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Auckland bioluminescence

Duration: 2 hrs

Experience Bioluminescent Night Cruising. Be one of the few to see this natural phenomenon known as 'Sea Sparkle' or 'Marine Aurora'. This bioluminescence kayak tour in Auckland is an inspiring night paddle.

What are the types of bioluminescence we see?

This is surface bioluminescence we see the most. Dinoflagellates are diverse single-celled organisms with two flagellas (organelles for bacterial locomotion). 'Dino-Bio' serves a vital role in ecosystems, totaling around 2,293 species.

Probably the coolest one. Also called "sea grape," is a barrel-shaped planktonic tunicate that moves by contracting its jelly-like body to pump sea water through. Salps feed on phytoplankton by straining and filtering sea water internally and as a result glows itself and showcases an efficient jet propulsion trail of bioluminescence!

Arrow worms, or chaetognaths, are predatory marine worms found globally in plankton (133 species), with some attaching to algae and rocks (this is where we see the rocks and reefs bioluminescencing).

Larvaceans, also known as appendicularians, are small (2-8mm), transparent, tadpole-shaped tunicates found primarily in the photic zone (top ocean layer).

When is the best time to see bioluminescence?

The best time to see bioluminescence is during warmer weather & water! Peak Auckland bioluminescence season is October-April. Tours are first-come-first-serve, so don’t wait!

The bioluminescence is influenced by the moon as it produces light, thereby complicating the observation process. During the full moon and when the moon has 'risen' above the horizon line into the skies, it is less ideal. BUT DON'T WORRY; all of SNM's dates have either NO moon rises or full moons!

At night auckland bioluminescence waters come alive in bright glowing hues

The water is often extremely clear giving great views of what is going past under your kayak. Auckland Bioluminescence Night Cruising allows you to experience the magical light show by the smallest of living sea creatures.

Auckland Bioluminescence Kayak Tour Overview

This incredible Auckland bioluminescence tour is peaceful and breathtaking, all at the same time. We don't let the day end when the sun goes down.

At sunset, we gather for a welcome and our experienced guides give a briefing of the bioluminescence tour. They will equip everyone with suitable life jackets and lead the way to the launch area for the kayaks. They provide help entering the kayaks and giving instructions to those that do not have kayaking experience. Everyone gets to do the tour in their own kayak or a tandem kayak.

It's like going on a cozy family tour. You stop along the way, where we explain more about the magical glowing water and the marine life in the bay.

We have grown up seeing millions of stars light up the night sky, beautiful, far away and untouchable. Paddling around in a kayak you are virtually floating in the bioluminescence, you trigger the marine light-show with your actions. From the kayak, you can reach into the water and let your hand light up and give the appearance of an Avatar-like character.

Enjoy being part of a small intimate group of kayakers, in an area with very little light pollution, because the darker it is, the better you see the glowing sparks in the water.

What is Bioluminescence?

A lot of marine bioluminescence is called Plankton. Plankton by definition is a “sea drifter” meaning it is at the mercy of the waters and moves with it. We see phytoplankton, because it is autotrophic, meaning an autotroph creates organic compounds, typically using light or chemical reactions for energy.

bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by living organisms. It occurs widely in marine (in)vertebrates and micro-organisms and you will likely see it in New Zealand on our Auckland bioluminescence kayak tour. We can break it down as bio- - lumen - -escence : 'life-light-process'. When the organisms move in the water they create a beautiful glowing effect. This means that you can see fish underwater by the glow that they give off as they swim, your paddle will glow as you maneuver the waterways, and the natural flow of water will illuminate these organisms.

Bioluminesence is not phosphorescence ; a form of photoluminescence linked to fluorescence . These all absorb and reemit light, they do not produce light.

It is a biological response of microscopic algae/organism of  luciferin and luciferase called a Dinoflagellate , which is why we coined the term ”dino bio”. The perfectly natural and harmless concentration of organisms produces light before your very eyes, often existing in millions per liter of water. Your tour will include a ton of information about these rare and exotic creatures with the most experienced guides in the area.

In the warm and dark lagoon waters lies a natural phenomenon of glowing blue waters alive with activity. The swirling of your hand, every paddle stroke, and the rolling wake off of your kayak all sparkle throughout the darkness. Many guests encounter the darting blue tracer trails of nearby fish swimming, describing them as an under-water laser light show.

