Night diving in Roatan Honduras is something special. The waters are crystal-clear with 100 foot visibilities, currents are practically non-existent and the water temperatures are consistently in the low 80s. We had the opportunity to take a PADI Divemaster Program while living in Roatan for 3 months. We got over 150 dives in the three months and some were nothing short of spectacular. The most memorable dive which will forever be etched into our mind long after we have forgotten most dives, is the night diving in Roatan on the El Aguila shipwreck.
El Aguila Wreck Dive
Diving A Wreck
El Aguila is a popular dive site among Roatan divers. Most wreck dives are done as a morning dive since it is considered a deep dive. Large... and I mean large groupers, dogfish snappers, the resident Green Moray Eel named "Frank" along with the occasional dolphin, visit the wreck. Like most deep wrecks, as you drop down to the ship, it's not visible until you get to about 30 feet below the surface. You then begin to see the outline of the ship as you continue to descend as the size of the ship slowly comes into view. It's strange and sometimes disorienting dropping into the blue water without anything visible below you. Not so with night diving where everything is just black, it's just strange and heart pounding. You only see what is directly in front of you.
El Aguila Wreck Dive
Night diving is a completely different style of diving, so much so that it almost doesn't feel like diving. At night because of the lack of light you have a greater sense of floating or flying. The creatures that roam the night are generally different from what you see during the day. If you’re lucky you might find an octopus, shrimp, lobster, eels and sometimes see fish sleeping on the reef. Part of the uniqueness of night diving, is the sense of exploring. It's much like taking a walk in the woods at night, as you can only usually see what is right in front of you. Seeing bio-luminescent phytoplankton on a night dive is truly spectacular.
Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. My favorite part of a night dive is at the end of the dive. We all kneel in a shallow sandy patch and everyone turns off their lights. Any movement, like waving your hands through the water, produces tiny bluish sparkles. Sometimes you can see a “string of pearls” which is several phytoplankton linked together to form a chain. If you’re lucky enough to see strings of pearls, it’s almost surreal. It's like kneeling in space and being within reaching distance of the stars. We have done a few night dives with West End Divers, yet none compared to night diving at the El Aguila.
Shelly And Brendy Getting Ready To Dive
Staff Dive At El Aguila
We decided to do a staff night dive during the May 2012 super-moon, we had a total of 14 staff members and friends show up for the dive. All divers were either an Instructor or Divemaster. We were all experienced divers and we made a friendly bet that the first person to turn on their light had to buy a round of beers for the whole group. Being in the dark-open ocean and descending into complete black water is pulse elevating, creepy and exhilarating at the same time. Any other site, the descent wouldn't have been the same. Most dive sites common for night diving are shallow and the reef can easily be seen. It only took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the light due to the super-moon. We were actually able to see pretty well. We could see the wreck, surrounding topography and who-was-who, without dive lights.
Once we were kneeling at 110 feet deep, we started playing with the bio-luminescence. We sat around waving our arms and one of the Instructors hit a metal wrench on the bow of the boat that caused the phytoplankton to be disturbed and sent sparks all the way up the bow. Bubbles were also causing sparks, for the first time on a night dive; it appeared as if everyone was exhaling blue sparkles. It looked amazing! One buddy team was using their alternate air hose to spray the bottom of the wreck causing what appeared to be a sheet of glowing electric particles igniting the ship. We stayed around the wreck with no lights as long as our bottom time would allow without going into decompression. It was quiet, serene, peaceful, a little scary, but extremely beautiful.
The Coral Wall
After leaving the wreck we headed to the coral wall with our lights on We saw a gargantuan octopus changing colors, a slippery lobster and lots of sleeping fish. We actually all split up at one point and were only in buddy team pairs. You could see light pairs all over the place. This was also the first night diving we've done, where everyone wasn't bunched-up on each other moving through the water, blinding each other with lights. We finished our night dive at around 50 minutes and came up to the boat to a starry night and bright moon.
Back At The Shop
Change In Perspective
This was absolutely the best night diving we've ever done. It was truly spectacular to do a night dive with other professionals in conditions that are rarely experienced. Night diving is completely different from diving during the day. The low visibility factor, coupled with the unknown (possibly large underwater animals) gives you sense that something is looking at you. You feel vulnerable and more respectful of the surrounding environment on a night dive than a day dive.
This was definitely an experience we will never forget. We are so glad to have been able to do this incredible dive in Roatan with West End Divers. Sometimes in life we do things that will never be replicated, never re-done. Just the right amount of friends, timing, atmosphere and luck make moments that will last a lifetime. This was one of those amazing opportunities to do something that we may never get to do again. We couldn't be happier with our life right now.