Facing My Fears: Salt Pier Night Dive in Bonaire
The thought of night diving terrifies me. Scuba diving during the daytime terrified me, until about my twelfth dive. The pestering instinct to swim to the surface and breathe a big gulp of air took a long time to overcome. It’s just not natural to be underwater for an hour. Add to that knowing that you are at a depth where you can’t immediately surface safely. Those afraid of heights don’t look down. Well, with diving, I didn’t look UP.
Why continue? For one thing, the underwater world is absolutely incredible, with diversity and abundance only matched in the rainforest. It’s worth the nerves to observe the ecosystem. Also, I continued diving because I don’t like having something that scares me in the back pocket. And to be honest, I really didn’t think it would take a dozen dives to feel comfortable and really enjoy myself!
After getting certified, I swore I would never night dive. Turn out the lights? Forget it. However, during a recent trip to Bonaire, I decided I needed to find some courage and face my fear. The salt pier was lauded as a phenomenal dive, due to the intriguing coral formations growing on the pillars as well as the high probability of seeing squids, eagle rays, and other creatures. But there was a catch; since it is an active pier, you could only dive the site at night with a guide. To do this you needed night dive experience (re: night dive more than 1x). We signed up, but only after a New Year’s Eve night dive at Buddy Reef and some light ‘pier pressure’ by our friends (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
Needless to say, this dive was approached from a survival standpoint. I didn’t need to love it, I just had to face fear and make it through. The dive could be summed up in three words: fascinating, disorienting, and nauseating. The coral popped with color in the glow of our flashlights and grew in unique, twisted formations. Life flourished on the angled pillars between 3-18m, requiring one to frequently vary depths to take in (re: lots of equalizing and BCD adjustments). Although beautiful, it was difficult to appreciate due to the strong currents under the pier (even at 18m!), which threatened to slam me into a coral-laden pillar at any given time. It felt like I had been put in a washing machine.
I lasted for 40 minutes, and returned to the car feeling both triumphant for surviving and guilty for cutting the dive short for the group. Regardless, it was a great way to start 2012! It may just take me another dozen dives before I love it…
Awesome footage of salt pier dives, check it out!
Daytime (we were told this wasn’t allow, oh well):
When have you faced a fear? How did you feel after? Do you love/hate night diving? Comment below!