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Diving at night is not for the faint of heart. Plunging into an obsidian sea with nothing but a racing heart and a thin beam of light is an invigorating experience, with incredible rewards. That’s why we love night dives.
What to Expect on a Night Dive
During the day, bright and colorful fish flock to the reefs, feeding and cleaning. Rays and sharks bask in the warm sunlight, and animals play in the shallows. At night, all these creatures go to sleep, and a whole new set of creatures emerges. You will see sleeping fish and creatures, as well as bioluminescent organisms making their way through the water. Certain animals give off eerie glows, which can be seen from far away.
During a night dive you will see unexpected and exciting creatures, experiencing the seas in a whole new way. For a truly humbling experience, click off your light, realizing where you are, and the immensity that surrounds you.
Night Diving Tips
Safety is of the upmost importance during a night dive, as danger is compounded in the dark of night. Always carry a backup dive light (or two) to ensure that you aren’t stranded in the pitch black. Reflective gear is essential so that you can be seen more easily, so apply a bit of reflective tape to your fins before a dive.
To be fully prepared, we recommend enrolling in the PADI Night Diver specialty course.
Bucket-List Worthy Night Dives
Are you ready to turn off the lights? Here are five great night dives.
5. Bioluminescent Bay, Cayman Islands
Seemingly otherworldly, glittering bioluminescent particles gather together in fantastic light displays on the Cayman Islands. Kayaking is particularly popular here, as the water is fairly shallow, and easily seen from above. Swimming, snorkeling, and diving is available as well.
Because of the fragility of these organisms, it is highly recommended not to wear sunscreens or lotions during your trip, as the chemicals can harm them.
4. Koh Rong, Cambodia
Bright and brilliant creatures make their appearances off the coast of Cambodia. As you shine your dive light on the reef, the dark silhouettes seem to come to life. The shallow southern area of the island is an excellent place to see snoozing sharks, eels, and rays as they lie resting in the rocks and on the sand.
Day or night, the diving here is exceptional, so be sure to experience these waters as often as possible during your visit.
3. New Moon, St. Croix
Bioluminescent creatures are common sights in the waters around the Virgin Islands. While diving at St. Croix, you can watch one of the strangest courtship displays in the world. Known as the “String of Pearls,” this exhibition is not to be missed. Single celled marine organisms give off a dazzling light, making the water sparkle and shimmer. As if by magic, creatures called Ostracods leave the bottoms, sending out phosphorescent “smoke signals” to their prospective mates, making pulsing strands of circular lights.
Displays last for only around 30 minutes, but many Ostracods can be in one area, lighting up the seas like the Las Vegas strip.
2. Cancun, Mexico
Shining your dive light on the reefs off the coast of Cancun transforms them from blue tinted to vibrant colors at night. Neon pinks, oranges and yellows are brought out by the artificial light. After the incredible variety of creatures make their beds for the night, a new, unusual bunch emerge. Bring your underwater camera, as you can still capture images of these weird animals.
1. Manta Ray Night Dive, Kona, HI
The unforgettable Manta Ray Experience in Kona is highly regarded as the height of night diving. The boats leave the Big Island soon after sunset, reaching the rays during early twilight. Beneath the surface manta rays feed, doing tremendous somersaults and gliding effortlessly through the water. Snorkelers cling to a snorkel raft and look down at the rays, while divers head to the sandy bottom below and look up. The bottom is only 10 m (33 ft) deep, and divers get the very best views of the rays, illuminated by the snorkelers’ lights, above.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Before sighing up for one of these night dives, be sure you are mentally and physically prepared for your journey. Check and recheck your equipment, especially your dive lights. Night diving is one of the most unique experiences in the world, and the seemingly magical bioluminescent creatures you will see are as odd as they are unforgettable. Quiet and lightless, the sea floor is still thriving with life, despite its apparent desolation. As you peer out into the endless blackness, you are reminded of the grandeur of the sea, and have a higher appreciation for scuba diving.
This blog was originally written by Bridget Pearson for the Diviac Magazine.