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Humans are visual creatures. We rely heavily on sight to tell us exactly what is happening in our environment – constantly scanning for any signs of danger or change.
Our fear of the dark is an understandable one. Without light, we have trouble sensing danger and our imaginations can often go wild at creating worst-case scenarios. Go under the water, and this fear is magnified. Thanks to sensational media, we are over-exposed to images of sharks and wondering what we would do should something go wrong.
We also tend to be a little nervous whenever we try something new. Most of us probably experience a mix of fear and excitement before breathing underwater for the first time, making new friends, or traveling to a new destination. But, we are usually very happy that we pushed through the nervousness and did it anyways.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the benefits of night diving and how to overcome your fear of taking the plunge into darkness.
Where does the fear of night diving come from?
The fear of the dark is largely a fear of the unexpected. When we imagine dive at night, our mind conjures images of scary creatures like sharks or we might feel a drop in our stomach when we picture ourselves floating weightlessly in darkness.
For others, it’s the lack of confidence we have in our ability to handle a situation in the dark. What if an emergency happens? Or you lose a buddy? Many people are afraid of not being able to handle basic scuba diving procedures or situations in the dark.
It’s worth noting that phobias almost always become more powerful if we avoid confronting them. This is why it’s better to confront your fear of night diving as soon as possible, before it intensifies. In an article by Psychology Today, Dr. Noam Shpancer explains why this is the case and says, “With anxiety, the only way out is through.” Fear often gets worse the more we avoid it. This is because our brain becomes habituated to avoiding it and the more we avoid it, the more we feel like a failure. This creates a loop where we only have a negative association with what we’re afraid of — making our fear much worse. If you want to overcome your fear of night diving, you’ll have to go on a night dive.
The benefits of a night dive
Almost everyone who conquers their fear of night diving and goes for a dive in the dark loves it. Night diving tends to be more peaceful than diving during the day, and you can easily focus on what’s in front of you rather than being overstimulated by your complete surroundings.
Many species of marine life only come out at night, and you can also often find the regular fish sleeping in a weightless daze. Coral that looks inanimate during the day will look very flexible at night, with its polyps and soft tentacles extended out into the sea. Bioluminescence, light emitted from single-celled plankton, sparkling in the dark water also makes for a magical experience. While lobsters and crayfish hide in nooks during the day, you can usually find them wandering around on a sandy floor at night. Animals like octopus, eels, crabs, breeding sea turtles, and many others are often more active after sundown. You’ll truly only fully experience a dive site if you see it both during the day and at night.
Surprisingly, colors during a night dive are more vivid than day dives. This is because as the sunlight penetrates the water, certain colors are filtered out. When you dive at night, the light from your dive light won’t have to travel far — making everything you see much more colorful and true to form.
Diving at night can instantly make you a more confident and skilled diver. You’ll learn how to communicate clearly with your guide or buddy, how to stay calm even while being nervous, and how to handle a dive light during a dive.
How to overcome your fear of night diving
Before your dive
Plan your dive with a trusted buddy or experienced divemaster who knows the area. Dive with your partner at least once before your night dive, so that you know what to expect. Ask your buddy to remain close and voice your concerns about being nervous to your guide – remember, it’s one of the most common fears among divers.
You can even enroll in a night diver specialty course, where you’ll learn everything about specific night-dive signals, how to enter and exit the water, and tips for navigating in the dark. Being prepared in this way can take a lot of the guesswork out of what the dive will be like once you make the descent.
Don’t plan your night dive on a day where you’ll likely to feel tense or frantic. You’ll want to be as relaxed as possible leading up to the dive – not rushing from one hotel to the next, or worrying about catching ferry rides. You should try reading, meditating, or going to a relaxing yoga class before your dive to release any excess stress.
Avoid drinking alcohol and have a fresh, healthy meal before your dive. Nerves can often cause an upset stomach, so save trying that extremely spicy curry for another night.
Dive at least once during the day before your night dive, ideally at the site you’ll be visiting in the evening. This will get you familiar with the site and you’ll quickly see that the site is the same at night – only darker. Diving at a site you’ve already seen will also give you the bonus of seeing the contrast of how creatures behave at night versus during the day.
Realize that your fear of the dive is much worse than the dive itself. Fear tends to dissipate for nearly every nervous night diver as soon as they go underwater.
When checking your equipment, test your dive light and carry a spare light inside your BCD. Practice reaching for it so that you can feel prepared to pull it out in the off chance that your main dive light runs out of battery.
Tips for making the most of your night dive
Once you’re under the water, you’ll quickly see that night diving isn’t as terrifying as you might’ve imagined. Remember to take long, slow breaths throughout your dive, especially at the beginning while your nerves are getting settled.
Shine your dive light around fish, but avoid pointing it directly into their eyes. Focus on the beam of your dive light and what it’s illuminating, rather than the blue around you. Though it might seem like common sense to buy the biggest, baddest, brightest light you can find, you’ll see many more creatures with a dimmer light that is less obtrusive.
Once you’re feeling more relaxed, cover the beam with your hand or hold the beam against you for a few moments and enjoy the experience of being surrounded by a dark and quiet sea.
Stay close to your buddy during a night dive. You’ll be able to show each other interesting observations and it will feel comforting to know that your buddy is close by. You can get your buddy’s attention by directing your beam to theirs, circling it, and drawing your beam back to what you want to point out. You can communicate with your beam by drawing circles for “OK,” drawing a line up and down for “yes,” or side to side for “no.” Alternatively, shine the light onto your hand for the daytime hand signal.
Imagine you only experienced the landlocked world during the day. You’d never see the skyline of an urban city, taste delicious foods from a night market, or dance to your favorite music at a club. It’s similar with the underwater world. Once the sun goes down, the daytime creatures tuck into the shelters and a new crew comes out at night.