When I mention to non-diving friends and family that I often go diving at night my comments are always greeted by a look of sheer horror.
“You go diving. In the dark. At night?”
For people who haven’t scuba dived before, the thought of slipping into the inky blackness of the ocean after sundown with nothing but a few torch beams to guide you underwater is enough to send shivers down their spine. Or at least shoot me a confused look.
For me though, and for a big majority of scuba divers, diving at night isn’t scary. Diving during daylight hours is incredible, but after dark it’s a whole different world down there. The colour that is lost at depth during the day is suddenly luminous in my torch beam, and I’m astounded by the vibrant reds, purples and rainbow of colours I’m surrounded by. You can only see the area lit up by your torch, and rather than thinking about what could be lurking out there in the darkness I’m purely focused on the vast amount of life I can see right in front of me. Different critters are out and about at night, and animals you would never see during the a.m hours are out to play.
One such species that puts on a spectacular show at night is the manta ray. Mantas are one of the most graceful animals on the planet. Unlike other stingrays who forage on sandy floors, manta rays are filter feeders who dance through the water, twirling, spinning and mesmerising divers. Oceanic manta rays can reach a wingspan of a whopping 7 metres and weigh two tonnes! Yet these gigantic rays are completely harmless, with a non functioning tail spine and a set of 300 teeth that are perfect for filtering plankton but not much else. Diving with manta rays during the day is an insane experience, but at night it rises to a whole new adrenalin-filled level.
The undisputed best place to dive with manta rays at night is off the western coast of the Big island of Hawaii, in Kona. Here, the mantas gather at night to filter feed on plankton, and every dive theres a big chance you’ll have some interaction with the mantas. It’s a surreal and magical experience, having the contrasting black and white colours of the rays summersault around you as they dance and feed after dark. Around this time last year, guests on board Kona Aggressor II were beyond thrilled when 46 manta rays showed up on a single night dive.
Watching underwater acrobatics from mantas during a night dive is an unforgettable experience. As they glide and twirl around you in the dark, you’ll have to pinch yourself to check if you’re dreaming.