As a man not unfamiliar with the tempting crack of a beer can, Yo-Han Cha used to have an ambivalent attitude to night dives...
I really enjoy a night dive these days, but I started off a bit ambivalent towards them. It’s probably because they were usually the last dive of a long day on a liveaboard (it can be a hard life being a scuba diver abroad). I’d be tired, starting to feel the cold and when I was less experienced, not great at spotting cool animals underwater. So, I’d end up finning about in the dark, not seeing much, getting chilly and unsurprisingly bored.
How times have changed... I love a night dive these days. And it doesn’t matter whether if it’s off a liveaboard in warmer climates or in the fresher temperatures of the UK. This might sound like I’m contradicting myself, but I think part of it is knowing when to call [the end of] a dive. If I don’t feel up for a dive, perhaps because I’d rather spend the evening relaxing with a cooling beverage, I’ll do that instead. and my decision will be made regardless of peer pressure. After all, if you’re tired, how are you going to enjoy the dive? Most of the time, though, I’m more than up for a night dive, and quite willing to go quietly into the night.
Another reason I’ve grown to enjoy night dives is that I’ve become much better at spotting wildlife underwater. Instead of whizzing about like an excited puppy, I’ve learned to slow down to see more. With the sea having its share of nocturnal creatures, there can be so many different things to see on the night shift.
If you’re a photographer like me, then you sometimes get the opportunity to approach certain creatures that are usually a bit more skittish during the day.
Some dive operators will light up a dive site from the surface with powerful stern lights, at locations such as the Barge at Bluff Point in the Red Sea. This for me, gives it a spookier feel, especially if it’s a wreck. A couple of years ago on the Breda, a wreck that I’ve dived many times before, the top-lighting gave it a novelty factor that I wouldn’t have had if I’d dived it during the day.
When the clocks go back in the autumn, there’s usually a window available to go night diving in quarries. I usually choose the sea over fresh water, but once again, diving a well-known site at night is different enough for me to still enjoy the experience.
There are obviously more safety concerns when it comes to night diving. Shore diving entries and exits can be a bit trickier, so choose your dive site with that in mind. However, when I’m diving off a boat, I do find that my ability to navigate my way back to the dive boat increases. That may have something to do with a very well lit up boat being much easier to navigate back to than just relying on my sense of direction in the dark. Before you all yell, ‘compass!’ for one of those to be of any use you need to know what your heading was to begin with! No need to ask you not to judge me; I think it’s too late for that!
If you’ve never tried a night dive, whether it be in the UK or in warmer climates, whether it be in the sea or in a disused quarry, I’d strongly recommend giving it a go. It’s easier than you think, and strangely relaxing.
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This article was originally published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 123, March 2022. For more membership benefits, visit bsac.com/benefits.
Images in this online version may have been substituted from the original images in SCUBA magazine due to usage rights.