Diving at night is a specialty many divers fear, until they try it. After one dive many are often hooked on scuba diving after dusk. With a little preparation and planning Night Diving can be among the most rewarding specialties scuba has to offer.
1. Proper lighting is important. Many people think brighter is better, purchasing the strongest lights available. While a light beam needs to be bright enough to allow the diver to see clearly, too much light will frighten nocturnal creatures. A back-up light should be small enough to stow easily but bright enough to perform a dive if the primary light fails. It is commonly accepted that if the primary light fails the dive is over. But in many cases, especially with diving in an area with rough surface waters or boat traffic, a light failure at the end of the reef means the diver still must complete the dive to reach safety. Finally a small marker light or chem-stick mounted on the tank valve helps the diver to locate buddies while underwater.
2. Agree on and practice communication before the dive. Whether using the light for signaling or shining the light to illuminate hand signals, be sure everybody is on the same page prior to entering the water. Practicing common signals using both techniques is recommended as there is no way to know who you may encounter underwater.
3. Choose a familiar dive site. Most divers are amazed to learn the difference is as great as “night and day”. Between the brilliant colors and marine life that many divers didn’t even know lived in their area, every dive at night can be like diving a whole new, unexplored site.
4. Instructors teach placing a marker light at the entry/exit point in order to find the safest spot to return to. Experienced night divers in inhabited areas realize how that light will blend in with every other porch light or street light when the diver is off shore. By using a unique color of light or a combination of several lights in a pattern or a light box, you will recognize yours from a distance more easily.
5. Instructors often teach students that dusk is the best time to begin a night dive as you can see your dive gear while getting prepared for the dive. A small flashlight solves this issue. The real reason dusk is the best time to night dive is simply the sheer amount of life you can experience. The diurnal creatures are still out while the nocturnal creatures are just waking up and beginning their “day”.
6. No matter the time, the key to a successful night dive is taking your time. Most night dives can be spent in fraction of the space covered during the typical daytime dive. The diver’s light draws out vibrant colors not normally seen in the daytime, and if the light’s beam isn’t too strong, many creatures will actually come to inspect the light. Being patient and relatively calm can reward the diver with sightings of amazing marine life from skates and rays, to tiny crustaceans or delicate creatures with translucent bodies that could never been seen in the daytime.
7. Finally, be respectful. Remember, many dive sites are located near neighborhoods and sound typically carries further at night. Cylinders banging against things or excited voices gearing up in anticipation can disturb local residents and create a bad relationship between divers and the community. Always be sure to clean up your area, ideally leaving it tidier than when you arrived.