Diving Specialty: Night Diving

Okay, now that I’ve gotten your attention let me tell you why that statement is true about scuba diving at night. And why, more importantly, night diving is a specialty everyone should try. With the proper training and supervision everyone can double their underwater pleasure by taking the plunge at night.

There is a certain mystique about night diving that makes entering even a well-known dive site super exciting. As the sun goes down many reefs can turn into the underwater equivalent of the Las Vegas Strip at night, complete with the spectacle of sex, shimmering lights and the gamble of lurking sharks!

Once you’ve become accustomed to night diving, you’ll find your experience transforms from one of thrills and excitement to one of relaxed and blissful contentment. You are truly in your own world, surrounded in weightless solitude with a feeling of peace and silky stillness. I go night diving to relax. It truly is the “total escape”, the best in sensory deprivation. When you first decide to dive in at night, go with someone who is experienced at night diving, preferably an instructor, and remember to enjoy! It may take more than one or two night dives to become comfortable, but once you can relax – you will absolutely love it. And you will see things you never get a chance to glimpse in the daytime.

So back to the sex…

When the sun is shining certain sea-faring creatures and organisms act much more reserved and less flashy than they really are, that is, they show their true colors once the sun goes down! Bashful during the day, corals and gorgonians spread themselves wide open, exposing flower-like polyps and reaching tentacles, just hoping to pick-up some passing plankton. Star and brain corals are the real orgy exhibitionists, erupting with tiny egg packets and wisps of sperm that float toward the surface under the seductive glimmer of bioluminescence. Voracious lobsters and brittle stars change the love-making mood to a feeding frenzy, placing eggs in their mouths as quickly as they can catch them! Nudibranchs come out to join the nighttime feast, as do crabs, and urchins, all making an appearance to feed and mate. Certain species of fish, like grouper and wrasse engage in group sex, ejecting burst of eggs and sperm into the water. Then of course there are the nocturnal voyeurs like octopuses and seahorses who actively come out at night to watch the debauchery. But like any good party, there is always someone there to crash it, namely predators, like the reef shark, who enjoy doing their dirty work under the shadows of twilight that converge into night.

Where can you go night diving? My general recommendation is that you dive in places that you are familiar and comfortable with. And I advise that you stick to a night diving rule of thumb—to only night dive when conditions are good. Conditions to avoid are heavy surf, heavy surge, strong currents, poor visibility and any overhead environments like caves, the insides of wrecks and super thick kelp canopies. Again, when you are first plunging into night diving make sure you go with a seasoned night diver or instructor, and of course, thoroughly plan out your dive and prepare your equipment. You can safely night dive from an easy-access shoreline or from a boat. One of my most favorite night diving experiences has been on a boat dive with Kona Coast Divers. Off the Kona coast of Hawaii there is a dive site called Garden Eel Cove that is a popular destination with dive boat operators on the big island. Kona Coast Divers can almost literally guarantee that you will see the most magnificent swooping Manta Rays when you come to this site. Their trick is to place powerful lights on the ocean floor, which they turn on once the sun has gone down to attract plankton. As the plankton fully congregate around the lights, graceful black mantas swoop in out of the dark water to feed on them. It is quite a spectacular site! These mantas sublime acrobatics are only nearly matched by the stealthy and swirling moray eels that also begin circling the lights waiting for their turn to feed on the little fishies that have come to feed on the plankton. It’s like an underwater opera!

Think those Vegas neon lights are cool? Well, they don’t have half the brilliance of Mosquito Bay, Vieques…

Vieques, is a tiny island just east of Puerto Rico that is home to one of the worlds few remaining and most extraordinary bioluminescent bays. Mosquito Bay naturally glows a brighter blue than any man-made electric light you’ll ever see. Mosquito Bay’s bioluminescence is essentially an over-abundance of what marine biologists call dinoflagellates, microscopic underwater organisms that release energy in the form of light, much the way fireflies do. Several dinoflagellate species are found in oceans worldwide: on the U.S Atlantic coast, the waters around Borneo and the Sea of Japan. Although in some places bioluminescence is seasonal, Mosquito Bay glows year-round, thanks to a plentiful population of the species Pyrodinium bahamense, whose name means “whirling fire.” Only 1/500 inch in diameter, these organisms flash when agitated, probably as a defense mechanism. Each flash last only 1/10 second, yet the collective greenish blue radiance can be seen for miles. The reason for this intensity is Mosquito Bay’s high concentration of dinoflagellates 720,000 per gallon. In other words it is possibly the coolest thing you’ll ever see, and diving or even snorkeling at night in the waters of Mosquito Bay is truly magical. Whenever you break the water’s surface twinkling dots of bluish-light stream out in every direction like enchanted fairy dust.

So what are you waiting for? Let the sun go down and dive in!

Night Diving Checklist:

  1. Make sure you get training/review proper night diving planning and procedures with a pro.
  2. Make sure someone other than your dive buddy knows where you are diving and when you expect to return.
  3. Always dive with a buddy at night!
  4. Make sure you are well rested and hydrated before your night dive.
  5. Make sure each diver has their own primary and back-up lights, with working batteries.
  6. Make sure each diver has a small safety light or glow stick attached to their tanks so their buddy can keep track of them.
  7. Make sure you know how to navigate the dive area; how to get back to the boat or the shore area.
  8. Make sure to relax and have fun!

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