That exhilarating feeling when the lights go out especially in an unfamiliar space, most call it fear I like to look at it as an adventure. Your body starts compensating for the lack of sight by tapping into the other senses like hearing. Every noise has now amplified, the creak of a tree branch and the wind against the windows, your heart starts pounding a little faster, your respiration rate increases and you begin to feel the effects of adrenaline pumping through your veins. You get the picture; I am not writing this to scare you out of night diving, but rather to encourage you to explore it.
You can explore many sites during daylight and see wonderful creatures, objects, and wrecks that most surface dwellers only see on a flat-screen. In the night, with the focus of just your light beam, the underwater world comes alive and I would contend you see a lot more than in the day. While exploring the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize, I was able to see the behavior change in many of the creatures that I had seen on a daylight exploration of the reserve. Octopus on the prowl, sleeping Parrot Fish, Nurse Sharks and Rays. Many fish just trying to hide from the predators that are invading their nocturnal space.
Most recently I had the privilege of leading a group on a local night dive with Aquatic Specialties as part of my SSI Dive Guide training. We explored the underwater world of Lake Winnisquam in Sanborton, NH and it was an adventure. This was not my first night dive, but it was the first where I had to lead, guide and attempt to bring back the same number of divers I left with. We could call it a “ Stretching Moment“ for me. Navigating a site, I had never done before and leading my first night dive, my adrenaline really started pumping as we slipped off the boat and assembled at the surface. With final review of the dive plan complete the group gave the ok and I signaled to descend; let the air out of my BC, exhaled and slipped below the surface.
All was calm, despite the condition of my nerves, as darkness surrounded me my heart rate and breathing slowed and I felt a wave of calm ease over me. Night underwater is so different, your focus is locked into your flashlight beam with no peripheral distractions allowing you to focus on small things, little details like the eyes of a Conch, the changing color of an Octopus or in the case of Lake Winnisquam the bottom colored Catfish hiding beneath the algae bloom. I glanced over my shoulder counted five lights and away we went. Now this is not a story about the dive specifically but more to encourage you to stretch and try new things.
P.S. Six divers went out six came back , and yes the same six.
Next on my list is a Blackwater dive off the Florida coast. If you’re not familiar with blackwater dives, you go at night (of course) hang at about 30-40 ft over 400+ feet of bottom. From what I have researched all kinds of deep water creatures come up for feeding, spawning and other activities. Just search the inter-webs for blackwater drift dives and browse the images from the photographers, I think you will understand why its on my list. One of the excursions I am investigating is with Pura Vida Divers on Singer Island, FL. I have been on several day charters with them and they run a tight ship.
- Take a class, no matter wether your certification is SSI, PADI, NAUI, TDI, SDI or others and you have 4 dives or 400 dives if you have never taken a class on night diving sign up. Two options ,sign up at your local dive shop for a Night Diving class, or sign up with your charter for the night dive plus class. With either you will be equipped with the skills for survival and enjoyment of night diving.
- Swallow your fear, but don’t swallow anything that might give you gas later. (You will have to ask my son what happens when you eat a goat burger just before your first night dive)
- Make sure you have the right tools and please this is not an inclusive list.
- All the Gear you dive with during the day.
- Invest or rent quality lights (plural for a reason)
- Compass (you should already and always have one)
- Night signaling device like a flasher, your SMB is not as effective if it can’t be seen.
- Night Diving Skills. These can’t be found on amazon.com but can be acquired in a class at your local dive shop. If you live in the Southern New Hampshire try out Aquatic Specialties (shameless plug).
- Plan your adventure. Wether using a professional guide, charter service or on your own with a buddy; plan, plan, plan. Make sure you have researched the site, if you can dive it in the day that helps a lot with finding reference points you can use at night. Professional guides and charters are there to make your experience better but take responsibility for yourself and understand the site characteristics, expectations of what you will see and the all important bail out plan.
Embrace the rush of adrenaline as you slip below the surface and get enveloped into the darkness. Dump, exhale, descend, stretch yourself, and explore something exciting and different.
SSI Dive Master – 90756