Diving in the Raja Ampat archipelago is magical enough in the daytime, but just imagine what it’s like at night. Each night the sea around Papua Paradise Eco Resort comes alight with a bioluminescent show of light and fluorescent colours. Not many people are lucky enough to dive with such incredible beauty. If you would like to be one of those fortunate divers, read on to learn more.
What is the Purpose of Bioluminescence and Florescence?
Marine biologists have studied bioluminescence for decades. They have found that marine organisms use their fascinating capability to ‘light up’ in a number of ways.
We generally see bioluminescence triggered by organisms being disturbed by movement of the sea, other animals or boats. However, they also show their lights to attract a mate or in response to an attack. Certain fish also use their light to attract pray, sometimes dangling it in front of their mouth like a lure.
It’s also notable that bioluminescent organisms can be found in any depth of water but are most common in the deep sea. This indicates that marine creatures use bioluminescence as a form of communication.
Florescence seems to have similar reasons to bioluminescence, but even less is certain about the process. Some marine biologists believe there are symbiotic relationships between the zooxanthellae (algae) that give corals their bright colours. It’s also possible the florescence is a type of sunlock, protecting marine organisms from sun damage.
What Might you See in Raja Ampat?
You don’t have to search out bioluminescence and florescence in Raja Ampat. Corals, sea fans and anemones that are so beautifully vibrant in the day, become fluorescent in the nighttime.
You will probably also witness the glow worms Odontosyllis enopla flickering bright green. They use their flashing lights to attract mates. Many reef fish including gobys, cardinalfish and goatfish also fluoresce at night.
However one of the most interesting bioluminescent creatures found in Raja Ampat is the bobtail squid. The squid itself isn’t bioluminescent but has a specialized organ on its body where the bioluminescent bacterium V. fischeri live. This symbiotic relationship keeps the bacteria fed with sugars and amino acids and stabilizes the squid’s circadian rhythm and keeps it safe from predators.
Simplifying the Glowing Seas
This is a very simplified explanation of what is happening in the seas by night. There have been in depth studies into all kinds of bioluminescence and florescence and still nothing is 100% certain. However, what we do know for sure is that there is nothing more breathtaking than diving at night with marine organisms glowing all around you.
Raja Ampat is one of the best places in the world to experience this due to the lack of ambient light, excellent visibility, and the low density of divers at most dive sites.