Paddle Neon Waters on Florida’s Space Coast

Florida is home to many natural bodies of water, some of which light up at night as part of a phenomenon called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is created in one of two ways: by single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates or by organisms called comb jellies.

Few places in the world offer the opportunity to see bioluminescence in the wild, and Florida is one of them. So how does this phenomenon occur, and when and how can you see it?

What Causes Bioluminescence?

Dinoflagellates are single-celled organisms that emit light when disturbed. Comb jellies also emit light when disturbed, and the motion of their cilia alone can create bioluminescence as well. Often confused as a type of jellyfish, comb jellies derive their name from their “giant, comb-like rows of cilia running up and down their bodies,” according to National Geographic.

Where and When You Can See Bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence can be seen on Florida’s Space Coast. The main bioluminescence water location is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Indian River Lagoon. Several companies offer bioluminescence kayaking tours ranging in price depending on the time of year.

The best time to see bioluminescence in Florida is all year. Dinoflagellate-created bioluminescence can be see June through October, and comb jellies take over from October through May.

While no site suggests one time over the other, visitors should note that the two organisms that cause this phenomenon do produce different experiences. So, what a visitor may see during July will not be the same as what is seen with the comb jellies in December. Also, to see the brightest colors, visitors are recommended to use a lunar calendar to schedule their visit on the darkest nights.

Ready to Hit the Water? 

So you’ve decided you’re ready to check out this amazing natural phenomenon and now you need to get the right gear to go.

A few of the companies that offer bioluminescence kayak tours include A Day Away Kayak Tours, BK Adventure, and Adventures in Florida. Each of these companies provide the necessities, such as the kayak, paddles, and personal flotation devices. However, they do recommend a few other personal items for your trip, such as bug spray, long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a change of clothes as you’ll likely get wet during your tour. Additionally, these companies have a minimum age requirement for participants, but it varies by company.