We at West End Divers are pleased to announce that we are the first dive center on Roatan to be offering the unique and exhilarating experience of Black Water Diving.
These expeditions are a big step away from the normal diving Roatan is noted for. Where usually we dive the pristine reef right out front of the dive center, Black Water Diving takes place about two miles off shore with the water in excess of a mile deep, and at night!
As strange as this concept seems, it is eclipsed by the bizarreness of the creatures we encounter. We are diving right in the middle of the largest animal migration on planet Earth, the Diel Migration. This is the vertical migration that occurs nightly, with zooplankton rising from the depths to feed in the warmer surface layers. It should go without saying that those organisms that find the zooplankton tasty are also there to take advantage of the situation, and those that find them tasty……
Roatan is uniquely situated for this sort of diving with depths approaching 10,000 feet deep just a stone’s throw offshore we are able to take advantage of this pelagic migration with a short boat ride. This is not true for most coastal areas of the world.
This is an entirely different environment with unique and strange denizens. Diving these same waters during the day has been compared to swimming in a bottle of gin. It is an experience of sensory deprivation with only the rarest sightings of marine organisms. But at night the water comes alive with strange residents rising in the pelagic water column, those living their entire existence in virtually bottomless water. There are gelatinous jelly types with flashing bioluminescence, strange larval eels, and siphonophores. There are larval billfish (if you can imagine a Marlin at a fraction of an inch), and squid of many kinds feeding on the krill which have risen from the abyss. For photographers astounding images of ethereal organisms with a jet black background are possible. It is certainly possible to encounter the larger animals that take advantage of the Diel Migration, after all we are suspending ourselves in their food chain. On the author's first Black Water experience we were visited by a couple of Silky Sharks, one fairly large and curious (Story here). Because this is also the home of the Manta, the Marlin, the Sail fish, along with the Tiger, White-tip, and Mako shark. I am convinced that we are in store for more encounters of the large and pelagic kind.
This dive is not for the inexperienced, the faint of heart, those subject to vertigo, or those who have issues with the dark. Only advanced divers with night diving experience are welcome on these expeditions.
The Black Water Dive expeditions start with a 7:00 PM meeting at West End Divers dive center. After a detailed briefing, getting the gear on-board and checking it twice, we depart with a heading due west into the Caribbean night, and over the abyss. About two miles offshore we stop the boat and lower a weighted line over the side to determine current and the effects of the wind on the boat. If deemed necessary we deploy a sea anchor to hold the position of the boat relative to the water. With the boat positioned we put our own unique tethering system in the water and the divers get geared up.
The tethering system consists of 6 lightweight anchors which the crew drops over the side equally spaced around the gunwale of the boat. These anchors are suspended at a depth of 60 feet, and their ropes form the foundation of the system. Each diver is issued a High Intensity dive light, and then the diver is clipped to a 10 foot lanyard (leader) and is escorted to the dive platform for a giant-stride entry. The Divemaster or deck hand will have a hold of the other end of the lanyard and follow the diver to their assigned anchor line and clip it on. The lanyard slides up and down the anchor line with the diver to a depth of 40 feet (where a stop is attached) allowing the diver to move up and down in the water column and in a twenty foot diameter circle. The diver is connected to the boat at ALL TIMES. Although this may seem restrictive, it has been our repeated experience that establishing neutral buoyancy and hovering in the water will bring as much, if not more opportunities to experience the marine life in this unique environment.
At West End Divers we take safety very seriously. Although our normal day dives are light hearted and focused on fun, all safety rules are followed and the proper equipment is on board in the way of first aid, oxygen, and communication. Given the logistics of the Black Water Dives, at night and far offshore, we have ramped up our safety protocols to also include mandatory use of personal flotation devices by the non-diving crew, and we carry life rings, sea anchor, flare gun, and redundant ship-to-shore communication.
This is a 60 minute dive (you are free to ascend at any time). After 55 minutes we notify the divers with our patented recall system, signaling an opportunity for them to turn off their lights for the next five minutes to experience the oceans bioluminosity, and overall dark creepiness. Another signal at 60 minutes and the dive is over. Divers slowly ascend, are unclipped and escorted to the ladder on the dive platform. With the divers on board, and the gear stowed for travel we head for shore.
The trip in is always different than the one out. The trip to the dive site is usually quiet, apprehensive, and seems long. Whereas the trip back is loud, and animated with high fives, picture bragging, laughter, and is over before you know it. I guess it’s all the anticipation of a post-dive beer.
Black Water Diving Terms and Conditions
This unique and extreme dive carries with it some special conditions:
Advanced Certified Divers with Night Diving experience, and 25 logged dives is the bare minimum skill level welcome on this dive. We will discuss with you via email, or here at the dive center about your experience.
This is open ocean diving. For the diver there is no bottom, or anything solid for a reference point. We will be subject to currents and winds. This being the case, weather and wind forecasts play a big part in scheduling these dives. Once at the dive site, if we determine that the conditions are too extreme we will cancel the dive and return to port at no expense to the customer.
The pelagic water column is full of a wide variety of creatures. Some, jellyfish and the like, have chemical defense mechanisms that may cause discomfort and annoyance on bare skin. To this end we recommend using a full wetsuit, or dive-skin.
West End Divers is not responsible for elevated heart rates, feelings of apprehension, spiritual wonder, or soiled skivvies.
We must have a minimum of two divers to offer this dive, but with room for only six, it can fill fast!
Black Water Dives..........60 minutes................... $150 ea
High Intensity Underwater lights provided.