Many guests compare the experience to Pandora of “Avatar.” Some even recall the bioluminescence scene in “Life of Pi” as the gentle plankton leave a trickling glow when you hold it in your hands and let it trickle down your arm.

An Ocean Full of Stars - Bioluminescent Algae: their ecosystems are very rare, often found in warm-water lagoons with narrow openings to the sea. These living lights in the ocean, you can experience right here with us.


Bioluminescence is like Pandora of “Avatar” and scenes in “Life of Pi”

Escape with us to the most pure and otherworldly experience that natural New Zealand has to offer.

See the plankton glow in the dark from your first paddle stroke on the bioluminescent kayak tour. As the night grows dark, step into your very comfortable kayak and get ready for a personal encounter with this remarkable phenomenon.

Our professional guide will lead you to the best spots where the glowing algae accumulates. You will be enchanted by how every stroke of your paddles leaves behind a glowing swirl of bluish light, and fish light up their path like shooting stars in the water.

Bioluminescent organisms - from shimmering squid to flashing fish - produce light through the oxidation of luciferin catalyzed by luciferase. They glow for various reasons such as repelling predators, attracting mates, or luring prey. Plankton, particularly phytoplankton, also exhibit bioluminescence and play a vital role in marine ecosystems as they drift with ocean currents.

Other things that light up are chemiluminescence and thermoluminescence .


Marine Heatwaves and Climate Change

Marine heatwaves and climate change can impact bioluminescence positively due to altered ecological conditions, increased nutrient availability, adaptation, shifts in ecosystem dynamics, and changes in symbiotic relationships. This helps SNM forecast our bioluminescence tours due to sea surface temperatures. The rise in ocean temperatures may favor the growth and distribution of bioluminescent organisms, leading to an overall increase in bioluminescence. However, while this phenomenon is noteworthy, it does not outweigh the severe negative consequences of climate change, including ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and biodiversity loss. Efforts to mitigate climate change and protect marine ecosystems are crucial for maintaining a sustainable and balanced environment.


Check out our booking tab, click the book now button or fill an enquiry here.

Duration: 2 hrs


Meet and greet

Meet your guide at the end of Okura River road, check clothing, gather equipment, learn how to use your gear.


On the water, staying together, paddling around to find the bioluminescence, taking photos, paddle back to shore.


Hugs and high fives, take off gear, help put equipment away, change clothes, farewell.

Not at OKURA, please go prior

Fair, you paid for it! But you still get our services and a 'nature' experience, so are welcome to a return trip at half price.

Very stable, we have never had anyone fall out.

We run our trips during the warmer months and only with 'fair weather' meaning little to no wind and rain, so it is unlikely. You only get wet up to your feet/shins or if you want to swim with the Bioluminescence.

Yes, as all our tours start around sunset, which averages around 20:00. Best to eat beforehand then have a little dessert/snack for afterward.

To prepare for your Bioluminescence Tour, see our gear list for clothing and equipment you will need.

The East Coast is widely known as the best place to see bioluminescence in Auckland.

A lot of the East Coast beaches in the Upper North Island of New Zealand, particularly from Auckland through to the Bay of Islands.

You are most likely to see Bioluminescence in Auckland during the warmer months from October through to May. We run tours of 2 hours duration, starting at sunset around the high tide.

The best time to see bioluminescence is after sunset when it is absolutely dark with weather of no winds or rain.

No but they can be highly presumed. We know the places to be and when to be there, but never is there a guarantee.

Bioluminesence is a living organism that has chemical reactions causing its glow.

Ideal conditions for viewing bioluminesence is no wind, no rain, darkness and warm waters.

Most bioluminescent organisms in the ocean produce blue-green light, the color that transmits best through ocean water.

We select the best staff for the job based on their skills, knolwedge and experiences. They will be an SNM staff member or we will bring in support from equally competent contractors. Sometimes we also bring in (semi)celebrity guests!


  • Thin merino or thermal shirt
  • Fleece or woolen jumper
  • Rain-proof Jacket
  • Warm beanie
  • Towel


  • Torch
  • Footwear (water-shoes)
  • Personal medication
  • Water bottle


Kayak / SuP / Canoe
Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with safety light



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