When we think of night-time we usually think of, well, sleeping. However, the ocean never rests. At night the ocean comes alive!
I used to have a terrible fear of the ocean. I hated the feeling of not knowing what was beneath me…or behind me. To get over my fear I decided to face the challenge and get my scuba diving licence. This was one of the best decisions I ever made. My fear instantly turned into a passion. I have a whole new respect for the ocean and a great love and understanding for the creatures in it.
Even though I overcame a huge part of my fear, the idea of swimming in the ocean at night still terrified me. So, I did what I always do with my fears and decided to face it head on. I signed up for night snorkeling.
I was on San Pedro Island, Belize when I signed up with a friend to snorkel in Hol Chan Marine Reserve. I decided to do snorkeling instead of scuba diving because it was cheaper and the marine reserve was shallow enough that you could see just as much snorkeling as you could diving.
To prevent myself from having a panic attack, I signed up for a snorkeling tour at the marine park during the day time first. This way, with the comfort of the sun, I could familiarize myself with the area and the creatures before I saw them in the dark. It was a beautiful marine park- abundant with so many different sea creatures. The moment that I jumped in the water I saw two sea turtles having lunch at the seabed! My experience at Hol Chan Marine Reserve was amazing- I couldn’t wait to see how it would change in the night.
The night snorkeling was set up a bit differently than the day time one. We headed out before the sun set- so that we would hopefully be one of the first boats out there. Because there was no sun for warmth we had to wear wetsuits and we were each given a flashlight to help us see.
We sat in our wet-suites watching the sun go down over the ocean. As soon as the sun went down we jumped in. My friend and I were the only ones snorkeling with our guide so we never had to worry about people being in our way or kicking us in the face with their fins (which happens here during the day).
It was really fun waving our flashlights around in the ocean looking for interesting creatures. It was also a lot easier to point things out to people since they could just look to where your light was shining. Our guide was great and showed us different plants that only came out at night and tiny things that you would have to be more experienced to spot.
I had no fear at all. I was so in awe of this new world around me that I was in that I forgot to be afraid. I had never seen the ocean in the dark- it honestly never even occurred to me before to think about what the ocean would look like at night. It was a wild experience to have the opportunity to see such a beautiful and abundant part of the ocean at night.
While we were taking everything in, we suddenly saw a ginormous sea turtle! This was the largest sea turtle that I had ever seen! Our guide was so excited at the sight of it that he gave up on his regular route around the reserve. Instead we followed the turtle. It swam out into the deep blue (or I guess in this case, black). It was amazing.
The world was quiet and dark around me as I slowly and calmly followed the turtle. Our flashlights shone on it’s majestic shell and we could see year and years of algae growing on it. All I could think about was “how old is this turtle?” It’s shell was almost a meter wide. It was an amazing moment in time.
The turtle then gracefully rested at the seabed and we floated above as we watched him. I’ve never seen such grace and wisdom in an animal before. I free dived lower to get a better look- always making sure to not impose on the turtles comfort.
Eventually the turtle swam off and so did we. We saw many other amazing things like massive stingrays, and huge lobsters crawling out from under the rocks. There were eels hunting and sharks swimming. I know that the scene I just described probably sounds pretty terrifying- but it wasn’t. There was something so calm about the ocean at night and it’s almost as if I didn’t exists. The animals were going about their usual business and I was just a spectator.
One of my favorite sights was at the end when we saw three little squids. They were tiny and basically see-through, except for the outline of their shape that glowed fluorescent colors.They were adorable!
When we got back on the boat my friend and I couldn’t stop talking about all of the amazing things that we had seen! We were so high on life. It was such a wild experience to be part of nature in such a remarkable way. I was truly grateful. That’s what I love about the world- there’s always so much to discover.
One the way back to shore our boat broke down. We were out on the ocean in the middle of the night and our boat broke down! My friend and I both looked at each other with a look that said, “of course, were in Belize, why would anything go smoothly.”
We didn’t freak out because we had been in Belize for a while now and we came to expect that things would go wrong. The boat captain kept trying to start the engine but without any luck. So we sat and waited in the dark… debating how strong of swimmers we were.
Eventually, a boat drove by and the two captains yelled at each other for a few minutes until they finally hooked us onto their boat and gave us a lift back in. I loved exploring the ocean at night, but I was happy not to sleep there.