Resolved to do anything that sparks enthusiasm in my heart

Facing My Fears: Salt Pier Night Dive in Bonaire

Sea horse seen on night dive at Bonaire salt pier

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):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPGX3m9jkIQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1C3P_Ce6aU

Nighttime:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH7fNtMiPPY

When have you faced a fear? How did you feel after? Do you love/hate night diving? Comment below!

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3 responses

  1. pri

    I am really proud of you

    January 23, 2012 at 7:26 AM

  2. jenn6116

    This post made me smile. I had the same feeling on the first night dive I did. We were in Cozumel and I had struggled with our day dives due to the current (I was a new diver). As I sat on the edge of the boat, ready to roll back into the ocean, all I could think was “So this is how I am going to die”. Needless to say, it was an amazing dive, the best one of the day! We saw so much life and had a great dive master. It was so great, when we went back the next year, I couldn’t wait to do it again. We returned to Cozumel the following year and talked 3 other people to coming with us. Unfortunately, this time wasn’t a great experience. We battled currents and crossed paths with another dive group that shouldn’t have gotten as close as they did. I am thankful I had such a great dive the first time I tried it and I am now looking forward to trying out the salt pier! Great blog!

    April 14, 2012 at 12:12 AM

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