Many of you may remember the scene in the film “Life of Pi”, where the entire sea is lit up as if a thousand small led bulbs have been put on beneath the sea. This is actually true. At certain places you can witness a sea of light – the phenomenon is caused by micro organisms that emit light. The spectacle occurs when phytoplanktons (microscopic marine plants), commonly known as dinoflagellates, produce light through chemical reactions in proteins, say researchers.
These bio-luminescent beaches have been seen all over the world (Maldives, Vietnam, Indonesia, USA, Australia etc..) and (hold your breath) India. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) confirmed that the occurrence of bioluminescence – emission of light by marine organisms – has been observed at several coastal areas this year. Recently, this was spotted at Juhu beach in Nov 16 and Kelshi, Ganapati Pule beaches in Jan 17.
This can be due to several factors for the occurrence but one of the main factors could be eutrophication – the reduction of oxygen in the water, which makes the phytoplanktons pretty dominant. A sample of the water needs to be analysed to check the exact cause of the blue tide. This has been spotted along the Indian coast with increasing frequency,” says E Vivekanandan, consultant and scientist, CMFRI.
“Microorganisms called dinoflagellates are related to amoeba and paramecium. They have enzymes in their body with which break down certain organic substrates and this gets emitted into light,” says Dr Parvish Pandya, vice-principal and associate professor, zoology, Bhavan’s College. “The light is produced when the organisms are churned or mechanically stimulated, for example the light spreads further when waves surf up along the rocks.”
He adds that there are two main theories for this phenomenon. “The first being that this helps these organisms gather together and make colonies and second being that the light helps dissuade or alert predators,” says Pandya.”
Locals call the fluorescent occurrence as ‘neeli machli’ (blue fish). They claim that it is not harmful and if one puts their hand into the water, it starts glowing.
Similar to the blue tide, there exists another such phenomenon called red tide or harmful algal blooms that emits red light. It is rare occurrence caused by colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds
“While making the light this organism secretes a chemical which is toxic and kills fish in the area the light emerges and are known to occur near the Florida gulf coast. However, in Mumbai’s case, the blue light is not toxic and has maximum transmission in water that helps reach maximum distance,” says Dr Parvish Pandya.
While bio-luminescence has been spotted at many beaches across the world, what makes the sight rarer is its complete lack of predictability. So if you are lucky, you may walk down one of the beaches at around 9:30 pm since these are visible under a dark sky and the lights get submerged once the high tide sets in.
It may be better to stay away and enjoy the view from a distance although the locals claim otherwise. Better safe than sorry.
Your best bet is to compare rates, amenities, views and conditions before entering into a rental agreement. Keep in mind that certain sites are simply a forum for owners to list their properties, while other sites serve as rental agents and take a more active role in the process. You may pay slightly more when booking through an agent site, but they may also be more willing to step in if something goes wrong with your rental.
While there are many worldwide sites for vacation rentals, don’t forget about smaller sites that offer rentals specific to your destination; often you’ll find properties listed there that you wouldn’t find on the bigger sites. Local real estate offices can also be a great resource, especially if you live within driving distance of your destination and would like to tour properties in person with a real estate agent. Keep in mind, however, that the agent’s commission may inflate the price of your rental, and you’ll probably be giving up your chance to bargain with the property owner directly.
It’s important to understand how sites display search results. TripAdvisor, for example, rewards hosts for good behavior (fast response rates, new photos, up-to-date calendars) by giving them greater visibility. On Airbnb, look for listings with good and significant number of reviews, a “verified photos” caption (which means the site photographed the property) or a Superhost badge, achieved after hitting various milestones like completing at least 10 stays and receiving 80 percent five-star reviews.
Seeing what past guests have to say can provide invaluable insights into what you are (and are not) getting. When possible, book on sites that authenticate reviews—allowing only people who have actually stayed at the property to write in. Both Airbnb and TripAdvisor do this. And know the signs of fraud: if there is an unrealistic number of overly gushing reviews, beware. In fact, a proper mix of positive and negative reviews will give you an indication of the genuineness of the reviews.
When using Airbnb and other rent-by-owner sites, it helps to share a little about yourself (where you’re from, what type of traveler you are) on your profile or in the request to book. Remember: hosts are appraising you as much as you are them. (On Airbnb, instant booking is available only to renters with robust profiles and solid reviews from hosts.) If you have lingering questions for the owner or manager, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.
Photos: Quantity and quality matter—the more professional looking the pictures, the more serious the host.
Reviews: The best ones reconfirm details and amenities you’ve read about in the listing.
Updated calendars: To avoid inquiring about a property that’s not actually available, always look to see when the host has last refreshed the calendar.
