What Are the Top Destinations for Nighttime Scuba Diving?

May 16, 2014
Outside Magazine

Call it night school.    Photo: Hoatzinexp/Getty Images


Day scuba diving offers the Grand Central Station view of a reef or wreck, bustling in a Technicolor blaze. But reefs hardly close for business when the sun sets. There’s something inherently mysterious about venturing into the deep with only a dive light and a sense of adventure.

Here’s where to go for the best after-hours scuba diving around the world.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

  Photo: Lucy Rickards/Flickr

Gordon Rocks, the best-known dive destination in the Galapagos, has five sites where you’re likely to spot hammerhead sharks. Academy Bay, at Santa Cruz Island, is also prime for night dives because it’s frequented not only by reef fish and rays, but also sea lions, marine iguanas, and white-tipped reef sharks. 

Queensland, Australia

  Photo: Saspotato/Flickr

One of the most popular dive sites in the world, the Great Barrier Reef offers top night excursions as well. Head to Norman Reef, located at the outer reaches, to see nocturnal sea life such as dogface and black-spotted puffer fish, epaulette sharks, clown fish, and bumphead parrotfish. For a little “sex on the reef,” join outfitter Silver for a night foray to see the coral spawning—they do so once a year, usually in late November. 

Koh Tao, Thailand

  Photo: Mariona Anglada Escudé/Flickr

With more than 20 sites, this island off the western coast of Thailand is a diver’s dream. White Rock, so named for a pair of granite boulders that mark the edges of the area, is one of the most admired among them. At night, shellfish, octopuses, cuttlefish, and moray eels emerge. If you want to get the most out of nocturnal-wildlife viewing, outfitter UV Dive Koh Tao will equip you with UV lights to illuminate the local aquatic life-forms’ fluorescent colors—from yellow to neon pink.

Kona, Hawaii

  Photo: Klaus Stiefel/Flickr

Off the coast of the Big Island, swim among majestic manta rays during evening excursions. Plankton are attracted to divers’ lights, and with those creatures come rays with wingspans measuring several feet across. Big Island Divers and Kona Honu Divers offer outfitted trips.

Maaya Thila, Maldives

  Photo: Andurinha/Flickr

In this string of 1,192 islands, it’s difficult to name a place that isn’t prime for diving. Maaya Thila is a pearl for night diving along the string of islands. It’s known for its quorum of white-tipped reef sharks, as well as sea turtles, moray eels, and octopus.

To ensure the best night-diving experience possible, check out these tips from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

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