motorboat. You could probably find a local that is down to bring you out there for a few hours if you ask around 🙂
If you know of other places, please comment about it and I will be sure to add the places! Here is a great article by Mother Nature Network showing their top 6 places to experience bioluminescence.
Going to Cat Ba? Here are 5 Alternative Things to do in Cat Ba
Until next time,
The Alternative Ways
The Alternative Ways aims to become your guide to grow your career through travel. Learn more by subscribing to my newsletter and following me on Facebook.
Wow I had no idea there was fluorescent plankton in Vietnam! Will definitely have to add this to my list of “things to see” as I’m planning a trip next year – thanks for sharing!