Night dives can be fantastic for so many reasons. Excitement of the unknown is a factor that can be multiplied when all you have underwater is darkness, aside for the lighted spot your flashlight is shining upon. No matter how familiar a particular diver is with a dive site, the dynamics suddenly change as the sun goes down…including the wildlife.
Part of setting up the plan to do a night dive is to find a safe place to dive. There are many places that may seem like wonderful spots to do a night dive but the conditions surrounding them may simply not allow it.
What makes a location the ideal site for a night dive? Good entry and exit locations, familiarity with the site, little surge or current during the dive, proper surface support, gas management and cool underwater creatures are all components that will assist planning a safe night dive.
Good entry and exit locations are particularly important, as most prep activity will be done in the dark or under low light. Weather starting the dive from the shore or a boat, the diver’s mobility out of the water may be limited to what you can and cannot see. If you are diving from the shore, study light references that you can use during your exit so it can assist you to navigate back to your intended exit point. This is especially important if you are diving off an area that may have rocky shore in close proximity that you are looking to avoid. When diving from a boat, it is important that the vessel is properly marked. Having a well lit dive deck and ladder is very important as well. Tripping over items with fins is common due to limited vision if the mask is being worn as well. Once in the water, having a light on the anchor line is a tremendous help for underwater navigations that focus on the return to the boat after safely completing the dive.
It is always best for a diver to be familiar with the site during the day before attempting to dive it at night. Familiarity with an area is not only an important element of confidence; it may also help avoid surprises of the unknown. Since a diver’s underwater navigation is limited to the scope of the light from the dive light, being able to identify markers, bouys and other navigational aids is crucial to a successful night dive. Experiencing a dive site during the day not only gives a diver a better picture of what it may look like in the dark, but the differences in what creatures activity is like at night instead of during the day are the reasons for diving at night in the first place.
Surge and current are elements that a diver will want to avoid during a night dive. Surge may make the dive extremely uncomfortable, as divers may be pushed along the reefs or the sides of a rock without being able to see the obstacle. This is not only a potential danger for the diver, but also can be very damaging to the underwater structures in place like corals or reefs. Currents create challenging dive conditions, as it may be very difficult to judge the distance traveled in the dark. It will also be very difficult for your surface support to keep track of your location if you are diving from a boat. If it is a shore dive that is taking place, the diver may find himself surfacing on the shore of some unfriendly terrain, such as rocks with active surf.
Proper surface support is important in the safety of a dive. It may be as simple as sharing your dive plan with someone on shore while going out. Knowing what other organizations, such as life guards or coast guard, are in the area may help plan an emergency procedure if needed.
Gas management is an important topic to cover while planning the dive. We may want to consider that divers breath in more air during a night dive, and therefore want to find a location where a shallower dive is possible. Divers will also note that rather than covering a large area in the open blue typical to a day dive, at night a smaller area is covered. Because the exploration does not require covering as much distance as it may during the day, gas may be better conserved over the period of the dive. Do not forget to keep an eye on those gauges.
There are many different ways to plan a night dive to get the most out of the underwater encounters on your locations. Plan a dive right before it gets dark. Not only can divers take advantage of what is left of the daylight before entering the water, but it will also allow the divers to witness the “changing of the guard” as the marine life that we are so accustomed to seeing during the day disappear for the night while the nightlife begins to appear, ready for their feeding time. Divers may also want to consider the twilight dive…. as they start their dive in the night and wake-up with the rest if the marine world ready for a day on the reef.
Following some of these key tips will allow divers to find great locations to do these night dives safely while getting the most out of their experience underwater. Night diving is about exploring and finding that aquatic behavior that is impossible to find during the day time. Learn more with SDI’s Night & Limited Visibility Diver course. Acquaint the Open Water Scuba Diver with the procedures, techniques, and potential hazards associated with diving at night or in limited visibility. Become familiar with the use of dive lights and night diving techniques such, as navigation.
Interested in a Night Dive Course? Find out more here.
Contact your local SDI dive center today and ask about planning your next night dive.