Loving to night dive
by Janice Nigro
It has all of the elements of a good thriller. It’s night, it takes place under water, and wildlife is all around. Yes, I am talking about the night dive. I am not into scaring myself; I don’t like horror flicks or roller coaster rides, but I do love night dives.
When I discuss it with non-diving friends, they cannot imagine why anyone would do that. It just seems crazy.
It is…a little bit.
My first night dive was on the big island of Hawaii at Kona. Divers sit on the bottom in a circle all pointing flashlights upward in a teepee formation, and the manta rays just show up. It was supposed to be spectacular. It was not-the manta rays never showed up. There was not much to remember about this dive, except for resting my hand on the spines of a sea urchin. It is a funny thing to look at a penetrating wound underwater, but it kept me preoccupied as there was nothing else to look at. Except for the darkness. Or I simply did not know where to look.
I for some reason was not deterred by this experience and got the nerve to try a night dive again. This time around Black Rock on Kaanapali Beach in Maui. It turned out to be one of the more memorable dives in my life. It’s not deep (3 to 5 meters); I could see my shadow in the moonlight. And it’s easy because you simply dive your way around the rock-from the Kaanapali Beach Hotel side to the Maui Sheraton. You can’t beat a dive like that, it was easy and there were two pages in my dive log of interesting life to see.
The most surreal part of the dive was something you could not see-humpback whale songs which by bouncing off the rock were conveniently amplified. Thousands of voices calling in the distance. I could only imagine what they might have been saying.
That dive was extraordinary. But I only came to really love night dives after I discovered Indonesia. Let’s face it, night dives are at the end of the day, and you think, haven’t I done enough diving today? The answer for me is no! Once I was the only guest on a liveaboard who wanted to go on the night dive. I was a little hesitant because that meant dragging a dive guide out just for me, but he was up for it. After that 90-minute one-on-one experience with an Indonesian guide, I got completely hooked.
The more night dives I do, the more reasons I can think of for doing them. Maybe the best reason is that no one else might be going. The dive guide is all yours. The downside is you are always the last to make it to dinner.
It can be disorienting-monitoring your equipment and your location without a way to see anything clearly. Night dives though are purposely chosen in an easy spot (no current) with a clear way to orient yourself, such as a reef wall, and they are never usually that deep.
It is kind of a cool illusion though. In the daytime, you see blue. At night, you simply feel suspended in air. And you feel cool-as in Mission Impossible or 007 cool.
I got hooked because despite all of the potential dangers of diving at night (those during the day plus no daylight), it’s focusing on the wildlife at night that distracts you entirely from what it is you are really doing (that could be said of diving in general). You can think you might only want 40 minutes, but once you start finding creatures to look at, surfacing after another 35 seems to arrive too soon.
It’s an easy way to fill up your critter check list-things just come out at night. During the day, the reef looks like infinity and there are so many fish to look at. After dark, you are forced to focus only on what is in front of your light beam. You talk about it, but it’s your chance to really view the life within any square meter (or less) of the reef. You become acutely aware of the association of certain animals with specific habitats. On that basis, you become better at figuring out how to find them, day or night.
Although sometimes it’s something small that gives you the most pleasure. I am fascinated by coral polyps. Many soft corals can be open during the day, but night is when you can plan on seeing soft or hard corals feeding. They are lovely, and this is something you can find even in the most seemingly desolate of dive sites.
Cameras can seem more problematic than useful (they do have a lot of lights though), but I always take mine with me. Once I was going to leave it behind, but the dive guide made me see how ridiculous that idea was. I felt compelled to bring it with me that night and all nights since.
Admittedly, I take a lot of bad photos at night. But there is no guess work-you almost always will be shooting macro. Some animals will be more sluggish or sleeping at night. Like clownfish-you may actually have a better chance to photograph them snuggled quietly in the tentacles of an anemone. Some you will only see at night, so it’s worth a try.
If none of that is enough, at the end of a night dive, there is always that you surface under the moon and the stars.
You have to wonder how our unconscious mind draws from this otherworldly imagery to make up our dreams…
©2016 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com