Night snorkeling may sound a bit like a silly idea or maybe even a bit scary, but let me assure you that if you do it right it’s neither, and it can in fact be a highly unique and extremely cool snorkeling experience!
Best Strategies for Night Snorkeling
The best places to do a night snorkel are on shallow reefs in a calm bay where you’ll have constant protection from waves and current. On just about all of our tours we do our night snorkels on the resort’s house reefs which work perfectly as we have the resort’s pier to help us in and out of the water whenever we want. We usually plan for a couple group night snorkeling experiences on all of our tours. Just to make the whole experience a bit less scary for anyone who’s never done it before we typically plan to start our snorkel just before the sun sets so there is still enough light in the water so that we can slowly accustom ourselves to the darker waters. By the time the last light has left the water people are so engrossed in the snorkel that they haven’t even noticed that it’s gone completely black.
Of course, everyone will have their own underwater flashlight to take with them. For those that don’t have their own the resorts will have one you can borrow or rent. One of the cool things about night snorkeling, aside from the amazing thing you’ll see, is how your focus on the reef changes. During the day snorkeling sessions the ambient light from the sun illuminates the entire reef, but at night you are focused only on the small area that your hand-held light lights up. Most guests find that having a refined field of view of the reef really helps them find the interesting critters as they are not consistently distracted by the enormity and overall beauty of the reef during the day. Also, because you are focused on only one small piece of the reef at a time you go much slower, once again helping you find those cool reef dwellers like the crabs and shrimps you wouldn’t otherwise see in the daytime.
The Night Shift
The shift from day to night brings out a whole new cast of characters. The brightly colored reef fish you were chasing around in the day are now for the most part non-existent as they have crammed themselves into every crack and crevice they can find so as not to be eaten by the night time predators like octopus, cuttlefish, lion fish, and moray eels—which are now out on the prowl for a tasty morsel. Other things you can expect to see are nudibranchs, tons of different species of crabs and shrimps, and with a bit of luck you might find some really cute shark species like juvenile nurse sharks if you are in the Caribbean, or a species known for walking on it’s pectoral fins instead of swimming, called walking sharks, which are sometimes found in the shallows of Indonesia. For those of you whose hair just stood up on the back of your next at the mention of swimming with sharks at night, there is absolutely nothing to fear. If you lucky enough to come across one of these very shy sharks who don’t get much bigger than a couple feet and are covered in brilliant polka-dots, fear is the opposite thing you’ll be feeling.