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No T7 Villa, Tuan Chau Marina, Tuan Chau, Halong, Quang Ninh, Vietnam

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Bioluminescence on Halong Bay


Emeraude Halong Bay Night Water

Certain natural phenomena are so otherworldly, and so eerie, that people travel great distances just to witness the spectacle. Think of Aurora Borealis, the harvest moon, the lunar eclipse and the solar eclipse. Remember the way Carly Simon sang it:

“You flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.”

Point taken, from the very rich to the not so rich, people crave exposure to natural phenomena.

Here on Halong Bay, you can’t see the northern lights, and you can’t bank on being here for an eclipse or a harvest moon, for that matter, but you can encounter a natural phenomenon so wondrous that seeing this may very well outrank visions of the karsts as your favorite part of an Emeraude cruise. Our local phenomenon is bioluminescence, and Halong Bay happens to be one of the best spots in the world to see this natural wonder.

What is bioluminescence? It’s cold light emitted by various living organisms. Think of fire-flies and glow-worms. They’re the most common carriers of a phenomenon that occurs when these creatures release pigments that react with oxygen. That’s as much science as we’re prepared to get into here, because the sublime pleasure of bioluminescence is not a matter of knowing but seeing.

On the Emeraude, when the waters are calm and the lights are low and the moon is down, the conditions are just right for the blue business of bioluminescence. You won’t see this if you simply sit on the deck and contemplate the darkened water. But dip your hand into the sea and swirl. Voila!

The effect is even more striking when someone dives into the water, not that we’re advising anybody to dive into the dark seas of Halong Bay at night. But others have done this. Travel blogger Becky Ford described the effect this way on her blog when she went into Halong Bay at night:

“I felt like I was swimming in stars. I have never in my life seen anything more beautiful.”

Since the Emeraude started anchoring in a new place, away from the other boats in the bay, the opportunities to experience this aspect of Halong Bay are even more accessible. When the night is just so, according to the Emeraude’s Chief Purser, Anne Sadang:

“It’s like diving into the world of Avatar.”