See Your Favorite Dive Sites in a Whole New Light while Night Diving
Have you ever walked around your backyard with a flashlight in the dark? Scuba diving at night is kinda like that.
Suddenly a world you thought you knew becomes a lot different when you can see a whole new cast of critters revealed by your dive light.
While it may seem a little scary at first in spite of the familiar surroundings, night diving is also adventuresome and a great way to see the underwater world in a whole new light (or lack of it), so to speak. Use these tips while you get a few night dives in your log book and see if your favorite times underwater don’t turn out to be after sundown.
- Practice in a swimming pool. It's not as silly as it might sound, but if you have access to an indoor pool where you can turn off the lights, or an outdoor pool after dark, exploring it with your dive light will help prepare you for an open water night dive. Actually, you'll find it fun, even after you have a lot of experience with open water night dives.
- Choose a dive site you’ve seen before. When you know what it looked like in the daytime, you know what to expect after dark. Plus you'll appreciate how diving at night reveals a whole new world on even a familiar reef or wreck.
- Start at twilight. It's easier to get your scuba equipment on and make your entry while you still have some daylight to work with. As night falls while you’re underwater, you’ll gradually become acclimated to the darkness throughout the scuba dive instead of plunging into it from the start. You’ll notice many underwater residents exhibit unique behaviors at twilight, bedding down for the night or positioning themselves for successful nighttime feeding.
- Plan a shorter, shallower scuba dive. Typically scuba divers use more air on night dives so a scuba tank will not last as long as it usually does. To stay down longer, don't stray too far from the entry point or dive boat during the dive, go slow and cover a smaller area while investigating each new spot your dive light reveals.
- Don't forget to navigate. It should be easy when you don’t go too far, but many of the visual clues you’re used to will be missing in the dark. Use lights on the shore, mark the boat’s anchor line and find or create other aids to navigation that will be easy to spot.
- Notice the little things, and watch for the big ones. Many tiny creatures you miss amid the big picture during the day stand out at night when your attention is limited to what your dive light can show you. Some underwater inhabitants hide during the day and can only be seen at night. But, be sure to shine your light out into the bigger water around you occasionally to catch a passing stingray, curious grouper or other bigger beastie swimming outside the beam.
- Curb your active imagination and cover your dive light, or turn away from it, to find out how dark it really is underwater. Or more properly, how dark it really isn’t. Chances are you’ll find you can still see plenty. If you’re diving with a group, the flicker from other scuba divers’ lights will indirectly light up the dive site. In some areas, phosphorescent plankton is common – just wave your arm through the water and you’ll see a trail of sparkles. In clear water the moon, lightning and other natural light from the sky as well as manmade lights on shore can be visible from underwater, so take a look upward and check it out. In clear water with a full moon, you could make most of the dive with your lights off
- Carry two dive lights, a primary and a smaller backup. One of the sacred rules you’ll learn in the Night Diver specialty course is that every diver needs a dive light. So if your only dive light dies, you’re done. A secondary light can save the dive.
- For a really unique experience, consider a night dive just before dawn and watch the underwater world wake up. Early morning on a coral reef can be just as fascinating as twilight and when you make your ascent while the sun is making one of its own, there’s just no better way to start the day.