Night Diving Essentials
WHAT IS NIGHT DIVING?
Night diving is scuba diving done during the hours of darkness, and night dives usually begin just as the sun sets.
WHY GO NIGHT DIVING?
The ocean is a completely different place at night and is well worth experiencing during a night dive. It is exciting and thrilling dropping into the ocean at night and divers can enjoy seeing familiar dive sites in a completely different way. Dive torches only light up one part of a dive site at a time, making divers really pay attention to that area. Different marine species are active at night and it is possible to watch some marine life, such as sharks and lionfish, as they hunt.
WHERE TO GO NIGHT DIVING
There are a variety of top scuba diving destinations around the world for the best night dives, each offering their own dive highlights:
BEST MANTA NIGHT DIVE
One of the best night dives is at Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Scuba diving Hawaii offers wrecks, caves, pristine reefs and the chance to night dive with numerous feeding manta rays. It continues to be one of the best places in the world to spot these mysterious mantas. The mantas are drawn to the area at night thanks to coastal resort lights attracting plankton, which the mantas feed on.
The Kona Aggressor II offers night diving with mantas as part of their Hawaii liveaboard safaris.
BEST SHARK NIGHT DIVES
Diving with sharks at night is truly exhilarating, as sharks are often more active than during the day and are focussed on hunting. There are some great shark night dives to experience, including at the Great Barrier Reef Australia, the Maldives and Costa Rica.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The OceanQuest liveaboard offers year-round dive trips to the remote Outer Great Barrier Reef in Australia, taking divers to the best dive sites in the area. This liveaboard offers nightly Shark in The Dark night dives, giving divers the chance to jump in and enjoy the reef sharks of the Great Barrier Reef at night.
The Maldives may be known for encounters with whale sharks and manta rays, but it also has another type of shark dive experience at Felidhoo Atoll. Divers visiting Felidhoo can enjoy night diving with a staggering amount of nurse sharks and stingrays at Alimatha Jetty. The luxurious Scubaspa Fleet and the Duke of York both offer this relaxed shark night dive.
Cocos Island is a shark lover’s paradise and is well-known for diving with large schools of hammerhead sharks and visiting whale sharks. Manuelita Coral Garden is one of the first dive spots visited on Cocos Island trips and is full of fish life, turtles, sharks and rays. A night dive there is not to be missed and gives divers the chance to watch huge schools of hunting whitetip sharks. The Okeanos Aggressor offers action-packed dives each day and night diving with sharks.
Coiba Island Marine Park in Panama is another good option for night diving with hunting whitetip sharks, especially at the Mona Lisa dive site.
BEST FLUORESCENT NIGHT DIVE
Divers looking for a fun and different night dive should go Fluoro Night Diving at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. This unique night dive offered by OceanQuest uses specialist torches and mask filters to bring to life amazing fluorescent underwater landscapes.
BEST BIOLUMINESCENT NIGHT DIVES
Seeing bioluminescence underwater is a real night dive highlight, especially as you watch your fins kick up a flurry of bright lights in the dark water. There are many small organisms that are bioluminescent, putting on a spectacular show for divers and filling the water with tiny fluorescent lights at a variety of destinations.
The Maldives is ideal for experiencing bioluminescence whilst diving, and also at the shores of white-sand beaches. There are a variety of Maldives liveaboards that visit this stunning dive destination, with something suitable for all budgets and interests.
Great Swinton Island in Myanmar is another good destination for glowing bioluminescence and fantastic coral reef diving. This relatively new dive destination remains largely undiscovered and is visited by a handful of Myanmar liveaboards.
BEST REEF NIGHT DIVES
Night diving reef structures is a very different experience to reef diving during the day, as marine life comes out to hunt and dive torches highlight the colours of the reef.
Shark Cave in Myanmar is an excellent spot for a reef night dive surrounded by rocky outcrops and a vertical wall. Divers can enjoy seeing decorated sponge crabs, Durban dancing shrimps, mantis shrimps, moray eels and feeding pairs of cuttlefish.
The Red Sea
The Straits of Tiran and Elphinstone in Egypt both have interesting reef night dives. Unlike other areas of Egypt, night diving is permitted at both destinations. These night dives offer the chance to hang in front of dramatic walls and reefs, watch hunting lionfish, and enjoy the reefs as they come alive with activity.
BEST MUCK NIGHT DIVES
Fans of critter diving should add the Visayas in the Philippines and the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia to their night dive wish list. Both destinations offer exceptional muck diving, with a muck night dive revealing a variety of active marine life and colours highlighted by dive torches.
BEST WRECK NIGHT DIVES
The idea of diving a wreck at night may sound intimidating but there are some wrecks with plenty of space and good accessibility, making them ideal for exciting wreck night dives.
The Cayman Islands
The Ex-USS Kittiwake is one of the most sought-after wreck dives in the Cayman Islands and is a former US submarine rescue ship. Lying in shallow and clear water, she is ideal for wreck night diving. With spacious corridors and clear water, she is a relatively easy wreck to dive. The Cayman Aggressor V visits this wreck and also offers night diving at the Balboa and Ore Verde wrecks.
The Red Sea
Scuba diving the Thistlegorm in Egypt is not to be missed and is one of the most famous wreck dive sites in the world, made even more impressive at night. Divers can see shrimps and crabs, plus lionfish hunting in the light of dive torches. It is truly an awe-inspiring wreck night dive. Emperor Fleet vessels in Egypt visit the Thistlegorm, as do a wide range of other Thistlegorm liveaboard diving vessels.
BEST REMOTE NIGHT DIVES
For truly remote and pristine diving, there is nowhere quite like French Polynesia and Papua New Guinea. These remote destinations offer the chance to do lagoon night dives and macro night dives, with barely any other divers around. Diving these destinations is one of the best adventures a diver can have.
BEST CORAL SPAWNING NIGHT DIVE
Witnessing the mass spawning of corals is a unique experience that few people get to see in their lifetime. It can be difficult to predict but coral spawning does occur at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia between November and December each year. Flynn Reef off Cairns has a great variety of hard and soft coral species and is known for annual coral spawning.
Divers can witness this incredible event during night dives with the Pro Dive Cairns Fleet.
WHEN TO GO NIGHT DIVING
The night diving destinations mentioned above can be dived all year, with the following exceptions:
Myanmar – Diving season October to May
Indonesia – Diving Indonesia is possible all year, but the best time to visit is June to October
WHAT MARINE LIFE CAN BE SEEN WHEN NIGHT DIVING?
A variety of marine life can be seen when night diving; from manta rays and hunting sharks through to tiny critters and lionfish. See the sections above for more detail about each destination’s night dive highlights.
WHO CAN TRY NIGHT DIVING?
Any diver with an Open Water Diver or equivalent certification can try night diving. There is a PADI Night Diver Specialty for those interested in learning more about night diving.
WHAT NIGHT DIVING GEAR DO DIVERS NEED?
Divers will need a dive torch with a strong beam and long battery life. It is advisable to dive with a spare torch and a marker attached to your BCD or tank for easy recognition in the dark.
WHAT DIVING SKILLS DO NIGHT DIVERS NEED?
The most important skill during a night dive in the ability to stay calm. Diving in the dark can make divers nervous at first and it is important to relax and enjoy the experience.
Divers should stay close to the group, stay shallow, and ensure they agree upon their dive signals before starting a night dive. It is common to use a dive torch for dive signals during a night dive, instead of the traditional hand signals. Divers should use familiar equipment they have tried during the day and set up their equipment during the day or under adequate lighting.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN HAZARDS OF NIGHT DIVING?
The main hazard is becoming disoriented because dive sites look different at night, or panicking. This can be resolved easily by staying close to the group, diving the site in the daytime first, and remaining calm.