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Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving at Night

Table of Contents

Night dives.

Some people love them, and others refuse to ever do them.

And it’s understandable.

Delving into the underwater world, in pitch darkness, with only your dive light to illuminate your surroundings, can be a scary prospect.

But for those that look past the eerie feeling of diving at night, and push themselves to go outside of their comfort zone, will surely not regret it.

The reef comes alive at night.

Your favorite shipwrecks may appear haunted.

Diving at night will help you see your favorite dive site in a different light.

Night Diving Equipment

As we stated above, theres a few different pieces of equipment you’ll want to take with you when going on a night dive.

The first piece of equipment you’d want to bring is a tank marker, that helps show other divers or boats where you’re at in the water.

Common options here are chemsticks, a tank marker light, or even a strobe light. It can be a bit annoying at times and certain dive sites due to all the micro organisms to flock to the light at night, but safety comes first when diving.

The second piece of equipment you need to do a night dive, is a dive light. These can come in many forms, from a dive light to a flood light.

A dive light concentrates a light beam into a more precise location, whereas a flood light casts a weaker light over a larger area.

Night diving is, of course, the main reason to purchase scuba diving lights. It goes without saying that humans can’t see very well in the dark! So in order to see all the weird and wonderful creatures that come out at night, we need a great scuba diving light.

Another piece worth highlighting on a night dive is a dive compass.

While many divers do and should carry a dive compass, on all dives, it’s extremely important to take one on a night dive.

But more important part than carrying a dive compass, is understanding how to use one properly.

You’ll have a harder time using natural features to navigate the waters, so the role of a compass and directions will be crucial.

We recommend making sure your dive gauges are able to illuminate at night time, whether they are glow in the dark or you’re shining a light on them.

Safety sausages (SMBs) are carried a majority of the time but can be useful to help locate a diver on a night dive, by taking your dive light and shining it up the length of the SMB.


A few other pieces of safety equipment that you could bring is an audio signaling device or noise maker. In the event of an emergency, this device can be heard from far away and help locate you.

Change in Signals

When night diving, you’ll have to change up a few of the signals you’d normally use on a dive. The most important one is the “Ok” sign. This is done at night by taking your dive light and moving it in a circle.

Ok Sign Diving

If underwater with your buddy, you can shine the light on your hand while doing the normal “Ok” symbol.

Another signal to learn, is expressing that something is wrong, by moving the light side to side. The speed of the movement generally can help communicate the urgency of the issue.

If you want to point out something to your buddy underwater, we recommend circling it with your light a few times, to help drawn attention to it.

As you can probably guess, it wont be easy to tell your dive buddy about the amount of air you have with the normal hand signals due to both of you holding a light. Instead, we recommend just shining a light on your dive gauge to let your buddy how you’re doing on air.

Prepare for Night Dives

There’s a few things you can do to help prepare yourself for a night dive.

The first thing, is to dive the same site once before (ideally recently), so you’re more comfortable navigating it, and understand how to navigate it.

The second thing you’ll want to do to prepare for a night dive brings a dive light, and ideally two so that in the event the first one goes out, you’ll still be able to signal to your boat. If you’re only diving with one light, and it dies, your dive is over.

Diving at dusk makes the entire process a lot easier and more comfortable. And on top of that, you usually catch a beautiful sunset.

So it’s a win win. Ideally, you prepare everything right as the sun sets, and enter the water shortly after.

This makes the water entrance simpler, and just leaves entering the boat for darkness. You could also try diving at dawn, although it can be a bit harder logistically.

Why Night Divers are different

Night dives are much different than normal day times for a few reasons.

The first reason night diving is so much different is that rather than being able to see everything inside your field of vision, you’re only able to see what your diving torch is pointing at.

While this sounds like a silly tradeoff, it really allows you to focus on the small details and appreciate them more, which may make you see things you may not otherwise saw

Another difference is the nocturnal behavior of reef life at night.

You’ll see bioluminescence from corals, invertebrates, fish, and more!

Bioluminescence occurs when an organism has a chemical reaction to produce light.

Nudibranch at Night

Another interesting behavior you’ll encounter at night is fish sleeping!

Yes, fish do sleep, which a lot of people did not know.

Nocturnal animals also come out at night, allowing you to see completely different marine life than you otherwise would.

Sea Urchins seem to come out of nowhere to start feeding like crazy on the reef.

Manta Rays come out to start feeding on swarms of plankton.

Great barracudas are on the hunt for their next meal.

Shrimps, crabs, and lobsters, all come out to snack and are easily identifiable by their eyes standing out in the darkness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Scuba diving at night does not require any extra certifications outside of an open water certification. That being said, PADI, SSI, and NAUI all offer night diving certifications to boost your knowledge and comfort while night diving.

No, we wouldn’t say night diving is any more dangerous than daytime diving, and as we covered in a post, scuba diving is not a dangerous sport.

The main thing you have to worry about is dealing with limited light and is easily located by your boat or other divers.

This is why divers carry extra safety gear in the form of multiple dive lights, a tank marker, and sometimes even a flare.

If you end up losing your buddy or the boat at night, there’s a few things you can do. Turn off your light, and the only other illumination would be your buddies dive light, or the boats light.


Overall, we recommend everyone to try night diving once in their life. It will completely transform the way you view your favorite dive sites.

If you don’t like it after that one time, we won’t blame you for not trying again.

But we’re confident that night diving will bring you to appreciate the incredible hobby that is scuba diving even more, and create some memories and experiences that were never before possible.

Do you have a night dive story to share with us?

Let us know in the comments!

Austin Tuwiner Administrator
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    My name’s Austin, and I created OtterAquatics to help readers become better divers, help them buy their first gear, and plan their next dive vacation!

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