Plankton and Stars in the Philippines

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Magic of the midnight sky

It can truly be a magical experience to get away from the city into the countryside, away from the city lights, to witness the abundance of stars in the sky in all their glory. This is even more so in the SouthEast Asian sky, having experienced the difference from the country of my roots, Canada. I’ve even seen the beautiful Northern Lights for a couple of summers while up in the Yukon, next to Alaska, but I do not remember ever seeing stars in such brilliant abundance as I have during my stay in the remote areas of Palawan between El Nido and Coron.


And what makes the experience even more breathtaking is that sometimes, as you wade into the warm waters of the sea during the darkness of the night, away from the bright city lights, sometimes the plankton light up around your feet, mirroring the magnificence above while dancing in the wavy waters below.


And imagine you have experienced this after sitting around a campfire with your loved ones, on a beautiful, remote beach, while waiting for and watching the sun set.

We specialize in private custom multiday boat tour expeditions between El Nido and Coron, as well as private custom single day boat tours around El Nido and Coron.

These are two popular tourist destinations, but most visitors take a fastcraft ferry between the two, missing all the jewels in between, instead only watching a ghost of them through the scratched up plastic windows of the ferry as they pass hurriedly by.

For a glimpse of what such a multiday tour will offer you, check out our expeditions page, or send us a note so we can send you all the information and start to work towards designing the perfect private custom tour for you.

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Why there are more stars in the sky of southeast Asia than in Europe or North America

The night sky is a beautiful spectacle that has fascinated humanity for millennia. When we gaze up at the stars, we are reminded of our place in the universe and the vastness of space. However, not all parts of the world offer the same view of the night sky. In fact, if you travel to southeast Asia, you’ll notice that there are more stars in the sky than in Europe or North America. But why is that?

The first reason for this difference is the latitude of southeast Asia. The closer you are to the equator, the more stars you can see. This is because the Earth’s rotation causes the stars to appear to move around the celestial pole, which is directly overhead at the equator. As you move further away from the equator, the celestial pole appears to move closer to the horizon, which means fewer stars are visible.

equator-earth-map plankton stars

Another factor is the level of light pollution in different regions. Light pollution is the artificial brightness of the night sky caused by human-made sources, such as streetlights and buildings. In densely populated areas like Europe and North America, light pollution is much more significant than in southeast Asia. This excess light drowns out the light from the stars, making it much harder to see them.

Southeast Asia also benefits from its geography. The region is home to many mountainous areas that are far away from urban centers. These high-altitude locations offer a clear view of the sky without any interference from light pollution or atmospheric conditions. Additionally, southeast Asia has a warm and humid climate, which creates a stable atmosphere that allows for better stargazing.

Lastly, the lack of air traffic in southeast Asia also contributes to the region’s clear skies. Aircraft produce a significant amount of light pollution, especially during takeoff and landing, and the flight paths in Europe and North America are much busier than those in southeast Asia. As a result, the night skies in southeast Asia are less disrupted by the movement of planes and the associated light pollution.

city-night-lights darkens plankton and stars in sky

In conclusion, southeast Asia offers an unparalleled view of the night sky, with more stars visible than in Europe or North America. This is due to a combination of factors, including the region’s proximity to the equator, lower levels of light pollution, mountainous terrain, stable climate, and lower air traffic. If you’re a stargazing enthusiast, southeast Asia should be on your list of places to visit!

How do plankton generate light

Plankton, which are tiny organisms that float in the ocean, generate light in a process known as bioluminescence. This ability to produce light is widespread among marine organisms, including fish, jellyfish, and squid. Bioluminescence is a fascinating phenomenon that has captured the attention of scientists for decades, and it has many different functions in the marine environment.

plankton-light and stars in the Philippines boat tour

The process of bioluminescence in plankton is controlled by an enzyme called luciferase, which catalyzes a chemical reaction that produces light. The specific chemical reaction that occurs depends on the type of plankton involved. For example, some plankton produce light by mixing two chemicals together, while others use a protein called a photoprotein to produce light.

