During your time on the Internet, you've probably spotted a few photos of beaches covered in bioluminescent organisms. At the risk of waxing rhapsodic, these phenomenons look like God just poured glitter on Earth, or like the stars broke into pieces and fell into the sea. Most likely, you're familiar with these natural wonders from photos you reblogged when you had a Tumblr in middle school. But you can actually experience this phenomenon—known as bioluminescence—in real life.
Bioluminescence occurs when a living organism produces light. This typically happens because of a chemical reaction that occurs within these creatures, due to a chemical known as luciferin, which produces light when combined with oxygen. Seen in creatures like glowworms, fireflies, sea stars, some sharks, jellyfish, and fungi, bioluminescence has long summoned travelers out to sea oceans or deeper into dark forests. When bioluminescence occurs en masse, it's one of the most stunning sights on Earth.
One caveat: Real bioluminescence doesn't always look like it does in these photos. Many of these are taken using time-lapse technology. Still, nothing compares to experiencing its faint glow for yourself, especially when you're surrounded by salty waves and tropical winds.
1. The Maldives
The admittedly stunning (but incredibly overused) image above might be one of the Internet's most popular photos, but unlike many viral posts, this one isn't photoshopped. Instead, it was taken in the Maldives, a collection of islands that's also home to a large number of bioluminescent plankton.
Located off the coast of India, there's one particular island—called Mudhdhoo Island or Vaadhoo Island—that's become famous for its photogenic displays. The island's gorgeous, neon blue light show has made it a popular destination for honeymooners and anyone seeking a glimpse of the sublime.
Bonus Photos: More of the Maldives