Scuba Diving At Night
Scuba diving is an exciting daytime activity. You get to explore a totally different world underwater and see the many beautiful animals up close. However scuba diving at night, on the other hand brings a whole new level of excitement to scuba diving.
If you pay attention to your surrounding environment, almost everything changes after the sun goes down. If only we could see as clearly as when daylight in on our side, we would be able to witness all kinds of nocturnal activities and transformations in the animal kingdom. The same thing happens in the marine world where the diurnal creatures go to sleep under rocks or in holes in the reef and other hiding spots and make way for the nocturnal animals who own the night. Diving at night opens the doors to see all kinds of marine animals that you may never have seen before, and the underwater darkness, once you become used to it, is actually not frightening at all. On the contrary, the absence of daylight gives way to a whole different perspective underwater.
What can you see on a night dive that you normally wouldn’t see during the day?
During darkness squid, octopus and cuttlefish stop their camouflage activities and swim more freely around the reef to look for meals. A beam from your dive light triggers their defensive response and you can see them change colors quickly to match the background. They can do this much better and faster than land animals that use camouflage such as chameleons.
Coral polyps come to life at night and the whole reef looks different, coral don’t actually hunt, but their colorful polyps filter nutrients from the water. Larger animals such as tarpon, rays and sharks can become more active at night as well as eels and octopus. Although it is not uncommon for divers to encounter sharks during daytime dives, these bigger fish can be more active at night.
There are no sea monsters in the dark
Some divers tend can be a little nervous prior to their first night dive as they are not sure what to expect and that’s understandable. Often they think (to be utterly fair, I admit to have thought the same thing before my first night dive) that the dive light will only illuminate a short distance right in front of them and that large marine life will suddenly and randomly appear right in front of their face. However it’s not like that at all dive lights are powerful enough to allow you to see several yards ahead, actually even if you and your dive buddies turn the flashlights off completely, you will still be able to see each other’s silhouettes, try this on your next night dive.
All types of diving activities need to be properly organized and planned. In addition to the regular procedures and the codes of conduct, there are some important considerations to think of when planning for night dives.
- It is always best to choose a very familiar location, a site you have dove before.
- Understanding the layout of the dive site gives you a navigational advantage
- Before you descend, make sure you practice communication with your dive buddy or group. Everybody should understand all hand signals and what to do after each signal is communicated.
- Diving equipment is the same as for diving during the day, except that you need to carry a diving light – plus a back-up. Most modern secondary dive lights are equally bright as the primary ones.
Do double-check to see if you’ve missed something before you get into the water. Also be considerate to your buddies and the marine animals, don’t shine the light directly into their faces. Pay keen attention to weather, temperature and current conditions and make sure you anticipate any changes to conditions during the dive.
Try Dawn Diving First
Still not sure about night diving? Then try a dawn dive as an alternative.
Diving at dawn was introduced to me by a friend who is a liveaboard scuba diving instructor, she could only dive on her own or with a colleague at this time of day when she was working. I personally like to be in the water for about 20-30 minutes before sunrise. Diving before dawn means you get to see many of the nocturnal animals you would normally see on a night dive however you also get to witness the change over between nocturnal reef inhabitants to daytime inhabitants. During a recent dawn dive at Bari Reef, Bonaire I witnessed a bigger selection of marine life in a 20 minute period than ever before in the same location, including eagle rays, tarpon, ghost octopus, spotted eels, pipe fish, trumpet fish and a large moray eel 4-5 ft in length looking for somewhere to hide for the day.
As well the opportunity to see so much sea life the added benefit of diving 30 minutes before dawn means that although you begin your dive in the dark, within 20 minutes or so sunlight begins to illuminate the dive site making it easier for navigation and reduces any chances of getting lost or more importantly removes any fear of being lost in the dark.
Additional benefits to dawn diving are
- The air temperature should be warmer when you finish your dive than if night diving
- You get to experience both a night dive and a daytime on just one dive
- If you experience a dive light failure you do not have to abort the dive (provide that there is sufficient light at the time of the failure of course)
- You start the day before sunrise with an incredible and unique diving experience
- Your wetsuit should be dry (provided you hung it up)
- After the dive you can remove your dive gear, get dried, get warm and regale your diving buddies with tales of your first dive of the day over coffee or your favorite breakfast
Try it on your next dive trip, you will love it.