The most common type of bioluminescent plankton is dinoflagellates. These tiny organisms are single-celled algae that live in the ocean and are responsible for the glowing waters that are often seen at night. When dinoflagellates are disturbed, they produce a bright blue-green flash of light, which is thought to be a defense mechanism against predators. The flash of light is also used to attract prey, as it can be used to lure fish and other organisms towards the plankton.

dinoflagellates-plankton-light stars Philippines night sky
Dinoflagellates plankton.

Other types of plankton, such as copepods and krill, also produce light. These organisms have light-producing cells called photocytes that are found in special organs in their bodies. When stimulated, these cells produce a bright burst of light, which is used to deter predators or to attract mates.

plankton copepods stars philippines

Bioluminescence in plankton has many different functions, and it is a vital part of the marine ecosystem. It helps to regulate the food chain, as many predators rely on bioluminescent prey to survive. Bioluminescence also plays a role in the carbon cycle, as it helps to distribute nutrients and organic matter throughout the ocean.

In conclusion, plankton generate light through a complex chemical process called bioluminescence. This ability is controlled by an enzyme called luciferase, and it is used for a variety of different functions, including defense, attraction, and communication. Bioluminescence is an essential part of the marine ecosystem, and it plays a critical role in regulating the food chain and the carbon cycle. Understanding the mechanisms behind bioluminescence in plankton is crucial for understanding the workings of the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it.

If you’d like to experience the magic of such a light show while hopping from one beautiful white sand beach island to another, in a remote part of the Philippines, Palawan, voted internationally as the most beautiful island in the world with the clearest waters, let us organize a private custom tour for you!

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Experience the thrill of island hopping in the Philippines.

