This is not a review of Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives – it is an article that will tell you how much nonsense and unverified information there is on the internet. How people mindlessly copy each other and present it as the truth. If you are planning to fly to the Maldives for a vacation, you have probably heard that the brightest bioluminescent plankton, also known as Sea of Stars, in the world is on Vaadhoo Island.
Hundreds of articles with the same photos insist on this. And then tourists write to me saying they want to stay only on Vaadhoo Island and wonder why there are no accommodation options even on Booking.com. And now, the whole truth about Vaadhoo (by the way, it is pronounced Vaadu, the letter “h” is not pronounced in Dhivehi), about the glowing plankton, and where else it can be found.
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Is Vaadhoo really home to the beach with the brightest sea of stars?
Bioluminescent plankton is a relatively rare natural phenomenon, and there are not many places in the world where it exists. And where it exists, the brightness of the glow leaves much to be desired.
It is important to note:that the article “Maldives at Night” covers what this phenomenon is, why plankton glows, where to find it on the island, at what time, and what factors affect it.
The story of the appearance of the sea of stars in Vaadhoo:
- Until 1972, the Maldives was a closed country. No one in the world knew about Vaadhoo, where it was, or what it was.
- In the 80s and 90s, there were only 2-3 dozen luxury resorts on the islands, which only wealthy tourists could afford to visit. The country opened up for mass tourism only in 2010 when local islands were allowed to host guests.
- At that time (80s and 90s), there were few tourists, no internet, and if tourists visited local islands, it was only on excursions from resort islands.
- And then, one of the tourists brought a photo (on a film camera) from Vaadhoo Island 30 years ago, showing the natural wonder of the glowing beach at night. Since then, Vaadhoo has been considered the capital of bioluminescent plankton, although it can also be found on over 300 other islands in the Maldives.
It’s a shame that online authors simply copy and paste the same photos and text, while this island regularly tops all kinds of ratings, even though there’s hardly any tourism there, even today in 2023.
The Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island is exactly the same as on other islands:This plankton cannot move on its own, it only drifts with the current. During peak season, which is January-February in the Maldives, plankton actively reproduces and its population increases tenfold. Along with the northeast current, it is carried to almost any island from this direction. If an island is not blocked by a protruding reef from the northeast, the glowing plankton can be seen right on the beach.
Vaadhoo Island: where it is, how to get there, and where to stay
Even in this matter, the authors make misleading statements about different islands, confusing tourists: there are two Vaadhoo islands in the Maldives. Both are located far from Male, and there are no direct routes to get there. Let’s take it step by step:
Useful information:The first letter in the official name of an island signifies the name of the atoll. You can read about atolls, their number, map, and how they came to be in this article.
- R.Vaadhoo (located in the Raa Atoll). Here are the coordinates on the map: 5.856479760731659, 72.9921394444036, 400 km from Male. This island is the world capital of sea of stars, and it all started here.
- There is no direct ferry connection to the capital. The simplest and most budget-friendly option is to take a local airline flight from Male to Ifuru airport for $150. Then, rent a boat to Vaadhoo for around $100, or take the last leg on a state ferry for a couple of bucks. For those who need a schedule, please write in the comments.
- GDH.Vaadhoo (located in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll). Coordinates and map: 0.22739997752301763, 73.27329911328121. The distance from Male is over 500 km. The journey will cost you more than a ticket to the Maldives.
- For those interested, you can read about the flights across the Maldives, prices, airports, and more.
- What’s most interesting is that there is also bioluminescent plankton on the second Vaadhoo Island in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.
They are just ordinary, tiny local islands where the locals live their lives. Yes, you can get there if you want, even on your own, but there’s nothing there. There are no hotels or guesthouses, just a couple of local cafes. There’s no bikini beach either. And the chance to see glowing plankton is just the same as everywhere else. I don’t know what you’d do here.
Advice to all tourists:Vaadhoo Island is highly idealized. And the photos on the internet are all heavily photoshopped. Moreover, some of the photos aren’t even from the Maldives. Today, with budget tourism to the Maldives’ local islands, it’s not that difficult to find sea of stars. You don’t need to go to Vaadhoo for that. And believe me, the strength of its glow doesn’t depend on whether it’s Vaadhoo or not. It depends on the season, wind, month, moon, waves, and so on.
Where to find sea of stars: on which islands?
If the photos of luminous plankton above were from the internet, then the following are only my personal ones, taken on an iPhone. And not even all of them. I’ll try to write the island under each photo, and you decide whether you still want to go to Vaadhoo or not.
And, of course, all the photos below are without photoshop or filters, just the photographer’s hands and talent :).
Detailed reports on all these islands (or almost all) are available on the pages of this guidebook.
And this is just a small part of the photos. There are also photos of glowing plankton from local islands: Ukulhas, Mathiveri, Fulhadhoo, and even Thinhadoo.
I recommend an excellent list of the best resort hotels in the Maldives. On each one that is more than 30km from Male, there is a chance to see glowing plankton.
In conclusion, the island of Vaadhoo will remain the capital of sea of stars in the Maldives for many tourists. 99% of people will see beautiful photos on the internet or on TV and dream of coming here. Only those travelers who really want to make it happen will understand that they don’t need Vaadhoo.
There is a lot of sea of star places in the Maldives, and you don’t have to go to this island to see it like in the photo above. But luck is needed, as this phenomenon strongly depends on the weather and season.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives