I love night dives in Palm Beach! Given the chance, I would do one every day of my life and I know I would never tire of it. The ocean at night is a very different place than what we see during the day and the chances to encounter the often unseen is not too uncommon.
Take for example the picture above of a black brotula. These secretive creatures spend the day light hours hiding deep within the dark recesses of the reef rarely venturing into daylight. It is only the allure of a green moray, whom they clean, that will entice them to reach the outer edges of the reef.
I have been watching a pair of black brotulas, which I am assuming are male and female by the gravid state of one of the them, for a couple of weeks now. Photographing them has been a challenge in many ways because of their secretiveness. Come night time and I had the smaller of the two (the male, I assume) hovering two inches above my hand. Of course, the female who I wanted to photograph was still acting very shy.
Considering this was our official “Sex on the Reef” night dive, I thought what better way to illustrate this dive than with this rare, mated pair of black brotulas. I spent my whole hour dive watching them in the hopes I would see the female release her young. She is one of only a few fish in the Caribbean that is a livebearer — giving birth to live young. Lady luck would not be on my side for this event this time, but I still enjoyed observing them for such a long period of time. It’s amazing how comfortable animals will get after staying in one spot for a long time — even with the noisy bubbles!
These sex on the reef night dives are always a real treat because of the amazing behaviors we get to see during the twilight hours. Cardinal fish like the one pictured above leave the confines of the reef, too. This one in particular was also carrying eggs. That gapping mouth is a sure sign of this. Stay around long enough and you can see him swirl the eggs in his mouth. If you’re taking pictures you have to be fast to respond… the whole twirling event last but a second.
Aside from all the mating going on during these reef night dives, there are numerous sea creatures you will not see during the day such as these beautiful orange-ball corallimorphs. These anemone-like creatures have a unique beauty all their own and if you go slow and comb the reef sometimes you’ll get lucky and see one these creatures.
The best part is the night dive doesn’t end until you’re back on the boat. Making your way up to the surface there are countless bioluminescent creatures that put on quite the fireworks display if you cover your bright underwater light for a minute.
A night dive in Palm Beach is always an enjoyable experience filled with all kinds of new and unique marine life encounters. Given the chance, go out on one of these dives. I guarantee you that, like me, you will fall in love with diving at night. Now who is up for a weekend of diving from sunset to sunrise?