Home » Palawan » Explore » Plankton and Stars in the Philippines

05:51 03 Apr 24
I give 5 stars because they actually helped me to arrange the tour to Balabac in last minute. However, because the money wired through the local bank in my country took time to be processed, so i missed the boat due to peak season as many people paid before my money was received by the tour guide.As most of people usually feel, once your money has been transferred out to someone you do not know, you probably frustrated that your money would not be able to be refunded.But not in my experience. I dont need to be worry, the owner refunded me the money he has received (minus the bank fees). He promised to refund me and he did it. It was around 18.700 Pesos.So, eventhough i didn't manage to go with the tour, but i am really satisfied with their legitimate and great business practice. Hopefully, people will try their services and not worry about their legit business!Thanks a lot!
Chloe BlanchardChloe Blanchard
13:38 27 Mar 24
The most wonderful experience from booking to beach! Karel and Mel were so fast and responsive to my very last minute trip over the holidays. We booked a private boat for two and could not have been happier with our four day trip! We didn’t think about anything other than snorkeling the entire time. Linda, our captain, cooked wonderful meals and took us to totally empty beautiful beaches. We loved staying the night in Pical especially! Wonderful to experience the Philippines this way! Will come back again and would recommend to anyone!
hotel luci del farohotel luci del faro
08:13 31 Jan 24
We booked the 3 day 2 night expedition, from Coron to Sibaltan.First of all the booking part was really simple. I organized this trip to the Philippines last minute for my family (my parents and my uncles) but Karel answered all my questions very quickly and really made everything easier for me. It was an incredible experience. Albert, our tour leader, is a wonderful guy, always smiling and ready to help us. They assisted us in everything and really took care of making everything go smoothly. The accommodation on the islands is as spartan as you expect but the location of each hut alone is worth the trip. The wonder of nature was then added to the goodness of cuisine. It's really difficult to argue how you can cook all that goodness on a boat.If you are looking for an authentic experience, in contact with nature, off the beaten track, this company's private expedition is certainly for you.
Kate BrownKate Brown
00:22 27 Oct 23
What an unforgettable experience! We did a two night (3 day) island hopping tour from Sibaltan to Coron. Everything was so well organized and the boat crew were amazing and really made sure we had a great time. The accommodation was rustic, but added to the authentic experience of the Philippines. Karel always responded to any queries we had promptly. Our boatman, Albert, was the most amazing chef and we enjoyed every meal. The crew taught the kids how to fish with a line which was their highlight of the trip. They took us to the most unbelievable snorkelling spots along the way. Would highly recommend this trip.
Ian PascualIan Pascual
02:43 10 Aug 23
One of the most amazing, unforgettable things you can do in your life
Lou PrataliLou Pratali
11:04 25 Jul 23
This is a must to do!!Super ultimate tour is the best with Kayangan and barracuda lake, twin lagoons (my favorite), coral garden (blue fabulous coral) were the best. It’s really worth it to pay for private tour (3500 to 4000 PHP). You will also have to pay for entrance fees (150 to 200PHP by location) and eventually shopping at the market - must do (count 300 for 2 for fish, pork, fruits and vegetables, water).
16:11 07 Feb 23
I was looking for a personalized excursion to the stunning Bacuit Gulf.Based on the comments, I contacted Mel.Very responsive, very efficient and perfect organization.The on-board staff were very friendly and very helpful.And I'm not even talking about the meal on board...a marvel.In all fairness, this excursion will remain an excellent memory and I cannot recommend Mel and his team highly enough.A big thank-you.
Alyse TarbottonAlyse Tarbotton
23:48 30 Aug 22
This tour went well above all our expectations! I couldn't recommend this enough! The boat crew, captain and tour guide were nothing but amazing, everyone was so kind, helpful and friendly. The crew knew the best spots to visit that weren't overcrowded with tourists, 3 times we were lucky enough to have whole islands to ourselves! It was my partner's birthday while away and everything went above and beyond, bonfire, cake, birthday card, singing and celebrating with us.If you love camping this is definitely a tout you should do, it has been the highlight of our trip!!
Danish KayaniDanish Kayani
10:24 31 Oct 19
Coron is the best place i have ever seen.. picturesque. Beautiful. Peaceful
We booked a 4 days/3 nights private boat trip from Coron to Sibaltan. The organization went very well from the beginning, the owner answered to all my questions, and we were able to choose which islands to visit and where to sleep. The first night we slept in a bungalow in Banana Island, the second we camped in Araw beach and the last we slept in a seafront bungalow builded on a tree in Pical on Iloc Island.The islands in that area are the most beautiful islands I have ever seen, with clear water, lots of coral reef and fishes to see, white sand and almost deserted. The crew was very friendly and polite and they organize every single meal and for camping they give you a tent which was just perfect! This was our highlight in our 2 weeks in the Philippines and I wish I had booked a longer trip. A private trip gives you the freedom to decide where and when to go.
Gérard Benoit
Gérard Benoit
I was looking for a personalized excursion to the beautiful bay of Bacuit. Seeing the comments, I contacted Mel. Very responsive, very efficient and perfect organization. The crew were very friendly and very helpful. And I'm not even talking about the meal on board...a marvel. In all fairness, this excursion will remain an excellent memory and I can recommend Mel and his team highly enough. A big thank-you.
André Mardoñal
André Mardoñal
