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Night snorkeling is a unique and exciting experience; a completely different world awaits you to explore if you decide to go snorkeling at night. You can observe species that are hiding themselves during the day, not to mention the adrenaline boost that being in the water when it is dark gives.
I admit I was a bit nervous before my first night snorkeling session, and I can understand that you are feeling the same. To help you, here I share some thoughts on why you should try it and give some valuable tips on how to snorkel at night. Let’s dive in!
Why You Should Go Snorkeling At Night
It is exciting
Snorkeling is a beautiful way of exploring the underwater world and making connections with its creatures, and it is definitely more exciting when it is done at night!
At first, it may feel a little weird and scary to go snorkeling at night; you may think that being in the ocean when it is dark is dangerous, but if you choose a safe place, your nervousness will turn quickly into excitement as you witness species you can’t see during the day.
You can see different marine life
You must think that you won’t see as many fish at night as during the day (which is correct), but I can tell you that reefs are pretty lively at night, too.
Many marine animals are nocturnal, meaning they hide in cracks, crevices, and small caverns or spend their time in deeper waters during the day but become active and feed or hunt at night.
When snorkeling at night, there is a higher chance to see:
- hermit crabs
- sea urchins
- crinoids (sea lilies and feather stars)
- shark species (mainly reef sharks)
- nocturnal fish species (squirrelfish, scorpionfish, soldierfish, groupers, lionfish, eels, cardinalfish)
In some places, unique night snorkeling experiences are available, like the Big Island Manta night snorkel trip where you can observe giant manta rays feeding at night! Take advantage of this opportunity if you are around!
The colors are completely different at night
The shapes and colors of the corals are also different at night. First, certain species stay in a “closed position” during the day and open themselves up at night and start feeding.
Then, you will notice that the colors are more vibrant and brighter at night; some corals will seem glowing. This is because certain species have special pigments that can produce fluorescence. This phenomenon can be observed best when using blue light torches.
You may even witness the wonderful bioluminescence effect if you go night snorkeling. Some animals have a unique molecule that produces light when it reacts to oxygen. You can see little lights if you move your arms quickly through the water.
The most common is the bioluminescent plankton that you can often see in the Maldives, Thailand, Cambodia, Puerto Rico, and the US (around San Diego and Florida). Witnessing such a phenomenon is a lifetime experience!
Night Snorkeling Tips
Choose a safe location
The ideal places for night snorkeling are naturally protected spots with calm, not-too-deep water. It can be a hotel’s house reef or a shallow shore snorkeling spot; it is good if there are lights along the shore that help with orientation.
Snorkel the location during the day so you can memorize the underwater landscape, identify any potential dangers such as strong currents, outcrops and find possible entry/exit points.
Ask a local dive center if night snorkeling is permitted/safe at the given location. There are places where snorkeling is not allowed after dusk due to the potential presence of predatory animals; such rules are for your safety! Be aware of the potential risks and go snorkeling only if permitted and considered safe.
Have a buddy
There are some difficulties you can experience while snorkeling; leg cramps, encountering stinging creatures or cutting yourself with a rock are just some examples of what mistakes can occur, and the risk of such injuries is significantly higher at night. Plus, with night snorkeling, there is always a chance that your light dies!
Therefore, one of the most important snorkeling safety rules is always to have a buddy so you can help each other if needed. I think the best is if you go night snorkeling in a group; this adds maximum safety.
Join a guided tour if it is your first time
If you are doing night snorkeling for the first time, the best is to join a guided tour. An experienced local guide will make you feel more comfortable and safer and also give you tips on what to do/not to do and show you where to look for the creatures.
Get a good waterproof torch
When snorkeling at night, you need good underwater light. If joining a guided night snorkel tour, lights are usually provided, but if you are going on your own, you need to rent or buy a dive torch.
Renting is a good idea if you go snorkeling at night occasionally; it costs around 15-30 USD per session. Once you do night snorkeling regularly, getting your own light is better (and more economical).
If you buy a snorkeling light, don’t waste your time on no-name, cheap brands, as you don’t want to end up with a broken or flooded light in the middle of the ocean at night. Many flashlights on the market are marked as waterproof but not suitable for underwater activities.
Choose from trusted dive gear manufacturers; a professional underwater light will be less likely to malfunction. Always turn on your light before entering the water and check the battery to avoid realizing that it is not working when you are already in the water. For added safety, it is also recommended to carry a spare light if you have one or at least a small signaling light.
We have a SEAC R30 that we really like; it has adjustable light intensity and long battery life.
Dress up warm
The lack of sunshine (and also the feeling of excitement) will make you feel colder when snorkeling at night, so wear a wetsuit according to the conditions. If it is a tropical destination where a rash guard is sufficient during the day, you want a 2-3 mm shorty or even a full wetsuit to feel comfortable at night.
A wetsuit will keep you warm and also protect you from cuts if you accidentally hit a rock or coral in the dark.
Check the weather and tide
Planning a snorkeling session should always start with checking the weather and water conditions and it is even more important when it is done at night. You don’t want to experience rough waters in the dark, so choose a day when there is no thunderstorm in sight, no strong wind, high waves or strong tidal movement.
Make a plan
Predetermine your plan; discuss where you will be entering the water and where you will leave it. Also, set a time for how long the session will be; calculate how long your light’s battery will last, and look for alternative exit points in case you need to leave the water earlier than planned.
Agree with your buddy on how you will be communicating the water. You should not be so far apart but if it happens, have a communication plan. You can use the flashlight to give signals.
Inform someone who stays on the shore
Make sure to let someone know where you are going and for approximately how long you will be staying in the water. This can be a family member, a friend, or even your hotel’s receptionist; in some places, it is mandatory to let the staff know if anyone is going for a night snorkel due to safety reasons. Report yourself upon your return so they know you made it back safe and sound.
Move slowly, point your light toward the ocean floor
Once you are in the water, it is time to enjoy the experience! Swim slowly while staying close to your buddy, and do not stay apart.
Point your light on the reef or towards the ocean floor. When panning around, avoid turning the light into your buddy’s eyes. Also, when bigger creatures, such as sharks or rays swim by, avoid shining your light directly in their eyes as it can distress them.
If you are in an area with bioluminescent plankton, you can block the light by turning the torch toward your body (or you can even switch it off) to see the lightning!
Snorkeling at night is not dangerous but requires more planning and preparation than an ordinary day snorkeling session. It is definitely not recommended for weak swimmers or first-timers. Still, I encourage every confident snorkeler to try it if there is an opportunity as you can observe creatures that you can’t see during the day. Prepare yourself as instructed in these tips. Find a safe place, discuss the plan with your buddy or guide, get a good dive torch, and enjoy how the reef comes alive as you illuminate it with your light!
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