The Bottom Line Night diving is extremely exciting, and many consider the most enjoyable diving you can be involved with. The sea world is a night environment.
Night diving is a beautiful experience. Night time is when the majority of the reef creatures come out, and a dive site you did only a couple of hours ago, becomes a new experience.
Personally, my favorite dives are night dives, especially combined with drift diving.
Lots of small creatures come out, corals open wide to feed, lots more red, big-eyed fish can be seen, and the reef is teeming with the life you haven’t seen during the day. And when you look at your first turtle, eel or ray at night, you will wonder why you haven’t tried this before!
Also because you are bringing a light source with you, the red filtering of color is not relevant at night, and thus you can see truer colors at night that you would during the day.
The reef comes to life at night!
Isn’t it dark and scary?
There is an amazing amount of light, even at night. Also the lights you take with you when diving are an outstanding source of light.
If you are worried, go and watch a night dive from the surface. You will quickly realize that for a dive boat, it is easier at night to follow divers underwater. The dive lights cause circles of light at the surface above the divers, making it easy to spot them.
What is the Best Way to Learn?
Night diving holds many concerns for some people, so it is best learned in a comfortable situation. This usually means a case where there is an experienced instructor or dive master leading or teaching.
For most people, the best place to learn about night diving is an Advanced Open Water class. In fact, INSIST that a night dive is part of the Advanced Open Water class – you won’t regret it.
You must have TWO fully functional dive lights at the beginning of a night dive. Most people carry a larger Primary light, which is, of course, the more powerful of the two views. The second light should be off and tends to be either attached to the BCD or in a BCD pocket.
These lights should be hand controlled in almost all situations. I like to carry a traditional torch type light, but there are a lot of options. A light that is forehead attached with a head strap sounds like a good idea, but in reality is terrible. Every time you look at someone, you end up blinding them. These lights are powerful, so be careful. Even with handheld lights, be extremely careful not to shine them in others eyes.
If the Primary Light fails during the dive, generally by flooding or battery failure, you use the second light to return to your exit point. In other words, you lose a primary, and you are down to one light, abort the dive. Some people carry even more than two lights to ensure they can continue a dive in case of a single light failure.
In addition to the two vision lights, you will also attach either a small marker light or chemical neon stick to your first stage so that you can easily be located and identified underwater.
All basic rules of diving apply during night diving, except it is necessary to take more care during the processes. It only makes sense to test and inspect all your equipment before your dive.
Dive with equipment familiar to you – this is not the time to be testing new equipment. So that during regular dives during the day.
You will need to ensure you can read your gauges at night. Most new gauges have a light, or alternately are luminous when you shine a light on the gauge to activate this light.
Be more willing to abort a dive at night. Emergencies are much harder to handle at night.
Where to Dive
It is preferable to dive a dive site you either have done that same day or one you are extremely familiar with. If you are very comfortable, you could also jump a place that is familiar to the people you are diving with.
Also, consider diving sites that are of moderate depth. It is much easier to react to an emergency at a shallower depth, than at deep depths. I like to keep most of the dive at 60′ or so, depending on the site. That is not to say that I have not been down past 80′ at night, but I have never crossed 100′.
Because it is hard to use standard hand signals at night, and because you do not have the same level of peripheral vision at night, it is harder to communicate with other divers at night.
One way to attract someone�s attention is to shine your light in their path and rapidly move the light backward and forwards. If you are not drawing your attention to something cool to look at, they will realize you are trying to attract their attention. When they turn to look at you, take the light away, so they don’t seem right at it, and shine it straight down and onto your hand. Now give a standard hand signal, which can be seen.
Signaling at the Surface
You have some special considerations for being visible at night on the surface. First, you should be carrying the standard signaling equipment just in case – that means a whistle and a safety sausage minimally. One of my buddies also has a Dive Alert horn, which is loud, and also his safety sausage is 12′ tall and has reflective tape. A little overkill, but as he says, “If I get left here overnight, that will upset my whole day.� We do a lot of drift diving at night, so this is especially important.
Procedures change as well. DO NOT SHINE THE LIGHT AT A DIVE BOAT as this blinds the crew and inhibits their ability to help you and other divers. To signal you are OK when you surface, take your light, and shine it down directly on you. The boat will be able to see that you are OK, and will also be able to identify you easily.
If you need help, wave the dive light above your head slowly from side to side. This will attract the attention of the boat very quickly.
Fun Things to do at a Night Dive
Find some open coral – and there is a lot of this at night. Take your light and shine it is slightly off the coral – maybe an inch or two. Your light will attract a lot of small creatures, on which the coral feeds. The coral will ‘snap’ at the small life, which is a cool sight.
I have had buddies who can do this for an entire dive.
Spotting for ‘cudas and Tarpon
In sites that regularly dive, often night divers will find that large predatory fish will follow them around. They are waiting for you to ‘spotlight’ prey for them, which they will dart out at, then eat.
Turning your lights out
Enjoy the ambiance of underwater at night. You will realize that there is a lot of light in the water, and can often see a lot of neon lights from the marine life.
Also look upwards with your lights out. Often you will spot creatures above you. In West Palm Beach a squadron of Cuttlefish can regularly be seen this way on night dives on Breakers Reef.
With all the little creatures out for the night, this is a perfect time to take macro photos. Some of the most spectacular shots of small sea life are done at night.
Suggest going on a night dive with any group of experienced divers. They will have a very hard time turning you down. They almost all love night diving. There is a reason for this – it is an amazing scuba experience.