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Bioluminescence Tours: Frequently asked questions about the science

Every so often, the water conducts a light show known as bioluminescence. There are thousands of different bioluminescent species located around the world. Still, there is only one location where people can see them in such abundance as those on an Indian River Lagoon Bioluminescence Tours: The Space Coast!


During Bioluminescence Tours, you may find yourself surrounded by the glowing waters of the Indian River Lagoon – an estuary rich with wildlife and bioluminescent dinoflagellates. The word “bioluminescence” comes from the Latin roots meaning “living light.” 

What is Bioluminescence?


When a living organism emits light, the phenomenon is called “bioluminescence.” Why do we use terms like “bioluminescence” instead of “glow”? Luminescence is any process that causes a material to become luminescent. A glowing firefly is no different than a bioluminescent bacteria. Bioluminescence falls under chemiluminescence, which describes any chemical reaction causing light emission. Many marine animals emit bioluminescence, including:


  • Bacteria
  • Algae
  • Jellyfish
  • Worms
  • Crustaceans
  • Sea Stars
  • Fish
  • Sharks

Is Bioluminescence Safe?


Bioluminescence is entirely safe. No people have ever been harmed by bioluminescent organisms, and there is no reason to be afraid of bioluminescence! It is a natural phenomenon, not dangerous in any way to humans. Many scientists study bioluminescence because it is a fascinating process. The light is completely safe and natural, and the phenomenon has been observed for thousands of years.


Bioluminescence tours are as safe as any other boat tour! 


When Should I Book A Tour?


The timing of your tour can have a significant impact on what you see. In fact, that’s why it’s so unique – you just don’t expect to see bioluminescence in Florida! Bioluminescence happens in the summer months lasting from May 1 through November. The warmer the water is, the more widespread it tends to be. The moon does play a part in how well you will see the green and blue hues. One of the best times to see Bioluminescence is the week after a full moon. is visible while it’s dark. There are no guarantees how long it will be until the bioluminescent phenomenon will occur, but when you are able to see the spectacular glow, it’s something you’ll never forget. occurs, so you should give yourselves enough time to enjoy being on the water before heading off for dinner or back home to bed.


Since algae thrive in warm water and salt marshes are typically found where freshwater meets saltwater, they make an ideal environment for algal growth. This means that there is going to be a lot more bioavailable nitrogen in the lagoon during the summer season when Bioluminescence is present. this season, as well as a jolt of fresh oxygen flowing through the system. 


What Should I Bring?


Make sure that when going on a bioluminescence tour, you dress for the occasion and remember to pack. Some essential items to remember are:


  • A waterproof bag to hold your belongings
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Purell/Waterless hand sanitizer
  • A water bottle
  • A camera if you want to take photos (low light capable cameras work best)


Being prepared is very important because it takes some preparation to ensure you get the best experience possible for your bioluminescence boat tour. Take whatever items you think you might want to bring; as Capt. CJ says, “you can’t use it if you don’t bring it. It’s always better safe than sorry. 


Will I See Animals During a Bioluminescence Boat Tour? 


Yes. In fact, the animals that glow are likely to be there because they feed on the microorganisms that generate light. They have evolved a particular organ – called a “lucifer” – which allows them to emit light through their scales, skin, or eyes. The fish and many invertebrates can release this substance as a chemical reaction when stressed by predators. It is also believed that this mechanism evolved for mating purposes in some species. For example, mantis shrimp use bioluminescence from their frontal eye spots during courtship. Jellyfish also use it for defense against predators. Another species that comes alive for our tours at night are Gelatinous Comb Jellyfish. 


Furthermore, Bioluminescence exaggerates movements in the water. It’s not unusual to see dolphins and fish swimming underneath and alongside the boat. This phenomenon helps animals such as dolphins, manatees, and other fish become even more visible for viewers! A favorite animal to view both during the day and at night are the glowing Gelatinous Comb Jellyfish.


Take Your Bioluminescence Tour Today!


Don’t hesitate to book your bioluminescence tour today! Our captains know exactly where there are many bioluminescent dinoflagellate blooms and how best to navigate through them. Once your captain finds one, they will pull over right away to let everyone see it. Our Florida Boat Tours in Merritt Island, FL, and around the Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area are the best around the East Coast. Contact us today to learn more about our variety of trip types. Call us at 321-759-TOUR and book your excursion. 


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