Exploring the Whitsunday Islands through a liveaboard boating experience like Wings Whitsunday Adventures offers a range of truly unique experiences. Though there are some pretty awesome adventures throughout the day, like snorkelling coral reefs and wandering along pristine beaches, the night time is often a very welcome surprise to many of our guests. As night falls and our guests kick back on board, the vessel’s underwater lights are turned on, drawing in a huge array of sea creatures and a front row seat to nature at its finest. Not only do we often get to see larger animals cruising past and playing in the lights, but also get the privilege of watching the food chain in action as predatory fish round up their nights' dinner.
You might be wondering what these underwater lights are and exactly how they work their magic? The lights are simply waterproof blue LED lighting units, that are attached to the boat below the water at the back deck so that their light shines out underwater. If you are wondering whether the colour of the lights makes a difference, the answer is yes. You see different colours of light are absorbed differently in the water column, red being the first colour to be absorbed and blue the last. It’s because of this lower absorption that blue lights are popular as their light carries a much greater distance underwater, so is visible by people and wildlife from much further away.
When the blue lights are turned on each evening the water seems to suddenly come alive with activity, though moments ago you wouldn't have given the water a second thought. As the blue lights are switched on many organisms are attracted to the light shining from the boat. Smaller organisms, like many larval plankton through a phenomenon known as phototaxis are attracted to the lights and swim directly to them. Other larger marine life on the other hand are attracted to the lights of the boat because of the activity of smaller organisms that they might like to feed on. Also with these smaller organisms exposed in lights it becomes much easier for the larger animals to hunt and feed on them.
As mentioned we get a range of plankton swimming in the lights of the boat due to positive phototaxis (attraction and directional swimming to the light). Many of these plankton are very basic organisms but some of them are larvae of species you would easily recognise in their adult stage. Often larvae of crustaceans, like crabs and lobsters appear at night time although these tiny little guys look a bit funny compared to their older brothers and sisters! However just like their adult relatives the plankton are very tasty, making them quite appetising for larger animals.
The plankton and tiny larvae that are attracted to the lights as mentioned earlier help bring in other sea life also, as they are a food source of animals such as small bait fish species. These bait fish finding it much easier to hunt for their prey in the light of the boat. Zooplankton are often at the surface of the ocean to feed on phytoplankton, however they primarily do this at night time when they are protected from predators by the cover of darkness. The blue lights however congregate zooplankton at the back of the boat and make them an easy target and quick meal for any predators passing by.
Other small predators that lurk in the blue lights include the irukandji jellyfish. Though these jellyfish are made of over 90% water and lack a brain that is recognisable they have been found to actively hunt. The jellyfish have been found to actively lure prey into their tentacles, flicking their stinging cells on these tentacles much like a fisherman flicking a lure to catch a fish. You can even watch these crafty little creatures as they lure tiny prey into their tentacles right by the boat's edge! Though do be careful to mind your distance as the sting of the irukandji jellyfish is quite nasty for humans as well, so powerful it could end your holiday early.
Bigger species that enjoy the hunting benefits of the blue lights include squid, giant trevally, dolphins and even sharks. These apex predators cause quite the excitement as they swim into view. The squid are most often seen hunting the small bait fish that have arrived but must be careful as they often find themselves on the menu as well! The giant trevally, sharks and dolphins can all be seen chasing schools of bait fish and squid. The squid as they are being chased putting on quite the show, squirting a cloud of their ink in an attempt to escape capture!
The blue light boat disco sounds pretty cool? Well we have only just started scratching the surfaces of possible creatures and wonders to see! So if you’re looking for a unique experience on your next holiday, come and travel with Wings Whitsunday Adventures for fun-filled days and fascinating nights!