I will tell you about the Maldives at night, as well as the unique phenomenon of luminous plankton. This breathtaking spectacle is not easily accessible to tourists in many parts of the world, making it a major draw for those visiting the Maldives.

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The Maldives at night: general information

Here are some general points you should know about the Maldives at night. The most important is that the Maldives is located on the equator, which has the following implications:

  • The duration of day and night does not vary much throughout the year, with the difference between the longest and shortest day being only 30 minutes.
  • Sunset and sunrise occur at the same time every day in the Maldives (with only a small variation). Sunset is at 7 PM and sunrise is around 7 AM.
  • There is no daylight saving time in the Maldives, as it is not necessary. In general, the locals have an interesting relationship with time, which is discussed in more detail in the article “Time in the Maldives.”
  • And the equator is also an incredibly beautiful starry sky, unlike what we see in our latitudes. The distinctive feature of the equator is that the entire Milky Way is fully visible here, unlike in our latitudes where a large part of it is below the horizon and not visible. At the equator, it is directly overhead on clear nights.
luminous plankton in maldives
This is a photo taken with a professional camera, but the entire Milky Way is visible at the center. And don’t forget that there is no light pollution in the Maldives, unlike our big cities. The night sky here is much more beautiful.

There are more interesting facts about the Maldives, not just at night, in the linked article.

Entertainment and nightlife on the Maldives

As for entertainment and activities in the Maldives at night, for those who love loud and active nightlife, there may be disappointment. If you are looking for discos, night markets, and parties, then you do not need to go to the Maldives, you should go to Thailand or Vietnam.

It is important to know that

there is no nightlife on the Maldives, neither on resort islands nor on local islands. Even if you are staying in an all-inclusive resort, do not expect animation like in Egypt or Turkey. You will not find noisy discos here.

On the Maldives, there is almost no life after 11 pm. Everything is closed, and locals have long gone to sleep. The local residents are early birds, and the streets are empty already by 8-9 pm. But everyone is up by 6 am. There is a comprehensive article about the Maldivian population, their attitude towards tourists, religion, crime, and much more.

Also, keep in mind that no transportation runs between the islands during the dark hours. Seaplanes, speedboats, and ferries only operate during daylight hours.

nightlife on the maldives
At night, thousands of hermit crabs can be found on any beach.

In total, there isn’t much of a bustling nightlife scene in the Maldives. However, here are the main activities available for tourists:

  • Night snorkeling: For around $30-50, a boat with lights will take you to a reef where you can swim with fins and a snorkel. At night, you’ll encounter creatures that are difficult to spot during the day, such as moray eels, certain types of sharks, and squid.
  • Night fishing: Similar to daytime fishing, but at night. Barracuda is usually the catch of choice, and it’s both delicious and exciting to catch. Find out more about fishing in the Maldives.
  • At night, it’s also fun to run along the beach with a flashlight and catch hermit crabs. They’re particularly active and can be found on the beach at night. By the way, a flashlight is a must-have item in the Maldives. It gets dark early year-round, and while there is some street lighting on the islands, it’s not everywhere. Check out our list of necessary items to bring to the Maldives.
  • Also, don’t forget to bring a tripod and a good camera to try your hand at astrophotography on the equatorial beach. The starry sky here is truly amazing.
  • And of course, there’s the luminous plankton, a unique phenomenon that we’ll delve into further in the article.
night snorkeling and fishing in the maldives
It’s difficult to encounter murena during the day, but at night they come out to hunt.

Luminous plankton, or sea of stars in Maldives: where and how to see it

There is a lot of conflicting information and unhelpful chatter on the internet about where and how to see luminous plankton, aside from the island of Vaadhoo that everyone writes about. I’ll share my personal experience and include my own iPhone photos :). But know that bioluminescent plankton can be found on almost all atolls in the Maldives.

What is bioluminescent plankton and why does it glow?

In summary, the key points are:

  • Plankton are living organisms that reside in the upper layers of water. Plankton can be found in all oceans, from the Arctic plankton that only lives in the cold northern waters, to the equatorial plankton found in the Maldives.
  • In fact, they are tiny shrimp-like creatures, about 1mm in size. They are unable to move on their own and simply drift with the currents in the area where they reside.
  • Plankton is the primary food source for many species of marine life. In the Maldives, some of the most interesting representatives include mantas and whale sharks, both of which feed exclusively on plankton.
maldives at night
Nighttime in the Maldives is all about luminous plankton

Sea of Stars:

This is one of the types of plankton that lives in the warm equatorial waters of the Indian Ocean. The result of the life activities of such plankton is a chemical reaction that results in glowing, called “bioluminescence.”

In reality, there are plenty of insects and other living creatures that glow, like fireflies, for example. But it is the bioluminescent plankton that glows in response to any physical impact. That’s why in all photos, it is the edge of the water where the waves and the shore meet that glows. Although plankton can be found everywhere, it only glows where there is physical interaction with something other than water.

  • It is important to understand that this plankton is very particular about climate and weather conditions and is not present everywhere in the Indian Ocean. Even neighboring Seychelles, Zanzibar, and Mauritius, which are in the same climate and waters, don’t have it.
  • In the article at the link, there is an interesting comparison of the best resorts in the Indian Ocean, where I compare Seychelles, Maldives, Zanzibar, and Mauritius.

Best season for luminous plankton in Maldives?

In fact, the season for bioluminescent plankton is almost year-round and at any time of the day on the Maldives. I have even seen it while snorkeling during the day as small flashes of light. But to see it like in the photos in this article, certain conditions are required:

  • There needs to be a lot and a lot of it, and this happens during its active breeding period from September to March.

Luminous plankton in Maldives:

The season for bioluminescent plankton on the Maldives is almost 7 months out of the year, with the largest colonies in January and February. During these two months, the weather conditions are ideal for bioluminescence: clear water, almost no wind, weak currents, and a relatively calm ocean.
glowing plankton maldives
This photo of bioluminescent plankton was taken on the island of Rasdhoo, and it is not necessary to travel to the remote Vaadhoo Island to see it.
  • The best time to observe it is after sunset from 8 pm to 11 pm. Sometimes, the peak of bioluminescence occurs at 8 pm, and other times it may be 2-3 hours later. Sometimes we go to the beach 2-3 times in the evening to catch the moment of maximum bioluminescence.
  • After midnight, the plankton almost never glows.
  • The plankton glows brightest when there has been sunlight all day and then clouds move in after sunset. A bright moon and starry sky do not contribute to the bioluminescence.
  • The weather should be relatively calm. Wind, waves, and a restless ocean are all negatives that will prevent this natural phenomenon from being fully expressed.

Where to see luminous plankton in Maldives?

It’s not as bad as it’s written on the internet. It’s not just Vaadhoo Island, it’s almost all the Maldives. For some reason, the main glowing beach is there, but believe me, other islands are not worse.

There is bioluminescent plankton on all atolls in the Maldives. The only difficult part is finding it on islands near Malé. There is heavy traffic, muddy water, and strong currents there. Even in high season, this plankton is almost never found on islands within a 20-30km radius of Malé. This applies to both resort islands and popular local islands such as Maafushi, Gulhi, and Guraidhoo. If you come here on vacation, don’t expect to see the plankton.

I have seen bioluminescent plankton on the following local islands: Thoddoo, Rasdhoo, Mathiveri, Ukulhas, and Dhigurah.

 bioluminescent plankton
This is me on Thoddoo Island. Don’t do this, turns out plankton can bite pretty hard 🙂

Beaches with bioluminescent plankton are usually found in the northeast of any island:

Plankton doesn’t swim against the current. Closer to sunset, in this part of the ocean, the wind and current direction change, and the main currents to all the islands come from the northeast. So the main masses of plankton approach the island from this side. Not every beach has it, but where it is, the effect will be maximum.

Travel tips

The main advice for travelers that applies to everything:

  • Locals know their island well. Arrived, settled in, ask anyone: where to spot sharks or manta rays, which beach and when is the best time to see the luminous plankton. They will tell you everything. If there is no plankton on their island, you will find out immediately.
  • Plan multiple trips to the beach in one evening. Some people come at 8 pm and sit there under the starry sky until midnight. The strength of the plankton’s glow and the time of day vary every day. Sometimes there’s no plankton for a couple of days even in February. The main principle here is regularity. Regularly go to the beach and wait for it.

In conclusion: The Maldives are beautiful at night, and it’s not a noisy resort for party-goers, thank goodness. The Maldives at night are beaches, stars, bioluminescent plankton, and night fishing for enthusiasts. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight, tripod, and a good camera for night shots.

If you enjoyed the article and the content in this guide, you can buy me a coffee ^_^

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives

  • Flight tickets and the best deals
  • Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
  • Hotels and guesthouses on any island:
    • Hotellook compares prices among a dozen other services and platforms and offers to choose the best one.
    • Booking – the most popular service for booking accommodation.
    • Agoda – the main competitor of Booking.
  • 12go is the largest Asian transfer service. It gathers all Maldivian carriers, even the small ones that operate between local islands.
  • Tours and excursions: Viator – a limited selection of excursions, but convenient and reliable.
  • Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
  • eSIM at the same price as in telecom office in Male.