Response time: Hosts typically have 24 hours to respond to a booking request. (Factor this into your planning time-line.) Many sites actually display each host’s average response time—so you can get a sense of when (or if) to expect an answer.
Miscellaneous things: Need to bring Fido? Make sure pets are allowed. Have small children? Ask about facilities for children baby gates for the stairs. Vacationing with an older family member who isn’t very mobile? Try to find a property without many steps. Plan on having cookouts? Ask if the kitchen or barbecue facility is available.
The Murud tragedy has brought home a graphic lesson on the tidal currents to avoid while on a seaside vacation. And, it may soon be forwarded to you on WhatsApp. A picture message has gone viral on the messaging service — highlighting the rip current, which has the potential to pull a person deep into the sea — in a bid to avoid the Murud fate in future.
The message asks people to
observe the sea for some time before entering the water. If there is an ocean wave void (a disjointed portion of wave in the middle), then there is a rip current in the sea directed towards the ocean and away from the shore.
At times, it can be strong enough to claim lives. These currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water that are quite strong.
Geography experts have endorsed the images, saying it’s one of the basic ways to identify whether the waters are safe or not. “It is actually a rule of thumb that one should not enter the water when there is a rip current. But sometimes, it may not be prominently visible despite observation. If it is seen, one should not enter the water.
Yet another way of understanding if the waters are safe, which is mostly followed by people abroad, is throwing a floating object tied to a rope in the water. The object’s behavior gives one an idea about the behavior of water and the current. However, the object should be hauled out by pulling the rope to avoid pollution,” shared Dr Surendra Thakurdesai, head of department, geography, at Gogte Jogalekar College in Ratnagiri.
A rip current forms a marked shallow channel, which breaks through the shore bars that are generally horizontal. Between cusps of coarse sand is some fine sand where the bay is easily visible. It is in these bays that strong rip currents originate. Besides these, Dr Shrikant Karalekar, dean of the earth sciences department at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, also spoke of other markers that one can look out for before entering the sea. “Along the beach, there are crescent shaped bars which develop to between 100 and 2000 meters long. It is dangerous to cross these bars, which are often ignored. Another easy way is to feel the movement of sand. If the sand is pulled inside, it is better to refrain from entering the water from there. Also, at some places, if there is fine grains of sand that stick to each other as opposed to coarse sand, then the current is strong in that area,” warned Karalekar, saying that people can also use tracer dyes, which can show the direction in which currents are flowing.
The administration has prepared more generic guidelines suggesting that people should take the advice given to them.
The guidelines talk about avoiding drinking before entering the sea or refraining from going into deep waters
So far, no plan has been put in place to help people detect the dangers of the sea themselves. Rather, civic officials have taken to putting up flags to demarcate areas where one can swim and parts where one cannot. “Besides following the general guidelines, we are creating awareness among the people to identify places where the creeks meet the sea and refrain from those areas. The Murud incident happened at one such spot that is often susceptible to strong currents,” said Sagar Pathak, Raigad district’s disaster management officer.
Watch out for these jelly fish the next time you venture into the seas during Sep-Nov time frame. This is typically the breeding season for jellyfish. Colonies of jelly fish are found to be present at the surface, stingrays are found at the seabed. Along with oil sediments along the beach shore, poisonous jellyfish might injure tourists.
To understand the significance see these news snippets:
The poisonous barbs from Stingrays can cause injuries. Long tentacles trailing from the jellyfish body can inject venom from thousands of microscopic barbed stingers. The jellyfish sting causes severe itching, swelling as it contains neuro-toxins.
These jellyfish are seen across the Goa and Konklan beaches. According to a presentation by NIO scientist Baban Ingole at a recent toxicology conference at the Goa Medical College, Bambolim –
“Those who come in contact with toxic jellyfish can die if not treated immediately”
“But more worrying is that Goa’s coastal waters have developed the right environment for the growth of jellyfish.”
“The temperature is just right; jetties and harbours are where the jellyfish take shelter; and they can survive in polluted conditions too.”
“Climate changes and possibly power plant thermal effluents, increased nutrients in water due to agricultural run-off, intense fishing activities can remove predators of jellyfish and zooplanktivorous fish competitors as well as cause large-scale ecosystem changes that improve conditions for jellyfish”
Described as free-swimming marine animals, jellyfish are of two kinds-toxic and non-toxic. And while most jellyfish stings are harmless to humans and cause only a mild irritation, species like Box jellyfish and Blue bottle-spotted on Goa and Konkan beaches are venomous and can harm humans. The white variety is not as toxic as the blue one.
First-aid for jellyfish or stingray injuries: