The quick & dirty
- If you’re open water certified and you’ve gone diving within the last year — and you’re looking for something different from the norm — consider a night dive with a trusted outfit.
- Night dives are great, too, if you don’t feel like getting up early to dive or spend the bulk of the day doing it.
I just did my first night dive in January. I just did my first night dive in January after being told on the boat beforehand that there’s a 4 foot, white-tipped reef shark that hangs out in the area; that it’ll probably be swimming around us checking us out but we won’t be able to see it, what with us being clumsy humans out of our element down there and our visibility limited to what our torches will illuminate, and all. The shark is apparently super active at night.
Wtf had I decided to do?
The shark probably wouldn’t hurt us (not that it couldn’t, we were told). It would be more curious than anything else. But if it did attack, for whatever reason, it would only be able to do so much damage anyway.
Divemaster dude…not helping…
We had cruised out to the Pelican Rock dive spot from inside the Cabo San Lucas Marina just as the sun was finishing its descent for the day. As opposed to diving in daylight, we were able to suit up earlier in the trip on the boat without overheating. In addition to thicker, long sleeve wetsuits, we would also be donning hoodies. The water would be colder with night coming on, not that the Pacific had been that warm during the day either this past January in the Los Cabos area.
Indeed, as we sat there waiting for the sun to disappear and night to truly envelope us, the water certainly looked dark enough already.
I had never dived with a hoodie before, so that would feel slightly different with the goggles on. What’s more, I had definitely never dived — and thus was not accustomed to diving — with anything at all in my hands, and we would be using underwater flashlights to cut through the obscurity. Oh…right…and we should be sure not to drop them.
Got it. Unfamiliar gear, crap in my hands, don’t drop anything, won’t be able to see past the light cast by my torch, shark darting about.
Sweet…uhm…let’s do this.
Goggles prepped…weight belt on…fins on…tank on…goggles in place…regulator in mouth…free hand over face…giant stride entry…splash!
Once in the water, I began thinking of the shark less and less, and fairly quickly. Running through the usual assessment of all my gear to verify it was working properly, I began easing into what I guessed was only my 16th dive. A few friends of mine already have some 80+ dives to their names in the same time it’s taken me to reach this point.
We were given the signal to descend and I struggled to submerge myself, even though I was sporting extra weights on my belt to counteract the additionally buoyancy of the ample wetsuit material given the thickness and bodyprint of what we were wearing. When I finally had that figured out, I then inadvertently kept finding the sandy bottom of our starting point.
It was strange. I couldn’t visually gauge my depth or the presence of the seabed very well. How unusual it felt to be in control of my sole light source, as opposed to the cosmos and our sun being in charge of it. Yet, as I adjusted, I continued to relax.
Then, as if to say, “Here, let me help you”, we came across a giant sea turtle, tranquilly sleeping in a crook among the larger rock formations on its belly in the seafloor sand. Our small group of four, one couple from the United States, our divemaster Paco, and I, paused to admire it for some time.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that we stopped to appreciate it for long enough that we awakened it with all the harsh torch light. If we had, though, the slumbering sea being didn’t become mobile, at least. We, however, once again did.
During the dive, we were treated to nocturnal sea life, this time very much awake, including lobsters, eels, and certain fish. The light beams emitted by our flashlights seemed to alternately attract and bother the sea life, depending on the type. How pleasant I imagine it would be to use night vision goggles instead of risking pestering the creatures. I mean, US Navy Seals can’t be diving with clunky yellow underwater torches, can they?
Occasionally, I would wonder what the shark was up to. Was it swimming somewhere around us or near us observing us, as Paco had suggested it might? I checked for it here and there by throwing light into the black abyss of the ocean that engulfed me, but of course I never saw it. Not a one time. Not even the tip of a fin slipping away.
The massive discrepancy between the shark’s capabilities down there in that environment versus mine were starkly clear. All the same, the dive was incredibly calming and it was pretty wild, diving sea walls in the dark.
Now, one especially couldn’t see how deep anything was. Parts of the area seemed beyond deep. That was surprising to me, given how close to the mouth of the marina we had plunged in.
There’s evidence that cold water can provoke in us a readiness for sleep, which I associate with calm. And I must say, as the dive wore on, I felt more and more at peace. The experience was extremely relaxing, after all was said and done. Happy as a clam, I was.
After surfacing, Paco asked us how we enjoyed it. We all responded with enthusiasm. As I passed my fins and tank up to the captain on the boat, I felt so relaxed — indeed almost excessively so since I still had to haul myself out — as to feel even groggy.
Once back onboard, we quickly got underway and I pulled some warmer layers on. It had been blissful. I thought about the shark again. I still think about that shark today, just out of curiosity, really; I wonder how it’s doing, how it fancies its spot night after night…
I dived with Manta. It’s located at one end of the marina but tucked away in a far flung corner and a little difficult to find, so give yourself some extra time to get there. The staff were well organized, though, and Paco was great: A chill guy from South America.
As for the dive site, it was decent. Yeah, sure, there was some floating sediment. It wasn’t the crystal clear Caribbean off the coast of Belize, but it also wasn’t the murky, underwater sand storm of the North Atlantic off the coast of Guardalavaca, Cuba, either. In a word, it served its purpose; there was ample sea life, and the activity in and of itself was worth it, especially if you’re not looking to commit to a two-tanker that takes up a good chunk of your day.
All that being said, I’d still love to observe an octopus at night.
I guess I’ll just have to go again…