Sunset on Ko Lipe. That time of day when people put on diving equipment and jump into dark waters. Say what?
For a night dive, that’s what! We like to get ready and gear up on our dive boat while it’s still a bit light out, and enter the water just as the last traces of another technicolor sunset are fading away into a dark starry sky. Given our proximity to the equator, that transition is rather quick and soon we are enveloped in darkness, penetrated only by moonlight and the beams of our torches.
What’s it like diving at night? This is probably the most common question we get asked whenever we schedule a night dive, or have one planned for an Advanced course. While not one of the required dives for the Advanced course, the night dive is almost always requested by our Advanced students, probably because it’s so mysterious.
What will I see, how can I see, won’t I bump into things, is it scary?
At night, the reef doesn’t shut down. Yes, many creatures do sleep at night (and it’s quite amazing to see fish “sleeping”) but there are many marine creatures who are nocturnal, starting their day only when the sun goes down.
Here, we see plenty of crabs in all shapes and sizes out and about, from large hermit crabs with anemones sticking out of their shells to the tiniest sand crabs which bury themselves in the sand in the cutest manner imaginable. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a beautiful spiny painted lobster walking around, but sadly, many of these have been fished out in the last couple of years to feed the insatiable tourist demand for bbq lobster here. Sometimes we see moray eels swimming around, hunting for dinner. The brightly glowing red spots you see scattered all over coral bommies and rocks are shrimps’ eyes, and at night, you can see some of the most ornately colored shrimps there are, those in the Saron genus. We’ve witnessed spectacular cuttlefish behavior on night dives here, from fighting over a mate to hunting, catching and swallowing a fish whole, while the fish was still alive! Sometimes, we’ll see schools of fish being hunted, but unable to see what is doing the hunting. Admittedly, that does get the pulse going just a bit! As well as suddenly shining your light on a huge great barracuda, that will get your heart rate up a bit.
But this is all part of the adventure and appeal of night diving, that it is a bit scary, that you don’t always know what you are going to see because you can only see what you shine your light on. The adrenaline rush is part of the experience! And we’ll let you in on a little secret here: it’s not actually pitch black at night when you are underwater. Depending on the moon phase and the amount of ambient light from the boats on the surface, you can actually see a little bit without your torch. You’re not going to be able to see what’s 10 meters ahead of you, but you will be able to see your buddy right in front of you.
Everyone is nervous before their first night dive. And almost everyone comes back glad they did it.
Many people do their first night dive with us as part of their Advanced course, but if you are short on time and/or money, you can do your first night dive as a single PADI Adventure Dive, which you can later on count towards one of the 5 dives needed for your Advanced certification, should you choose to earn it one day. For the dive to count as an Adventure Dive, you’ll need to do a bit of reading to ensure you understand the specific safety and communication procedures involved in diving at night, and you’ll review this information with your instructor before the dive. During the dive, your instructor will be with you at all times and you will complete a simple navigation exercise at some point in the dive. Afterwards, you will receive a document that states you have completed this dive and then you are only 4 dives away from being an Advanced diver!
And just wait until you see the bio luminescence underwater… More about that to come in another post 🙂