Bioluminescence is one of the biggest draws of Cocovivo and the reason many people choose to visit us... but what is bioluminescence exactly?
In Bocas del Toro, the most common sources of bioluminescence are tiny microorganisms called dinoflagellates. When disturbed by movement in the water, such as by a passing boat or a swimming person, these dinoflagellates emit a brief and bright glow, illuminating the water with magical twinkles. This serves as a defense mechanism for the dinoflagellates: the sudden flash can startle or attract predators to the organism causing the disturbance, thereby deterring them from consuming the dinoflagellates themselves.
One thing few people realize is just how integral to the mangroves are to the creation of bioluminescence. The relationship between bioluminescent organisms and the mangrove ecosystem in Bocas del Toro is intricate and multifaceted. Here's how they interact:
Nutrient Cycling: Mangroves often act as nutrient sinks. Leaves, branches, and other organic matter from mangroves fall into the water and decay, releasing essential nutrients. These nutrients promote the growth of a variety of microorganisms, including bioluminescent dinoflagellates.
Protection & Shelter: The complex root systems of mangroves provide shelter for various marine species, including small fish, crabs, and shrimps. The movement of these organisms can disturb the water and activate the bioluminescence of dinoflagellates.
Brackish Water Environment: Mangrove ecosystems create brackish water conditions – a mix of fresh and saltwater. Some species of bioluminescent dinoflagellates thrive in these conditions, making mangrove channels and estuaries ideal places to witness bioluminescence.
Sediment Trapping: The root systems of mangroves trap sediments, which can create calm, sheltered areas where dinoflagellates can proliferate without being washed away by strong currents.
When is the best time to see bioluminescence?
Time of Year: Bioluminescence can be observed throughout the year in Bocas del Toro. However, it's often said that the best months to see this phenomenon are during the drier periods, roughly from February to April and September to October. These periods might have optimal conditions for dinoflagellate growth and, therefore, stronger bioluminescent displays.
Moon Phase: A darker night sky enhances the visibility of bioluminescence. Therefore, nights with little to no moonlight, such as during a new moon or a few days before or after it, are the best times. Avoid going during a full moon or when the moon is very bright, as the moonlight can outshine the bioluminescence.
Weather Conditions: Calm, clear nights without much wind or cloud cover can enhance the experience. Wind can disturb the water surface, making it harder to see the glow, and clouds can reflect ambient light, making the night less dark.
If you're planning a trip to Cocovivo specifically for bioluminescence, it's a good idea to check with us about the current conditions and the expected intensity of the phenomenon during your visit. They will have up-to-date information and can advise you on the best spots and times to experience this natural wonder.