Daytime scuba diving is an awe-inspiring sport. Engage in a night dive, and you just might have a mystical experience that leaves you transformed into a seeker of the beautiful, the unusual, and the otherworldly serene. In other words, you might become a night diver for life.
Sometimes, people who have never done night diving ask, “Why?” Why dive at night when its dark above the water and ebony black below? Why subject yourself to the something’s-lurking-around-the-corner experience of horror movies?
The thought of descending into the depts at night can strike terror in hearts of those who have never done it. Those who have gone diving in the ocean at night have a different perspective. Diving in the dark is a unique experience, entirely different from daytime diving.
Why Scuba Diving is Different When the Sun Sets
A change in natural light levels isn’t the only difference between a day- and night dive. This list highlights a few incredible aspects of night scuba diving.
When night falls on land, many objects seem to lose their color until the world is awash in shades of darkness. Technically speaking, that happens underwater, too—until you illuminate your surroundings with your dive light.
During the day, sunlight penetrates the water’s surface to illuminate what’s beneath it. However, the world under water is far from the sun, and the sun’s rays travel differently through water than through air. So while daytime scuba divers to see the picturesque scenery, it’s muted compared to what nighttime divers see.
At night, nothing illuminates the water and its inhabitants until a diver arrives with his scuba flashlight. When he shines his light on different structures, they come to life in a brilliant burst of color.
Divers hold their flashlights close to what they are viewing. Because there’s little distance between light source and object, light waves emitted from the flashlight aren’t scattered or absorbed before reaching their target as the sun’s rays are. As a result, the most vibrant colors you’ll ever experience are underwater at night.
Diving at night, you’ll have tunnel vision. The darkness is so all-consuming that you will only be able to see what is in your flashlight’s range. The sensation is at once both energizing and calming.
In this setting, you’ll have no distractions. Your experience with what’s in front of you won’t be diminished by all the things in your peripheral vision vying for your attention. Night dives force you to focus, thus fostering a present-mindedness and appreciation of beauty.
An Opportunity to Sky Watch
When you’re serenely at your stop during your ascent back to the top, pause, position yourself so that you’re relaxed and can gaze upward. If the sky is clear and the moon is in the right place, you will be afforded one of the most breathtaking lunar views you’ll ever experience.
Some have described viewing the moon from below the water’s surface as nearly mystical. “Mystical” describes night diving as a whole: It’s an otherworldly experience that will leave you transformed.
Meet New Sea Life
Your night dive will also differ from your day dives in the types of life you will see. Just like land animals, sea creatures can be diurnal or nocturnal; therefore, what you see during the day is not what you’ll see at night.
Just a handful of nocturnal sea life includes
- Species you’ve never before seen and perhaps can’t even name
You can also witness bioluminescence, that marvelous phenomenon in which a living being creates its own light. Some varieties of plankton are bioluminescent. If you diminish the light of your scuba diving flashlight and move your arms around gently, you’ll signal tiny plankton to flash their lights. You’ll create a striking firefly effect.
You just might be awestruck enough to take your passion to the next level. A night dive affords unique photography experiences.
Glimpse a few stunning examples and learn more about night time diving photography. A word of caution: You might get hooked.
Night Dive Equipment
For the most part, your scuba diving equipment will be the same whether you’re participating in a day dive or a night dive. There is one crucial equipment difference: Scuba diving at night requires a primary flashlight and a spare light.
There is no light underwater at night. Yes, there are bioluminescent species, but they create light for their own survival, not yours. Their glow is inadequate for you other than for beauty.
In addition to the two flashlights, you’ll need to attach a battery-powered marker or chemical light stick to your boat, buoy, or anchor line so you can find your way back. You’ll place these just before you begin the dive.
A flashlight is a simple tool, and it’s an important one. Consider this information when buying and using it.
- Your primary light should be strong with long battery life
- When selecting a flashlight, consider beam width, burn time, and the depth rating and pick one strong enough for your dive
- Always have a spare flashlight, or pocket light, stored on you, such as in the pocket of your buoyancy control device (BCD)
- Torches are used for lighting your way as well as for communicating with your dive buddy and other divers in your party. Certain motions mean different things—side to side, for example, signifies that something is wrong—and you should know exactly what all signals are.
Dive lights are available in different sizes and styles. There isn’t a single best light for every diver, as night dive circumstances and individual preferences vary. Study different scuba flashlights to determine what you prefer.
While night diving doesn’t require special equipment beyond lighting, it does necessitate adherence to critical safety protocol.
Night Dive Safety
Adhering to safety recommendations will allow you to enjoy the dive without harm. Essential safety tips and information include:
- Take special night dive training courses before attempting a dive
- Know your dive site well by day before diving there by night because you won’t see the layout at night
- Plan, and then plan some more; surprises or uncontrolled events are not happy occurrences on a night dive
- Practice and review flashlight communication signals with your dive buddy, and ensure that you both know what everything means and how to respond to various messages.
- Always, always, always dive with a buddy at night
- Secure you and your buddy to each other with a short buddy line to reduce the risk of separation
- Attach a snap light, or beacon light, to your tank, and check to make sure that all divers in your party have done the same; it’s the only way you’ll be visible to each other at distances
- Never turn off your flashlight; if you need to dim the light, cover it with your hand or body
- Attach your flashlight to you in a way that’s convenient; if you drop it, you won’t recover it
- If your primary flashlight dies, use your backup light to head back to the surface immediately; never linger when you have only one flashlight
- Know how to properly use your dive flashlight; shining your light in someone’s eyes can destroy their vision (temporarily, but dangerous underwater at night)
- Whether your viewing marine life or signaling to others, shine your flashlight indirectly rather than straight at your target because that’s how it’s most effective
- Choose a spot (well ahead of time so you can dive there during the day) with no obstacles
- Also, select a location that is calm and not prone to strong currents
- Choose an accessible spot with accessible entrance and exit points.
- Mark your exit point with a light to avoid losing yo
- ur way. Never use new or unfamiliar equipment at night; you need to be able to effortlessly use and rely on trustworthy gear you’re accustomed to
- Commencing at dusk will allow your eyes to adjust gradually to diminishing light
- Keep night dives shorter than your day dives
Everything is different when you scuba dive at night. A night dive is an incredible, often transformative, experience. You don’t want to rush the process. Slow down and enjoy the experience, exploring nooks and crannies and pausing with your light to witness things that most people will never see.
Night dives are shallower than daytime excursions, so you don’t have to rush—less time is spent descending and ascending. This also means that there’s a potential for silt to be disturbed and to float up and around you. Finning slowly will reduce the risk of that happening.
A night dive does carry risks, and it also brings reward. Diving down beneath the water’s surface where your only light is from a flashlight that is fallible can be rather frightening. It is also exhilarating. Night diving opens up a whole new world for you, a world full of magic and awe and wonder.
When you respect the dangers and make proper preparations, you can confidently engage in a night dive that will forever change the way you view not just the marine world but your own world, too. A night dive can be a dream come true.