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The island world of Linapacan between Coron and El Nido with the clearest waters in the world is truly a dream for itself! Without a boat you won't be able to see it! But what this boat trips makes so amazing is the crew! Once you come on board they might be shy in the beginning but will make you feel welcome and home from the first moment. Not only that they are looking that you sit comfortable all the time, they will prepare fresh and delicious food what the buy from local markets. They know the best spots and most beautiful islands and will bring you to places where you get this "Robinson Cruisoe feeling". Every day you visit 3 to 5 spots for snorkeling, enjoying a beach or exploring a little island. The accommodation we had was good and simple. We slept in bungalows and tents right at the beach. Sheets and towels were always provided and sometimes towels. After a while you feel like a family on board. We loved living the boat life didn't wanna leave! If you doubt take a longer than shorter trip! For any questions please message me.
Sarah Uhan
Sarah Uhan
All in all it was a really great experience. It's a once in a lifetime thing to do and you won't get more authentic and basic Philippino experiences anywhere else. We were not so lucky with the wind and waves so we couldn't do all the stops we wanted to unfortunately. So be aware that especially the months from January to May can be very rough on water. But we still saw some great places Benji took us. Benji and his family was very nice and they did everything they could. The food was amazing - always freshly made in authentic Philippino style and way too much for the 2 of us. Make sure to bring enough cash - many of the islands cost extra (entrance fee) and be aware that any kind of accommodation and food (200php per meal) is not included in the boat fee. Also the deposit and commission fee for the agency are a little over the top, especially since the crew does not get any of it. The costs all in all are rather high for phillipino circumstances especially given the basicness of it all. However if you think about that all 5 boat people (in our case) live off of the boat fee alone, you spent the money willingly. Be aware though that accommodation and sanataries are very basic if even existant. So you gotta have the right mindset. Bring tissue, sanatiszer and earplugs to get some better sleep. Another feedback I have concerning the size of the boat. I don't think it is sufficient for more than 4 people. If the weather is like it was these days, you always have to sit on top and it was already a little squeezy with us 2 and 5 boat people. So I guess 4 guests can be fine but more than that won't have the space. There is different boat sizes but make sure to talk about that with Karel in advance. Other than that it was really worth it and we got to see so many great beaches and reefs which we could have never been able to visit without the tour.
Eric Liu
Eric Liu
It was scary to book a 5 day trip with no places to stay confirmed or a strong itinerary. And in the Philippines, communication is difficult. But that is part of changing mindsets to a rural island mindset. In the end, everything worked out. We had some tough moments with bugs. But we also had some amazingly beautiful secluded beaches, the best snorkeling in the world, relaxing on the beach, and freshly made food on the boat while docked at beautiful places (better than being on land). Note, we went with Benji. Recommendations: - you must get a local SIM when you arrive to make sure pickup and everything works out - some islands have bugs - use bug spray! Pros: - a fraction of the cost - away from the crowds - can customize what you want - just ask! - a truly local experience - saw a REAL rural town Cons: - locals aren't really polished tour guides - if you don't ask for it, you won't get it, need to be pretty proactive - pretty simple "activities" - no frills like bathrooms or kayaks etc.
Ángela Deand
Ángela Deand
We can't be more grateful to have had the opportunity of experience the peace in Patoyo Kitesurfing Camping! Spending two weeks in Dimancal Island, gave us the chance to experiment the rural and traditional way of life, in touch with the nature and people. We have learnt how to cook with fire, how to open a coconut and how to survive in an environment where for a time we forget about unnecessary needs, just to focus on enjoy the small details and pleasures of life. Mentioning too the amazing snorkeling and beautiful islands around this place, which make it unique​ and special. It is a lovely option if you are running away from tourists and overcrowded places in the Philippines. You will find yourself in the middle of virgin beaches and nature, surrounding​ by charming people. We will definitely come back!
Caroline Danielle
Caroline Danielle
We haven't done a Tao tour, but I would suspect that this is a cheaper version of the same thing. Our boat operator (Benji) and the entire crew were were fun, friendly and made an effort to ensure we had a good time. If you get a large group of people together it can be a really inexpensive alternative to other Coron-El Nino and vice versa island hopping tours. The food was good, but more expensive than as advertised by Karl. The price quote we got was 100 php a meal, but the boat charged us 200. Since the food was good we didn't mind the extra expense, but it is important to keep in mind if you're on a budget. Definitely plan for some incidental spending. Our boat did have some mechanical issues and as a result we ended up being stuck in the same place for longer than we wanted to be. That being said, little could have been done about it and the trip was fun nonetheless.
Hauk Are Fjeld
Hauk Are Fjeld
If you believe that doing the touristic tours in El Nido and going to "The hidden beach" takes you off the beaten path, you are wrong. There are lots of beautiful places in Palawan, but few of these places are without any other tourists. If you want to spend some extra effort on getting away from the tourist places, and don't mind a little "primitive" living, Island Hopping in the Philippines is definitely something you should check out
Arnold Cabiguen
Arnold Cabiguen
The snorkeling in this area is phenomenal. Clearest waters in the world. I guess it's because there is relatively such lower tourist traffic through here, and the locals really protect the reefs!
Karel Kosman
Karel Kosman
Love it so much, just had to say it twice!

We are a family operation managing private custom boat tours in the beautiful Palawan area, and are happy to help travelers with their plans through the country, having traveled a lot of it ourselves and planning to visit it all.

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