Be held spellbound by the synchronous sparkle of a thousand fireflies

Fascinated by the flash of lightning bugs? Here are places where you can witness the fabulous spectacle of these little luminous insects.
Fireflies have always fascinated the young and young at heart. Image: Shutterstock/Iam_Anupong.

The boat swishes silently through the water. The night around us is dark as pitch. There is no moon and no light by which we can tell where we are. We can feel the boat slow down and then come to a standstill. A gentle breeze blows as a light rain sprinkles the darkness. We wait with bated breath.

Suddenly, as if on cue, a tiny golden dot lights up nearby, like a miniature spotlight on a miniscule theatre stage. Before we can snap our fingers (and we don’t, because we’ve been warned not to make any sound at all!), hundreds of other beacons start to pulse. Like a contagion of Christmas lights, the mangroves all down the river get lit up in quick succession. It’s the synchronous sparkle of a thousand fireflies, and we are some of the few privileged to view it in the wild.

The Philippines: We experience this in Donsol, Sorsogon, where post-sunset boat tours take glow bug enthusiasts through the narrow channels of the river to witness this wonderful marvel of nature. Kuala Selengor is another spot in the country that is known for its brilliant glow bug population.

A video that shows you Donsol’s mangroves, home to multitudes of fireflies, as well as other rare creatures like the whale shark.
There’s something almost magical and fairy-like about these beautiful glow worms that are actually beetles. Shutterstock/Fer Gregory.

Fireflies are found in temperate and tropical regions on every continent except Antarctica. The bioluminescence is created by an organic compound called luciferin, which is found in their abdomen. When mixed with air, the ensuing chemical reaction creates the light. Males and females both flash the lights, but in different patterns of pulses, sometimes to attract a mate, sometimes to ward off predators. Most places with high humidity and heat have a few glow bugs. But to see them in large numbers, synching their shining bottoms in such a dazzling display as we did in the Philippines, is not as common.

Fireflies in the famous Tunnel of Love in Klevan, Ukraine. Image: Shutterstock/Veronicka.

There are a handful of places in the world that are known for their fabulous firefly experiences.

USA: For example, in Elkmont,a logging town in the upper Little River Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in the state of Tennessee, tourists actually sign up for a lottery to get a ringside view of the action every summer! The limited visitors are even monitored by park rangers so that the dance of the lightning bugs is not disrupted by flashlights.

A forest full of fireflies. Image: Shutterstock/HTU.

Japan: Fireflies are held in high esteem in Japan, associated with the souls of brave martyrs. After the excitement of the cherry blossoms in spring has faded, summer brings new joys with the arrival of these glittering glow bugs from the rivers. Tokyo residents head to parks and other open spaces to catch a glimpse. In the Setagaya ward, they hold a firefly watching celebration known as a ‘hotaru matsuri’.

Taiwan: Major city parks located in downtown Taipei – Daan Forest Park in Daan District, Rongxing Park in Zhongshan District, Muzha Park in Wenshan District – are great choices for entire families to spend leisure time together in the evening. The beautiful beetles can also be seen at Waterwheel Dorm Walkway in Beitou District, Cuishan Walkway in Shilin District, Neigouxi Riverside Walkway in Neihu, Tiger Mountain Trail in Xinyi District, and Sweet Olive Suspension Bridge Walkway in Nangang District.

Lighting up the wild in Prachinburi, Thailand. Image: Shutterstock/WutAnnai.

India: Closer home, places such as Purushwadi, Bhandardara, Prabalmachi, and Rajmachi in Maharashtra, also celebrate the advent of fireflies through May and June, with many village tours and treks planned in the region amongst those in the know.

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