The Sea of Stars is an incredible phenomenon occurring primarily in the reefs of the Maldives, an enchanting country and popular holiday destination. Located in South Asia and comprised of over a thousand tiny islands, it’s known for its picturesque sites and seemingly untouched beaches.
The Sea of Stars should be an absolute must on your Maldives itinerary. This stunning effect often occurs on the country’s coasts and is created when bioluminescent plankton within the water glow, causing a captivating star-like appearance. The bright glow of these creatures extends throughout the waves, appearing to leave streaks within the water similar to shooting stars. In this guide, we explore this gorgeous phenomenon and provide tips on making the most out of your experience.
Where and when
This unique spectacle primarily occurs on Vaadhoo Island, a quaint, sparsely inhabited island not far from the capital of Male. However, the Sea of Stars can also be visible from a handful of other islands, albeit less often. Mudhdhoo Island is another one that seems to have a higher chance, as the waters are naturally rich in phytoplankton.
To provide the best chance of experiencing the mesmerising ocean glow, it’s recommended to visit during the wet season. For the Maldives, this usually occurs from May to November, so there’s plenty of time to squeeze in a visit. The Sea of Stars may also be visible during other times of the year but much less frequently, so try to visit within the wet season if you can.
Unfortunately even during the peak season, there’s always a chance that it may not occur during your visit, as there are so many variables at play. To maximise your chances, keep an eye on the weather conditions and current phytoplankton population for several nearby islands.
It’s also important to note that the effect is only visible during the night, so consider heading out for an evening walk. There are also plenty of nighttime boat tours available from the beaches which can help secure a good vantage point.
The science behind the sea of stars phenomenon
The starry appearance of the ocean is caused by the presence of tiny creatures within the water. In particular, a unique kind of bioluminescent phytoplankton called lingulodinium polyedrum.
The glow itself is caused by a chemical reaction resulting from the phytoplanktons’ defence mechanism. Their natural threat response kicks in due to the constant motion of the waves, emitting bright hues similar to that of a firefly. If provoked by other creatures within the water, their beautiful blue glow can appear even more radiant.
Visitors will be pleased to know that although the ocean may appear dangerous, it’s completely safe to swim in. The harmless phytoplankton are so small that they’re invisible to the human eye, meaning you can dive straight into the water and experience the spectacle up close.
The motion caused by swimming alongside these minuscule creatures can actually cause them to glow even brighter, so it’s definitely worth taking a dip. It’s also safe to snorkel amongst the phytoplankton, so check out some nearby shops or tour services to rent some equipment if that’s more your style. Snorkelling amongst these glowing creatures is guaranteed to be a truly unforgettable experience.
The nearby villages
The Maldives is a beautiful country and although it’s known for its beaches, the nearby villages are definitely worth visiting to truly experience the local culture. The islands that make up the Maldives are typically very small, meaning they’re sparsely populated and some appear almost frozen in time.
Outside of these villages, you can find an abundance of luxury resorts and hotels to really upgrade your holiday. A lot of the Maldives rely on tourism for their income, so amenities are becoming increasingly common. You can expect to find plenty of tour guides and local restaurants, but due to the limited space on these islands, you may need to take a boat ride across to another for some items.
Although this stunning phenomenon occasionally occurs in California, Puerto Rico and India, what better place to experience it than the Maldives? Not only are your chances much higher to experience the Sea of Stars, but the incredible landscapes, diverse culture and luxury amenities mean the Maldives really has something for everyone.
Andrea was born and raised in Northern Italy. At the age of 30, he moved to Vancouver Canada. Over the years he traveled extensively in North America, Europe, Central America, and Asia. He is passionate about traveling, cruising, and travel photography. He likes to write about his traveling and shows his travel photos.