Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Imagine a blackout in the middle of the night. There’s nothing in sight, not even a spark of light. If you’re lucky, you can see soft shadows of the things around you. If not, everything is the same with your eyes shut or wide open. Then, imagine igniting a flashlight, beaming through the darkness. What you see is limited to the diameter and how bright your flashlight can shine. Now, imagine this underwater. As if being in the dark wasn’t scary enough, some divers prefer to transport this experience underwater. This is the sensation of a night dive, a technical dive for the advance diver or those that have a comfortable amount of dive logs under their belts. I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone do this, right? On the contrary, a night dive at Derawan Island is done for so many reasons.
It’s thrilling! It’s like going into a haunted house. It’s scary but you know you’ll come out all right, maybe even with a few giggles. Your sight is limited to what your underwater torch can light. Beyond that glow is nothing. You don’t know if there’s a jellyfish beside you, a shark behind you, or if an annoying sea urchin is below you. But that’s part of the thrill, the awareness of things and trusting your dive buddy. Aside to the sensation, the creatures that come out at night are different from the ones that are active during the day. Fishes are usually asleep, which can be speared easily and then be dinner later on. Things that crawl usually start crawling, like shrimps, crabs, flatworms and creatures outside of that group. So, diving at the same place at night might result in seeing different things. It’s a lot of fun! It sounds absurd but it’s true.
I’ve had a couple of night dives. I wasn’t too confident the first few times as it is a scary experience to begin with, even though I was already comfortable with daylight diving. During my first night dive, I really regretted watching too much horror and thriller movies where they had people disappearing in the dark. At night, you just don’t know how to react if something does go wrong. I tried to be confident about diving at night after thinking things going wrong in the dark also apply on land. With that confidence, I grew comfortable doing night dives.
Not all night dives are fun. Sometimes they can go wrong with currents, which I experienced on my second night dive in the murky waters of Kepulauan Seribu, or failure in finding nocturnal beings after high expectations at the Komodo National Park. Having said that and because diving is also an extreme sport, I still think twice before plunging for a night dive.
Icuk from Danakan Dive Center.
One of my most fond memories of the subject is a night dive at Derawan Island. During one windy afternoon, I asked Icuk, the resident Dive Master of Danakan Dive Center; my recommended dive center within the area, if a night dive was possible although I had fringes on my face seeing the disturbed sea. He easily said yes, even though the waves were hitting the pier pretty hard. Like in the day, what happens on the surface doesn’t necessarily reflect the condition under it. With a little effort, he persuaded me to dive in and promised me awesome creatures. I gave in. So, after dark, we jumped in the splashy sea.
Surprise! The marine life just off of the Danakan Homestay pier is really rich with nocturnal creature. Icuk showed me some pretty awesome crawlies, starting with a frogfish the size of a volley ball. OK, it might not be that big since things look bigger underwater, but it was the largest I’ve seen to date. Then he showed me a flatworm, shrimps, decorated crabs, and a few more other creepy crawlies that I can’t recall.
One species that I do remember was the Flying Gunnard. I didn’t know that flying fishes could be so odd-looking up-close. The fish had wings and it soared just on the surface of the sea floor. It also had a feather-looking horn and bulgy eyes. Just when I thought diving in the dark wasn’t thrilling enough, I had to meet this scary-looking creature that can attack if it felt disturbed. I had second thoughts approaching it until I saw it tuck its wings, a sign it wasn’t going to move anywhere in a sudden. It was an interesting find.
As we came up, the sea had calmed down. We came out the water easily and I had a big smile on my face. A night dive was nice way to see another side of Derawan Island. Night dives can show you a second layer of richness of the underwater world. And as predicted, Icuk delivered as promised. As much as I love this island, it has given me another reason to love it even more.
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