Travel Tales: The search for Bioluminescent Algae

Hello lovely people … Wish you all a very happy and healthy new year 😀 Hope you are not too hungover 🙂

I am just back from my epic 9 days Tasmania Road Trip and can’t wait to share how unbelievably gorgeous this land is. But before everything else, the first travel tale I want to share is how I found Bioluminescent algae in the least expected place. Destiny has weird ways of making your dreams come true!!

It all started in September 2017 when I was preparing an itinerary for my Tasmania road trip, I came to know about the dazzling spectacle of Bioluminescence in Tasmanian beaches. Bioluminescence is emission of light by living organisms, like a firefly. The ones in Tasmania are a type of algae that emit blue light when agitated. I had read about this happening in other parts of the world, where the beaches light up brilliantly at night. As the days passed by, I kept my fingers tightly crossed and hoped that lady luck would smile on me too.

I found and joined a couple of groups on Facebook where members would update any sighting of the blue ‘sea sparkles’, as they are commonly known as. They are extremely unpredictable in nature. One night they could be shining bright, but be gone by the next evening. A high tide could easily wash them away. From what I read, most people would visit the beaches with higher probability, and wait till the night to photograph them.

When I first landed in Tasmania, the activity on facebook group increased as numerous beaches in Hobart lit up at night due to Bioluminescence. I was sincerely hoping that they won’t be gone when I arrive 3 nights later.

On the fourth day of our road trip, we drove from Swansea to Hobart, stopping by numerous white beaches and even took a detour to see few popular natural rock formations.

After checking into our Hotel late in the afternoon, I eagerly waited for sunset. For once, I wished that daylight was shorter in Tassie. Imagine waiting till 9 pm for the sun to go down and then another one hour for the darkness to set in. Not wanting to wait any longer, we drove to Kingston Beach at around 8:30 pm, which was about 30 km from our hotel. The temperature had dropped several degrees. I had to pull out a beanie to protect my ears from the cold sea breeze. The instructions in the Group thread were clear enough for me to find the lagoon where sea sparkles were sighted the previous night.

I walked along the dark shoreline with a stick in hand to disturb the water. But nothing happened. Absoluely nothing. It was plain darkness. Nothing in the waves, nothing in the still lagoon. If breaking heart made a sound, it would have been a weepy night.

I looked for updates in the facebook group and found that few other members were also searching at the same spot and were disappointed like us. As the fate maybe, just then another member commented in the thread that Bioluminescence could be seen at the Hobart Waterfront.

It was already late at night, so we decided to head back and try our luck the next day.

In the morning, I saw updates and photographs from members who were able to find the sparkles at the dock. Since Hobart waterfront is quite a big area, I looked for signs in their pictures that could help me to find the exact spot.

Luckily, one shot was clear enough to show a reflection of the shop. Quite a sleuthing I can do huh! It was a good thing I checked the pictures as the location was confirmed by the photographer only later in the evening. During the day, I scouted the area, making sure I won’t be lost in the dark.

Now this was a dock, which meant you can’t touch the water and I would hate to throw any object in it. So the next big question was how to agitate it without spoiling anything. The answer was pretty simple – throw water on them.

So armed with a 2 litre water bottle, the two of us made our way to Hobart Waterfront at 10pm. The area of sighting was just opposite to a Fish and Chips takeaway boat called Flippers. At first I felt kinda weird staring at the water, wondering what people would think if I start emptying the bottle at the dock. So to gain some courage, we bought boxes of battered fish and prawns, and ate them at Conservation Dock, few meters away from Flippers.

And just my luck, I saw a family of 3 kids stopping just next to the Flippers boat and spilling water from their bottles. My husband jumped from the seat and screamed in excitement that something was glowing. I had never seen bioluminescent algae before so I had no idea how bright they could glow in real.

But as I edged closer to the area, I was extremely surprised how bright and magical they looked. The surface that came in contact with water would lit up like a blue light bulb, although just for a split second. I can’t believe I was buying food just next to that spot without even realising what amazing spectacle it held.

The family I met have been road tripping around Australia for the past 12 months and were currently stopping at Hobart. We chatted for a while, played with the sparkles and took dozens of video.

Hopefully someday I will get to play with them on the beach.

Here’s a video we took at the dock. Enjoy !!

23 thoughts on “Travel Tales: The search for Bioluminescent Algae

  1. Ooh! What an exciting experience, Raj! I googled this for more photos. Amazing. We did learn about bioluminescence in college but the text book is just that–text. So glad you got to see it. This is on my bucket list. Also, Northern Lights. Ah!

    Did you meet the Tasmanian Devil?

    Wishing you a super 2018! Hugs!

  2. I hadn’t even heard about this, much less witnessed it, so thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us, Raj. Also, reflection of the shop? – you are one dedicated soul. 😀

    Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year, Raj. ❤

  3. I’ve been following your updates on FB and have enjoyed your pictures. It really is hard work getting to see a sight like this one but totally worth it. Hope the new year is just as bright and fortunate as your sighting.

  4. What an incredible sight and amazing of you to go hunting for them with such dedication. I knew about fireflies but this was new for me and I simply loved it! Thanks for the share Raj

  5. Wow.. It’s been a dream to visit Tasmania. And reading this I know what I have been missing. But your posts take me a little closer to the experience. And yes, I loved the sleuthing you did!

  6. This looks like a fun and exciting experience. Thanks for such a detailed post on it, this is new to me.
    Happy new year to you as well 🙂

  7. Wow! What an amazing and fascinating experience that must have been!! The pictures and video are simply gorgeous!
    A very happy 2018 to you, Raj!

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