Expedition yachts provide front row seats to some of nature’s most awe inspiring displays, allowing guests to travel to far flung destinations where the natural world operates outside of the bounds of everyday life.

From volcanic eruptions to glacial calvings, these phenomena are reminders of the power and wonder of our wild landscapes. Chief among them is the mystical, ocean glow called bioluminescence.

Sailing in the open ocean at night provides some of the best glimpses into the night sky. Beyond the reach of land-based light pollution from major cities, the sky opens to reveal the bright swath of the Milky Way and star density that is difficult to see on land. And if you are lucky, this spectacle might be mimicked in the water below you. When the conditions are just right, bioluminescence lights up the ocean as brightly as the night sky.

Bioluminescence is a cold light produced by a chemical reaction by living organisms. This extraordinary adaptation occurs in a variety of marine species, including fish, jellyfish, and various invertebrates, enabling them to create their own light source.


This display of lights is not mere magic; it’s a finely tuned chemical process exhibited by a whopping 76 percent of ocean animals. The reasons creatures invest energy in this display are as varied as the creatures themselves: it might be for defense (functioning either as a decoy or camouflage to avoid predation), offense (luring potential food in or visually stunning prey), or even reproduction (lights as displays of fitness or for signaling location to mates). The end result is a spectacular array of colors and patterns, ranging from blue to white to green and displaying as bright flashes or gentle, glowing strobes.

Observing this extraordinary light display means off-the-beaten-path ocean exploration and the mobility and flexibility of an expedition yacht provide ideal front-row access. Some far-flung destinations to spot this phenomenon include:

  • Playa Montezuma and Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica: Here, the water glows brightly due to the abundance of bioluminescent dinoflagellates, creating an otherworldly experience, either from the beach or in the water.
  • La Paz, Baja California Sur: This city, located on the eastern coast of the Baja California Peninsula along the Sea of Cortez, is well-known for bioluminescent displays. Kayaking tours are popular in the area, allowing you to paddle through the bioluminescent waters at night and witness the spectacular light shows.
  • The Deep Ocean: Submersibles and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have unveiled the secrets of deep-sea bioluminescence, with discoveries of creatures like the mysterious anglerfish.