Fluorescent Plankton in Cat Ba Vietnam

Fluorescent Plankton in Cat Ba Vietnam

Fluorescent Plankton in Cat Ba Vietnam 960 540 Joaquim Miro

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!

fluorescent plankton in cat ba

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!

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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.

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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

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Joaquim Miro

As a passionate traveler, pianist, paraglider, digital marketer, blockchain and vr enthusiast, I always felt the urge to travel the world, but stopped myself because of my career. So I took a leap of faith to prove that it is possible to grow your career through travel. And it worked! Now I am on a mission to help you do the same.

All stories by : Joaquim Miro
  • Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel October 18, 2016 at 7:27 am

    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!

  • Planktons can be such amazing i never knew. I will definately mark this in my bucket list on my trip to vietnam

  • Ah, this is great information about fluorescent plankton! Will I ever get the chance to see them? I don’t know, but I sure would love to! Thank you for the tips!

  • Arnav @ Eat, Travel, Live and REPEAT October 18, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    I was always intrigued with beaches glowing at night.Had heard that there are such beaches in Maldives,never heard about them being in Vietnam before.Reading your post has give me yet another reason to visit Vietnam apart from Scuba Diving.

  • I had no idea you could see phosphorescent plankton in Vietnam. I saw it this year in Mexico but I was pretty disappointed as it didn’t live up to the photos…. seems like the experience is much better in Vietnam, especially at Cat Co Beach 2. Thanks for the recommendations & “enlightenment” 🙂

  • This is another of nature’s incredible phenomenon that I need to add to my bucket list. It sound totally out of the world and magical. Hope to witness it someday.

  • Hi Joaquin

    how are u>?

    any idea how many days before or after the new moon is okay to see the planktom ?

    Please advise, thanks a lot

  • Excelente articulo. Muchas gracias por compartir.

  • Yesterday I saw it near An Bang (2 km south). Amazing!!! Must try! Best midnight bath of my life!

  • Cat Co 2 is closed, as they construct some gargantual concrete hotel there. Cat Co 1 is guarded and they don’t allow anyone after 6pm. There is no chance to see it, other than a boat, so don’t get too excited.

    • very sad to hear that :/ a lot of islands around also still have fluorescent plankton you just have to find the calm bays.






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