1. Go at Sunset
Many dive operators will leave for a night dive right before sunset. That way you have light to get your scuba gear ready. It also feels less intimidating to go out while there is still some light left. Likewise, if you are doing a shore dive, plan on hitting the water right before the sun sets. Even though you will have some light above the water, it will still be pretty dark underneath. And by the time you surface, it will be dark out.
2. Dive a Familiar Site
If this is your first time scuba diving at night, try and go to a site you are familiar with. Many dive operators will do a night dive at a dive site that they went to during the day. If you are thinking of doing the night dive, sign up to do a dive at the night dive site during the day. This way you will have some idea of what the area is like and may feel less apprehensive.
3. Keep it Shallow
A night dive is typically a shallow dive. Sixty (60) feet is probably max with 30-40 feet more the norm.
4. Obtain Lights
You obviously need some dive lights when you are doing a night dive. It’s best to have a primary light and a backup light in case the first light fails. Your primary light should be attached to you in some way (e.g., using a lanyard, stretch cord, or clip). The secondary light can be small and could fit into your pocket. You don’t need the biggest and brightest light you can find. In fact, it is fun, once you get accustomed to diving at night, to turn your light off and let your eyes adjust to the dark. You’ll be amazed at what you can see. Buy a light that you’d feel comfortable with while diving at night. Many dive operators will also attach a glo-stick or something similar to your tank. This makes it easier to spot someone underwater. One dive group may have one color, another group a different color or the divemaster will have a different color so it is easier to tell who is who underwater. Please note that some areas do not allow the use of glo-sticks due to their chemicals. In this case, another device, such as a light, can be put on the tank.
5. Use Reflective Tape
It’s a good idea is to mark your lights or other accessories with reflective tape. That way if you drop something, you may be able to spot it once the light shines on it.
6. Take it Slow
There is a lot to see at night. You will see a whole different world underneath at night than during a day so take your time and look in those nooks and crannies. The reef also looks brilliant and colorful in the beam of your light. Much different than during the day when you are diving deeper and the colors are absorbed.
7. Descend Feet First
It is best to descend feet first and look down when you are descending. You can shine your light underneath you (just make sure you are not shining it in someone’s eyes) to see where you are going so you don’t hit or disturb the coral.
8. Get Familiar With the Hand Signals
You should discuss/review and clarify hand signals before you begin your dive. Since it is dark down there, your buddy won’t be able to see your hands. If you are on a dive boat, the divemaster will probably tell you what signals to use. If they don’t, just ask. A typical way to use hand signals is to shine your light on your hand so your buddy can see them. Another common night diving signal is to move your dive light in a circle to signify “OK.” Moving it up and down or back and forth can signify yes or no.
9. Watch Where You Aim That Light
Be aware of where you aim your dive light. If you put the full force of that light beam into somebody’s eyes, you can momentarily blind them. It will take a little while for that diver to adjust his night vision again. This is especially important as you return to the boat so you don’t negatively impact the captain’s night vision. Be aware of your light beam at all times.
10. Keep an Eye on Your Gauges
If you are new to scuba diving at night, you may go through your faster than your would during a typical daylight dive. This could be compensated for by the fact that a night dive is usually shallow, but just be aware of your air at all times. Of course, this is one of those night scuba diving tips that is applicable to day scuba diving too.
11. Mark Night Diving Entry/Exit Points
If you are night diving off a boat, the boat should have a flashing strobe light attached to it so it’s easy to find. As you are ascending, make sure you are looking up and know where the boat is so you don’t come up directly under the boat. If you are doing a shore dive, you should also know how to mark the night diving entry/exit point. The most common way is to place lights on the shoreline. You should use more than one to make it easier to spot. For example, you could have 2 close together and another 2 close together but further down the shoreline. It also doesn’t hurt to have someone on the shore to make sure the lights don’t go out.
12. Keep an Eye on Your Buddy
If you happen to lose sight of your buddy, one way to find him would be to shut off your light and look for the glow of his light. He shouldn’t be that far from you and you should be able to see his light. Another method is to turn a full circle while pointing your light outward. You might be able to see your buddy in the beam or he might notice the movement (if he hasn’t noticed you are gone yet). If the boat has to come pick you up after you have surfaced, turn your light off or shine the light down or on yourself so the captain can see you.