Every diver remembers their first night dive. There is something about diving into the unknown, into the dark, that is exhilarating. But the most magical thing about it is that you discover the ocean does not sleep at night. It comes to life. And if you want to take your night diving up a notch, try blackwater diving.
What is blackwater diving?
In blackwater diving, you’re not exploring the night on a reef or rocky shore but in the open ocean.
You dive suspended in the water column, in the dark depths far away from the coast. The boat drifts with the current, and you lower floodlights into the water to attract all the ocean nightlife.
At first, it may seem like there is nothing to see but darkness. But soon enough, all the creatures of the deep start to arrive.
Divers swim around the lights or are tethered by a line to stay close to the boat. With their torch, they hunt for the tiny creatures attracted to the floodlights.
Underwater photographers also love shooting blackwater dives. They provide striking shots and the unique opportunity to photograph deep sea creatures that others rarely get to see.
What do you see when you’re blackwater diving?
Under cover of night, billions of creatures make their way from the darkest depths to the surface on a pilgrimage to feed.
This journey is the largest animal migration on Earth and occurs every night.
You may sometimes see large pelagic fish that come to feed on the smaller ones attracted to the light, but that’s rare. The main attraction in blackwater diving is all the small, strange, and beautiful creatures that makeup plankton.
This macro life includes juveniles of all sorts of animals, from crabs to squid or any species of fish, and many other creatures in the larval stage of their life cycles.
Their bodies are often mostly transparent and have bioluminescent abilities, making them light up in the water when disturbed.
Where can you go blackwater diving?
To experience blackwater diving, you can go anywhere in the open ocean where there’s at least a few hundred feet of water. However, some locations are famous because of the great depth available close to shore, making them ideal for blackwater diving.
- Blackwater diving originated in Kona, Hawaii. With over 10 thousand feet of depth just off the coast, it’s still one of the most popular places for these dives.
- The clear water around Palau and the marine trench surrounding the islands, with over 25 thousand feet in depth, also make it a blackwater diver’s dream.
Tips for blackwater diving
Blackwater diving requires similar gear and skills as regular night diving, but there are a few things to remember.
- Buoyancy is critical, especially if you’re taking photographs or plan on swimming around the lights.
- Keep track of your bearings at all times. With so few references, it’s easy to become disoriented.
- You need to be comfortable with being in the water at night and in deep water. If you’re not used to night diving, start on the reefs, and work your way up to blackwater diving.
- Stay close to the lights if you’re not tethered to the boat so you don’t drift away in the current.
There is something truly unique and magical about floating in the vast open ocean at night, with the shining stars above and the glowing creatures of the deep below. No matter what you see, blackwater diving is an experience you will never forget.