How does one properly explain what UV Night Diving is all about? Technically, it’s quite simple. Go on a normal night dive except with a UV (aka black) light source instead of your normal dive light, wear a blue filter lens on top of your mask, and away you go. If you’ve been in a club, you’ll know what a UV or black light does, and the blue filter does exactly that, filters out some of the blues to help exaggerate the fluorescence. And what fluorescence there is!
The way I see it, the real goal of UV isn’t to search out the cuttle fish, octopus, funky crustaceans, or what most people might equate to a fantastic night dive. For me, the name of the game is the visual realization that our corals are in fact alive. It’s all about highlighting the living landscape that’s easily taken for granted on a daily basis. Everywhere you shine the UV light, you’ll see fluorescent greens, yellows, and maybe some reds coming back at you. It really is similar to the “Underwater Rave” description that many throw around. But it’s so much more than that!
At first, while getting comfortable with the shifted spectrum of lighting and the added lens on your face, you might tend to stay pretty far away from scenery. It definitely does take a bit to get use to. Rocks that don’t fluoresce and urchins tend to be harder to see, sneaking up on you from out of nowhere and generally being a bit of a hazard if you’re not careful (ie. buoyancy control people!). But once you get past this, that’s where the fun begins. Think of the glowing patches as living beacons, inviting you in their own visual language to come closer and investigate. And you really should! It’s only when you get right up close and personal with these fluorescent organisms that you start seeing them in a whole new light (see what I did there?). Take your run of the mill brain coral. Get up and close with one of these beauties and you might just see their feeding tentacles vividly probing and catching food. Or maybe watch a table coral spring to life in front of your eyes. Or maybe investigate the lump of a sea cucumber now fluorescing bright greens and yellows off its little horns. Or maybe just sit and stare at the glowing vegetation and see if you can work out why some parts glow and some don’t. Chances are, everything that glows is alive and signaling for a closer inspection, and probably for a reason.
It’s not often I get to see a familiar environment painted in a new light and obtain such a fantastic experience from it. It really does go to show that our underwater environment still has so much to offer. And for me at least, it’s brought about a greater respect for our living corals. If you get an opportunity to participate in a UV Night Dive, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. At the very least, you’ll get a nice light show out of it!