Swimming In Stars

At 1:30 am Rachana shook me awake. In the dark, my head still thick with sleep, I assumed it was one of my roommates waking me for my 6 am dolphin survey. This was not the case, I quickly realized, checking my watch and recognizing the culprit responsible for disturbing my sleep.

“Come on! I have something to show you!”

Now, I am not a person who likes to be woken up. Especially not when my sleep is being disrupted at 1:30 am for reasons unknown. With a grumble about the time, Rachana helped (and by helped I mean dragged) me out of bed. I pulled a shirt on and stumbled out the door, where I tripped my way down the steps from my bungalow, past the main bungalow, past the volleyball court, and on to the beach.

At a first glance, watching 10+ adults stumbling around in the water at 1:30 am while shouting in excitement might bring to mind thoughts of drunkenness. But on the island of Koh Seh, that isn’t necessarily the case.

As I neared the water, the glowing waves hitting the shore became apparent, and I realized just why Rachana had woken me.

Bioluminescence around the island is nothing new; often we’ll spit off of the pier and watch the sea light up as the droplets hit. But this was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Content to sit on the beach and chat with a couple other volunteers, I did just that, until we were encouraged to get in. I was wearing shorts so I figured, no biggie.

That is…until the splashing started. It wasn’t long before I was standing, sopping wet, in my pajamas. Eventually I gave in and just started swimming in them along with everyone else.

Moving through the water sent shimmers and waves of blue green glow all around you. Splashing at people shot bolts of light toward them. Even sitting still was incredible (and perhaps my favorite); the bioluminescence lit up in flecks all over your body. I felt like I was wearing stars.

We held out the bottoms of our shirts and scooped up water, and as it filtered out, it left galaxies in its place. We dipped our fingers in and tried to paint on each other, but by the time we touched skin, they were dead.

Here and there, harmless bioluminescent jellyfish, the size of a thumbnail, would be swept up in a shirt and admired before being deposited back into the sea.

We woke the rest of my roommates an hour later. I stayed in the water until four and didn’t enjoy waking up two hours later for the dolphin survey, but I still felt it was 100% worth it. A little lethargy is a small price to pay to wear the stars.