While the theme parks in Central Florida – Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando – are often the main reason vacationing families travel to the Sunshine State, many tourists also come to enjoy the year-round mild weather and the state's natural beauty. That's why eco-tourism has evolved into a growing category within Florida's vacation offerings.In fact, it's possible to spend one day enjoying the Magic Kingdom or Universal's Islands of Adventure, and then the next day kayaking down a scenic spring-fed river just a few miles away. There are many tours available throughout Central Florida that will take you out on the water and show you miles of natural wildlife along the river's shores, including alligators in their natural habitat. The area is also home to dozens of state parks with miles and miles of hiking trails from which you can see a variety of plants, flowers, birds, and much more. However, for a truly unique and breathtaking experience in Florida, you should consider one of several bioluminescence tours available in the area. These tours take place after dark, when the water's surface shines with a natural glow of blue light with every stroke of a paddle or even when touching the water with your hand. Bioluminescence… nature's glow stick The scientific term, “bioluminescence,” refers to any chemical reaction in a living organism that produces light. There are many living creatures that do this, most of which live in the ocean, and they do it for a variety of purposes. For the most part, these natural light shows occur for the purpose of hunting prey, defending against predators, or finding a mate, as well as other vital purposes. On land, bioluminescent species include fireflies, which light up to attract mates, and certain types of fungi. In the ocean, some species of fish, plankton, bacteria, and jellyfish produce their own light. The most well-known fish that uses bioluminescence is the anglerfish, which uses it to lure prey close enough to strike. The anglerfish has sharp teeth and a long, thin growth on the top of its head, which dangles a small light in front of its mouth. The light is thought to draw smaller fish toward it out of curiosity, giving the anglerfish an opportunity to take its prey by surprise. On a much smaller scale, many of Florida's waterways are home to a species of plankton called “dinoflagellates,” tiny marine organisms that emit a sparkling blue glow at night when disturbed. These are single-cell organisms, often referred to as algae, that thrive in rivers, streams, and freshwater ponds. Throughout the world, nearly 2,000 species of dinoflagellates are known to scientists.Dinoflagellates emit a blue light that scientists believe evolved either to confuse any prey nearby, or to attract larger organisms higher up on the food chain so they can prey on the predators threatening them. These rare freshwater organisms – rare because 90 percent of all bioluminescent marine species live in the ocean – can be observed during certain times of year by going on one of several bioluminescence tours available in Central Florida. Uniquely mesmerizing and spectacular In addition to the dinoflagellates, the waters around Central Florida are also home to another bioluminescent species: comb jellyfish. These two sea creatures populate areas like the Indian River Lagoon on Central Florida's Atlantic Coast. Additionally, dinoflagellates can also be found in the Winter Park Chain of Lakes near Orlando. Bioluminescence tours are available on both of these waterways. While you are on one of these tours, you'll notice that the surface of the water seems to light up every time it's disturbed. That could be triggered by the stroke of a paddle or your boat or kayak slicing through the water. You might even try reaching over the side and skimming the water's surface with your fingertips so you can watch the bright blue streamers behind them. Typically, these tours meet around sunset or later and involve going out on a boat or kayak, and a guide takes guests to the best locations for experiencing this phenomenon. The best time of year to take one of these tours is from late Spring to Fall, with the peak season lasting from July to September. Also, these tours are more spectacular when light is at its lowest, so a dark night with a new moon is best. Area tour companies offer several options, including family rafting tours, as well as a sunset kayak tour during which you might see dolphins while there's still daylight, followed by the bioluminescent experience after dark. And one of the best ways to take a bioluminescence tour is to go out on a transparent kayak, which may be offered by some tour operators. These experiences are convenient from several Exploria Resorts locations in Florida. Guests staying at Summer Bay Orlando by Exploria Resorts may find that tour operators on the Winter Park Chain of Lakes provide a more convenient location. Meanwhile, there are several tour operators on the Indian River Lagoon, which are also convenient to the Kissimmee and Orlando areas, as well as guests staying at Grand Seas by Exploria Resorts and New Smyrna Waves by Exploria Resorts. Call 855-849-2205 to make your Exploria Resorts reservation today!