When I took my PADI Advanced Open water course, the Night dive was a mandatory dive. That has changed because some countries such as Finland don’t get night for months of the year. A night dive the cold waters of England is very different from a night dive in the tropics.
Stay off the grease before a night dive
Trying to fit in 3 Adventure dives in one day, I joined my instructor with good old British fish and chips before my night dive, big mistake, if you have ever had acid re-flux or heartburn on a scuba dive you will know why. So I now avoid greasy food before any dive.
As we were diving in the UK I was trussed up in a 10mm wetsuit, hood, gloves and thick booties and what felt like enough weight to sink the Titanic. The beach was not sand but large flat stones that you seemed to slide on, so not easy to navigate with a tank in the dark. When we entered the water in the pitch black I got immediate brain freeze, the space on your forehead between your mask and the hood is the only place exposed to the cold water.
The dive site was full of kelp, so I spent the dive following my instructor’s white fins, belching, shivering and counting the minutes until this mandatory training dive was over. A memorable dive but not for the usual reasons.
Easy night diving in the tropics
Swearing I would never do another night dive, later in the year I went on holiday to Puerto Galera in the Philippines with the same instructor and dive buddies. They persuaded me that night diving in the tropics was a completely different experience, so when a night dive was scheduled at Verdi Island drop off, I put my name down with a little trepidation.
The whole dive was wonderful, firstly the water temperature was 26 degrees so I only needed a 3mm shorty and very little weight, secondly we got in at dusk so I could still see the reef and my buddies in the fading light and thirdly we had dove this dive site in the daylight so it was familiar which is always recommended.
With a torch you get the true colour of what you are looking at, so what appeared to be black crinoids during the day were a deep rich burgundy colour under the torch light. The torch picked up the eyes of shrimps glowing in the dark, loads of crustaceans came out that night as well as species that I hadn’t see during the day such as the pleurobrancus nudibranch. That dive changed my whole perspective on night diving and it is something I still love to this day.
Do your first night dive with an instructor
Night diving does have it’s challenges, you need additional equipment such as a primary torch and a back up torch. You need to learn a different way of signalling and it’s easy to get disoriented with directions so a compass is required.
Torches have different strengths and you never shine a torch in someone’s face as you will temporarily blind them. I once did a night dive in Raja Ampat where one of the divers had a torch so bright it felt like a day dive and all the night critters went off and hid. He also had a habit of getting your attention by shining his over bright torch in your eyes. At this point I signalled to my buddy to move to the back of the group to get away from him and his torch beam.
Given all of these new factors, If you have not done a night dive before it’s always recommended to do your first dive with an instructor. You can do a night dive as part of your PADI Advanced Course or you can just do the Night Diver Adventure dive which will count towards your advanced course when you are ready to take it (there is no time limit with Adventure dives).
In Timor Leste, we have warm waters, great marine life and start the dive at dusk. Try a night dive, it’s a whole new world down there at night.
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