Swimming in absolute darkness. No reference. No feeling of gravity. Just you and the blackness that surround you and your thoughts. As frightening as this might sound, it is exhilarating.
The preparations for such a dive are quite extensive. Starting from choosing the right position of the boat, to finding experienced divers, it takes skill and knowledge to get it all together. We’ve had the luck to be part of the first blackwater dive with SeaExplorers Philippines at their dive center on Malapascua.
The basic structure that is needed, is a ladder like frame hung into the water from under the boat. The individual steps of the ladder are roughly 5m apart and provide the divers with the possibility to increase their depth safely, step be step – very similiar to decompression bars. The maximum depth is usually set to 20m.
The bars and the vertical ropes that keep them in place are illuminated with light sticks, blinking lights and strong torches shining up and down.
The boat itself is positioned above a depth below 200m, as this type of diving aims to attract critters of the deep. In order to attract them, lights are attached to the structure that mainly shine down, but also illuminate the structure itself. Additionally, strong lights are mounted on the boat shining onto the surface just above the structure.
Once the structure is prepared, it is lowered into the water a good hour in advance to give the animals time to rise from their depths. This in turn requires strong torches with even stronger batteries that last the full duration of critter pulling as well as the dive itself.
When the time is right, usually around late evening, the divemaster calls everyone to enter the water and descent down the ladder into uncharted, unknown territory. Blackwater diving is still a somewhat new approach to our sport. Every new attempt has the chance to reveal the strangest critters. And even though our jump into blackness did not show anything of special interest, we are always up for the next time.