a scuba diver in the shallows with a torch

Should I Do a Scuba Night Dive?

If you’ve been a scuba diver for a while, you’ve certainly learned that some divers enjoy diving at night. Almost every dive operator provides an opportunity to do night dives. 

But who can do night dives and is it something you should do?

Night dives are a fun way to explore the marine environment in a completely different context. Any diver with open water certification is able to do a night dive. It is highly recommended that divers try a night dive at least once in their life.

However, before doing a night dive, it is important to get an understanding of how it is different from traditional diving, what you’ll need, and what you should consider. Let’s take a look at the different things divers should think about before their first night dive.

a female diver ascending at night

What Can You See On Night Dives?

Why do people do night dives? After all, can’t you see better during the day? 

Yes, but the night environment presents many different things. In fact, experienced divers will tell you that a night dive is a completely different experience.

The ocean in general, and the coral reef specifically, are quite different at night. Many animals that are rarely seen during the day are out at night. In fact, night is the best time to see some of the more popular creatures. 

What are you more likely to see at night?

Octopuses and Squid 

These are interesting animals that are on many divers’ must-see lists. While they tend to hide and camouflage themselves during the day, they are typically out hunting at night. You can see them glowing with vibrant colors and may even see them change color in the beam of your light.

Sharks

You can definitely see sharks during the day. However, you are more likely to see them at night as they cruise around looking for prey. Sharks typically hunt at dawn and dusk, meaning they are more active during night dives.

Coral

Well, yes you can see coral during the daytime too. After all, it doesn’t move. However, coral is more beautiful and vibrant at night. This is because the coral polyps open up to feed at night, producing brighter colors.

Bioluminescent Plankton

One of the coolest things about night dives in some areas is the presence of bioluminescent plankton. It will react by producing a light when you interact with it, making it seem like your body is lighting up like a firefly.

Lionfish

These invasive predators are the bane of many ecosystems; however, they are also quite beautiful to look at. They hunt at dawn and dusk and in many areas have learned that sticking close to scuba divers at night means feasting on fish attracted to the light.

Sleeping Parrotfish

One of the weirdest things you can see at night is sleeping parrotfish on the reef. This is unique because they sleep in a mucus bubble that they create each evening. It is truly a strange sight to see.

3 scuba divers doing a night dive

How Do You Prepare for a Night Dive?

In terms of training, if you are certified to scuba dive, you are qualified to dive at night. You will use the exact same skills that you use during the daytime. Thus, you do not need any special training.

However, the scuba diving agencies do provide night diving courses if you want to learn more and get a specialty certification. You’ll learn about procedures for night diving and the animals you’ll encounter. Again, this is not required but is rather an option for those who want to learn more.

When you go on a night dive, you will want to prepare your equipment during the daytime. This ensures you can better make sure everything is functioning and setup correctly. 

You won’t skip the typical pre-dive check. You’ll just be sure to set up during daylight.

Typically, a scuba diver will begin their night dive at twilight. The underwater environment is already fairly dark then and it makes it easier to adjust to the lack of light. 

For the first time night diver, it is a good idea to choose a dive site you’re already familiar with to help with navigation.

The one additional piece of equipment that you will need at night is your dive light, often referred to in scuba diving circles as a “torch.” 

You should have a primary light as well as a backup light in case your primary fails. Most lights can be tied to your body, which is a good idea as they don’t float.

a scuba diver at night with a torch

Finally, you will want to work with your dive buddy to determine how you will communicate. There is no set communication for night diving like there is during the day. 

You may decide to shine your light on your hands to use regular scuba signals. You can also make circles, up-down, or side to side motions with your light for basic signs like “yes,” “no,” or “help.”

Finally, when selecting a night dive location, it is typically recommended to choose a fairly shallow site. This is because you will see more vibrant colors as well as have an easier time navigating. 

Shallow coral reefs are the typical choice for night dives.

Is Night Diving Scary?

Probably the most frequent question that divers have when thinking about going on a night dive is if it is a scary or intimidating experience. There really is no singular answer to this as different people react in different ways.

The reality is that a night dive is just as safe as a daytime dive. However, different people adjust to night diving differently.

Some people have a fear of the unknown which can be exacerbated during a night dive. After all, instead of having a full field of vision, you are limited to what your light illuminates. If you become tense or anxious in daytime diving when visibility is low, you may find night diving a bit scary.

a black and white dive at night

Additionally, if you are prone to claustrophobia, night diving may not be an activity you enjoy. The darkness of the environment can trigger some people’s claustrophobia. It is important to consider these things before you try a night dive.

If you do go on a night dive and begin to panic, try to calm yourself by focusing on what is in your light. In the event that you cannot stay calm, there is nothing wrong with surfacing with your buddy and hopping back on the boat.

Tips for Night Diving

If you want to try out night diving, there are a variety of tips that will help you have a much more enjoyable experience.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Navigating at night can be a bit more difficult and requires extra focus.
  • Ensure that you are careful with where you shine your light. You should always know where your buddy is so that you don’t accidentally shine your light in their face.
  • Consider going with a dive guide, especially if you are new to night diving. Many dive operators will have a guide to help you navigate, meaning you can focus more on taking in the sights.
  • Use the descent and ascent line. Descending and ascending are quite different at night. Using the lines can help you better manage your rate.
  • Stay close to your dive buddy even more so than you would during a daytime dive.
  • However, make sure you aren’t too close. You don’t want to accidentally get kicked in the mouth by a fin.
  • Fish are attracted to your light. Shining your light straight up or straight down can be a fun way to attract and observe wildlife.
  • Shine your light upwards as you make your ascent to make sure you don’t accidentally run into the boat.
a scuba diver in the shallows with a torch

Final Thoughts

Scuba diving at night will expose a diver to a new ecosystem where nocturnal animals come out to explore the reef. Diving at night provides a completely new experience and many divers love going on night dives.

The most important tool you’ll take on your night dive is your torch. 

This will help you see and also attract fish and other animals. Additionally, it is how you will signal to your dive buddy. Just make sure not to shine it in their eyes.

During your night dive, you’ll typically stay shallow and go more slowly. You’ll also be able to focus more intently, allowing you to see things that you might miss during a daytime dive. Night dives are truly interesting experiences.

Mike Seals
Chief Crisp Eater at Guiness Brewey | + posts

Mike resides in landlocked Indiana but takes every opportunity to travel to warm waters for diving. When in his home state, he typically dives quarries. His favorite place to dive is the reef off of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When not diving, he works as a researcher, runs marathons, and spends time with his three kids.

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