Imagine a dark night lit up only by sparkling fireflies and waves of light that ebb and flow at the shore. But it’s not the light that’s crashing against your feet — it’s the waves of the ocean, lit up by an extraordinary phenomenon known as bioluminescence.
Bioluminescence is caused by living organisms like bacteria, fungi, algae, insects and, in some cases, aquatic animals. It is a type of chemiluminescence, or a chemical reaction, that occurs within these organisms, where chemical energy is converted into radiant energy, thereby producing light.
Luciferin, a molecule found in these organisms, is responsible for this phenomenon, where it reacts with oxygen and produces light.
Here’s a list of a few places in India where you can experience the magic of bioluminescence:
1. Ahupe village, Maharashtra
Situated near the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra, Ahupe is a small tribal village that witnesses this fascinating phenomenon of bioluminescence during the monsoon.
The rain-soaked forests of the Western Ghats light up due to a fungus called Mycena, which has the ability to glow in the dark when there is a high amount of moisture present in the air. These fungi, which mostly grow on the barks, leaves, and twigs in the forest beds, emit lights offering an extraordinary and surreal experience.
2. Havelock Island, Andaman Islands
If you ever visit Havelock Island, there is a high chance that you could witness the blue-tinted seascape glowing and sparkling due to bioluminescence.
This magical glow is caused by tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton, which light up the ocean surface at night. This light show can be best experienced on moonless nights by either going for a bioluminescent kayaking or simply taking a stroll around the island.
The peak time for bioluminescence is from November to February.
3. Mattu-Padukere Beaches, Karnataka
The Mattu and Padukere beaches, located around 10 and 29 km from the city of Udupi respectively, have been glowing with the radiant blue coloured light for quite a long time.
This has been attracting a lot of visitors to these beaches, including photographers and zoology enthusiasts.
According to experts, the bioluminescence here is created by some free-living marine organisms, commonly known as the sea sparkle, that emit light while they experience stress or disturbance.
4. Krang Shuri, Meghalaya
Found in Krang Shuri and Mawlynnong in the West Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, a new species of mushroom named Roridomyces Hyllostachydis was identified for lighting up the forests in the area.
The mushrooms, which grow on dead bamboo, make the thick forests lit up in bright green due to bioluminescence. They are very fragile and grow well in moist and humid conditions. It is the stipes of the mushrooms that light up in the dark.
5. Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa
Situated in Goa’s Swapnagandha Valley of Western Ghats, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is noted for being the home of Bengal tigers.
Besides, the sanctuary boasts of thick moist deciduous vegetation and several evergreen species as well. Among them are the illuminating mushrooms or fungus called mycena, that glows at night as a result of bioluminescence.
During the monsoons, these mushrooms grow in abundance, leading the forests to light up with greenish-yellow or violet light emitted from its mycelium or the vegetative part of the fungus.
6. Bangaram Island, Lakshadweep
Among the serene islands of Lakshadweep cluster of islands lies Bangaram, a small island shaped like a teardrop, located in the Arabian Sea.
The blue light that lights up the beaches of Bangaram during the night is due to the presence of phytoplankton, algae and other aquatic creatures such as jellyfish in the waters.
7. Purushwadi, Maharashtra
The small tribal village located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, Purushwadi is a perfect weekend getaway from Mumbai or Pune. This village is known for offering a very unique and fascinating experience, especially during the monsoon.
Famous for its fireflies festival, the village sees bioluminescence during the breeding season of these insects in the months of May and June. The rains facilitate the perfect atmosphere for witnessing the magic created by over 2,000 species of fireflies lighting up the entire village.
Bioluminescent Organisms And Where You Can See The Glow in Person, by Monica Cull; published by Discover Magazine on 15 June 2022.
Mysterious new bioluminescent mushroom glows in the forests of Meghalaya, by Neha Jain; published by Mongabay India on 18 November 2020.
Unbelievable Places in India That Glow in the Dark, published by Thursd on 12 August 2021.
Bioluminescence at Its Beautiful Best at Bangaram Islands in Lakshadweep by Anila Kopparapu; published by Tripoto.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
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