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Night Diving – The Good, The Bad and the Alien!

When taking the Advanced Open Water Course, it’s the night dive that most people are, quite naturally, a bit wary of. Most people end up loving it, although if the correct procedures aren’t followed it can be nerve wracking. Dive Master Candidate Eain wrote a blog for us about his range of night diving experiences – the good, the bad and the alien!…

Waiting for Sunset
Waiting for Sunset

“There’s something about a night dive that makes everyone a little nervous the first time.  My experience was no different. Sitting on the edge of the boat geared up, ready to back roll into the darkness below you, nerves start to kick in. I was not sure what to expect from the dive.

For myself and my buddy, we were travelling around Indonesia and had not been under the water in around 10 months. So we were a bit rusty on our skills and wanted to get in the water before we started our PADI Advanced Open Water Certification. We chose to do a night dive as we had not had a chance to experience one before. On reflection, we should have asked – or been asked by the dive centre – to take a refresher or a shallow day dive first. Hello captain hindsight!

Going Down at Dusk!
Going Down at Dusk!

As I entered the water I was full of nerves, and it was not until we descended and got our bearings before they started to settle. Not being able to see the bottom or any topography around you, and only being able to see the spot of light from your torch can be unsettling. As the dive continued I began to relax and get a feel for the experience, although I did not manage to see a lot of marine life. The bio-luminescence from the plankton amazed me though, and when we all turned our torches to face our chests, slight movements from our hands lit up the water around us, sort of like fireworks underwater. As the dive continued with poor visibility (as our torches were not the brightest) my buddy and I managed to cause some problems.  Our lack of night dive experience coupled with time out of the water caused us to become very disorientated. Somehow we managed to ask each other for our air, and answered both thinking the other was our dive leader! Needless to say we were both low on air (50bar). Simultaneously we both signalled to go up, and then continued to the surface. Upon reaching the surface we both realised our mistake, made worse by both forgetting to perform a safety stop.

Following this the assistant surfaced, and was not too pleased with us. I can’t remember his exact words but they were not kind, and at some point he told us we should not even be certified divers, which was not a comment we were pleased to hear! Following this experience I can safely say that I was not overly keen on night diving, and did not believe it was an experience worthwhile doing. However this mentality was soon to change…

After completing my Advanced Open Water on Gili Trawangan I continued my travels to Thailand, where I decided to complete my Divemaster training with Master Divers on Koh Tao. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made as it has been a great experience. During this time, I’ve made several night dives and grown to love them. The schedule was tight for the course and the time constraints I had, so it became practical to make up dives and increase my logged dives by night diving. As I have become more experienced, I have been able to get more out of night diving, including navigation of dives sites at night, and knowing where and how to look for elusive marine life, which in some cases is far more active at night, or in some cases the opposite.  It really is an amazing experience when you do it properly – it’s a bit like being in space, and so interesting to see more marine life and note how the species and behaviour changes from what you see during the day.

Pufferfish at Night

All this led to my final dive on Koh Tao (for the time being), being a night dive at Pottery, which is a site I know well. Along with this being the best night dive I have ever been on, I would put it very close to being one of the most interesting and diverse dives I have ever done.  Perhaps symbolically, on this dive I was once again with the same buddy from my first ever night dive back in Indonesia. We managed to find 2 different species of puffer fish, some flat worms, blue spotted stingrays, several species of moray eel – some of which we need to look into as we are unsure of exactly which type they were! We also spotted the most intriguing organism which appeared at first glance to be some sort of jellyfish, only it was sitting on a small piece of coral, and it was still. Could it be some sort of star fish crossed with a jellyfish? Or perhaps it was an alien?! I did not have a camera with me so couldn’t get any pictures, but so far I am struggling to find any images or info on this organism. My research into this will have to continue, but being unable to find it makes me want to get back into the water to discover more!”

Puffer Fish

Eain’s experience is actually a pretty great case study for night diving. Can you pin point all the areas where things should/could have been done differently? It is important that you are well prepared for your first night dive, which includes having dived recently through the day, having the correct equipment, and being under the direct supervision of a PADI pro. If you’d like to learn more about night diving you can take the PADI Night Diver specialty course. Or for an altogether different experience join one of our UV Night Dives. It’s a whole different world down there at night – and it’s awesome!


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