Wakatobi is known for spectacular over-the-water sunsets, but that spectacle isn't the end of the diving day. After dark, familiar sites take on a whole new look on a night dive when a different cast of characters emerges from hiding.

At night, it's time to see crabs, lobster, and shrimp going about their nightly business. Octopi come out, bobtail squid glisten in the water columns and cuttlefish swim across the reef creating an amazing array of light and colour. Under the nighttime sky, the flick of a fin, or the wave of a hand, can produce a bioluminescent trail of twinkling lights.

Night dive from the boat or beach

The dive centre offers scheduled evening boat trips to popular reefs, but you can also delve into the shadows right from the beach by the longhouse, or from the resort’s jetty. Night diving veterans will often begin their immersion right after sunset, as the transition from day to night is when many of the reef’s predators become most active. For some, it’s the last chance for a pre-bedtime meal, but for many more, the growing shadows create prime conditions for the hunt. Under and around the Jetty Bar, common residents make use of the lights from above, which create a perpetual twilight. This siren-like glow attracts small fish and other assorted tiny marine creatures, giving the cunning predators a unique opportunity to extend their hunting forays.

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Orangutan crab on a Wakatobi reef

The sweeping beam of a dive light often reveals an even broader cast of creatures that remained stationary during the day, but are now on the move. Moray eels, famous for poking their heads out from shelter during the day, now slither through the shadowed crevices and crannies of the reef. Morays feed on any animal dead or alive that they can swallow whole. The reason for their abrupt feeding behaviour isn’t greed, it’s just physiology.

These eels must swallow their prey quickly because they need a continuous flow of water through the mouth to provide oxygen to the bodies. This is the same characteristic that causes morays to display their characteristic teeth-baring grimace, which isn’t actually a threat, but just a physiological necessity.

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Ribbon eel out hunting

Though their bodies may blend into the surrounding coral, the scorpionfish’s glistening eyes betray its presence under the beam of your dive light. Scorpionfish are solitary animals with nocturnal habits. They spend the day practically immobile, disguised amongst rocks and algae. At night they come out to feed on other fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks, which often cannot detect them thanks to the Scorpionfish’s elaborate camouflage. When disturbed, they raise their dorsal fin in order to exhibit their strong and threatening venomous spines.

Observant divers may notice that many of the fishes so prominent on Wakatobi’s reefs during the day seem to go missing after dark. The day shift hasn’t left, they’ve just retreated to shelter for a bit of rest. Some burrow into the sand, while many more tuck into the nooks and crannies of the corals, or duck under a ledge to grab a few winks. Yes, fish do sleep. Their lack of eyelids precludes them from getting true ‘shut-eye', but they do exhibit a reduced rate of movement, and a slower heartbeat. Their level of inactivity during rest varies by species. Some will hover, while others like triggerfish will find a secure crevice and lock themselves in place with their fins. But even when napping, most fish remain alert to danger and can make a quick escape if need be.

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Parrotfish tucked up in the reef for the night

These are just some of the wonders you will encounter on a night dive at Wakatobi. And once you have surfaced, rinsed and refreshed, you can return to the Jetty Bar to relax with a favorite libation while you recall the nightly spectacle taking place right below.

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