For those of you not following us on facebook, you may not know that we’ve been doing blackwater nightdiving in Lembeh for several years.

Since March 2018 Simon has done over 500 blackwater dives and counting! He has become so enamoured with this style of diving he has literally written a book about it!

With this much experience blackwater diving in the strait, we absolutely feel that we have the most knowledge regarding blackwater diving in the area, having tried both drifts hanging on a buoy and ‘bonfire’ dives sitting on the sand in over 70 locations.

Obviously there is a certain amount of randomness to what you find, but with experience and knowledge your luck certainly does improve.

A Diamond Squid.

What is Blackwater Diving?

Blackwater diving can be broadly described as dropping in the water and looking for planktonic / larval forms of marine creatures. Beyond that there are a few methods you can use depending on what depth of water you are prepared to hang over:

  • ‘Bonfire’ diving is where you put some lights on the sand to attract plankton.
  • ‘Blackwater drift’ is where you attach lights to a hang line and drift through deep water. All going well you will not see the bottom.
  • ‘Black ops’ this is the most difficult style where we drift without any strong lights in deep ocean water.

From here we need to go down and see what we can find. Your guide (remember you have 2 guests to one guide as standard at NAD Lembeh) will find things for you. If needed they will help you with their spotting torch as you take pictures to make sure you don’t lose the subject. After you’ve had a few shots they will ask you to switch out with your buddy.

Common subjects such as mantis shrimps, flounders and slow moving subjects just as jellyfish will be pointed out to you and the guide will move on to look for rarer subjects. Use this opportunity with flounders to practise the skill of not losing the subject. If the guide is staying right by you, and making a lot of noise you are shooting something special that he does not want to lose, and he will call over other divers to share the subject after an amount of time. Please also remember that the guide’s eyes are not hidden behind your camera, so they will try to position themselves in a way that minimises their exposure to camera flashes.

*If you feel that you do not want to look for subjects whilst your guide is helping your buddy, a private guide option is available for an additional fee.

What do I need for Blackwater diving?

Any camera is possible to use on a blackwater dive, from the Olympus TG5, through mirrorless to dSLR. However you mush have realistic expectations for what is a feasible subject and a satisfactory result for the equipment you use.

What Lens?

I personally prefer the 60mm lens on full frame as it get’s you close to the subject and still allows you to shoot something a little bigger should it show up. This translates to 40mm in a crop sensor camera and a 30mm lens on a m4/3 camera. However, some people find this to be too wide, so on a crop sensor camera such as the D500 a 60mm lens is often preferred as it is great for fish photography on blackwater dives.

What other equipment do I need?

You’ll want a thin beamed hand torch for searching for subjects. Thin beamed torches travel further and holding them slightly out to the side of your body prevents backscatter being illuminated between you and whatever you’re following.

You’ll also want a low powered focus light, we recommend the FIX neo as you can set this down to 1% power if need be. The worst thing on a blackwater dive is diving with someone who has too bright of a focus light as everytime they move their camera the light blinds you. If you want a Red light; we recommend the Kraken Hydra in which the red focus-light is deactivated during the camera flash.

What else should I bring?

I’d suggest bringing an old sweatshirt or something similar, so you can dry off between dives. If you wear full foot fins, some thick socks will protect your feet from stinging marine life. Likewise, although we do not allow gloves for our day-diving, for blackwater diving we do permit the use of gloves.

When we go out for two blackwater dives we bring a snack pack with us.

Top Tip: Chocolates and candies from the airport help keep crew morale up if we are out late!

Immature Female Nautilus

What is NAD-Lembeh’s Blackwater routine?

Several times a week (daily in peak season) we offer a single blackwater dive before a (late) dinner. This is available to all our guests, although we do not guarantee a particular style of blackwater dive as conditions can vary.

For our ‘BlackwaterWeek’ we start with the 3rd dive-of-the-day. Then we have a snack before heading out for 2 blackwater dives. Our departure time will vary depending on how far we will travel to get to our chosen location.

We are out for 2 dives without returning, and if we have a particularly hot dive there may be a possibility for a 3rd dive. This is at the discretion of the boatcrew and diveguides. Bear this in mind in terms of extra memory cards and batteries if they may be needed*.

*Never go out on a blackwater dive with anything other than freshly charged batteries.

Larval Ribbonfish

Why Choose NAD for Blackwater Diving?

We probably have the most lumens in the world! With over 250,000 lumens of lights available we have invested heavily in blackwater diving. With this level of investment you can be assured that we take blackwater diving seriously.

  • Simon has over 700 blackwater dives under his belt, and the guides almost as many. We’ve had some good ones and bad ones. However, Simon’s education in Marine Biology and Oceanography allows us to pick the best locations at the best time. This hopefully gives you the best possible chance to see the most exciting critters.
  • As with all diving there are no guarantees. When we hit a slow dive we can react fast – selecting a new location from our database of locations.
  • Simon has personally surveyed over 50 locations in the area for their blackwater compatibility. This does not mean going once. This means trying it in various seasons in variable conditions multiple times per night for over a year.
  • We also have literally written the book on Blackwater Diving in Lembeh, what more reasons could you need!
Simon with his book about Blackwater Diving in Lembeh, and his son Zane.
Simon with his book about Blackwater Diving in Lembeh, and his son Zane.

All our pictures are shot from our diveboats by us, we don’t host other peoples pictures from other location. We do not go blackwater diving in other locations and post those pictures as shot on our hosted dives.