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An Unforgettable Dive: All of the (Bioluminescent) Lights

Underwater cinematographer Morgan Bennett-Smith shares his tips and tales from capturing the most beautiful images in the Red Sea.
By Tiffany Duong | Updated On May 18, 2023
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An Unforgettable Dive: All of the (Bioluminescent) Lights

Bioluminescent Plankton In KAUST

Bioluminescent plankton light up the night in the Red Sea. Experienced on scuba, they leave quite an impression.

Morgan Bennett-Smith

As scuba divers, we’re privileged to explore, enjoy and play beneath the surface — something the vast majority of people on the planet will never experience While it’s hard to pick a favorite, each of us certainly has a dive we’ll never forget. Whether it’s crossing something off our scuba diving bucket list, making eye contact with a humpback whale, or simply enjoying a perfect day underwater with our favorite dive buddies – we love to share these dive stories with other aquaholics.

To celebrate the beauty, variety and joy that this sport brings, we’re sharing some truly unforgettable dives from around the world, as told by the divers who lived them first-hand. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do!

Morgan Benett

Morgan Bennett-Smith is an imaging and video specialist with years of experience in the Red Sea.

Morgan Bennett-Smith

Name: Morgan Bennett-Smith

Certification: Certified in 2013 in the cold, murky waters of Redondo Beach, CA

Current: PhD student, Boston University’s Marine Evolutionary Ecology Lab; Photographer/Cinematographer, Red Sea Imaging

Follow: @MorganBennettSmith

My ‘Must Have’ On Any Dive Trip

Socks that I don’t like.

My number one weird thing I bring on a dive trip is extra pairs of bad socks. Why? I learned that lesson the hard way a couple of times, worst of all on a research trip out of Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea.

In tropical water gear (often, slip on fins), or even with proper booties, if you’re in the water a lot (6+ hours a day) blisters can turn an otherwise productive and incredible trip into a nightmare. I’ve had blisters on the top of my feet, on the back of my heels, you name it. They’ve been bad enough where I had to tape them up with electrical tape, which doesn’t help much. Maybe I’ve got weird shaped feet, I’m not sure. But with an extra couple of socks in my bag, blisters aren’t an issue, even on the most demanding of trips.

Redsea moon jellies

Photographer Morgan Bennett-Smith found himself in a storm of pink moon jellies in the Red Sea. The stunning view reminded him of finding Nemo.

Morgan Bennett-Smith

My Unforgettable Dives: Red Sea

My favorite dive was a few years ago in the Red Sea.

At certain times of the year, depending on the moon phase and tidal conditions, bioluminescent dinoflagellates aggregate there. We often see this on shore, and I’d seen it in a number of places before –in Southern California, in Woods Hole, MA, and from the beach in the Red Sea.

It’s an amazing phenomenon. From shore, the waves look like they’re glowing. Or, if you’re swimming in the water, you can swirl your hands around and generate underwater fireworks displays of blue and blue-green, as the dinoflagellates are disturbed.

Related Reading: The Hidden Wonders of Wreck Diving in Sudan's Central Red Sea

Red Sea Photography

Morgan Bennett-Smith’s dream would be to travel the world capturing and telling the most amazing coral stories.

Morgan Bennett-Smith

But, on one particular night dive in the Arabian Red Sea in the late summer, for the first time, I ran into a bioluminescence event on scuba. We were on a liveaboard, just for one night, working on several different coral reef ecology research projects with the Red Sea Research Center.

I can only describe it as otherworldly – like something out of 20,00 Leagues Under the Sea, or James Camerom’s Avatar. Bright blue flashes lit up an otherwise unusually calm night at sea, in typical warm Red Sea water. It was a perfect storm of ideal conditions – great visibility, no surface agitation and dark night without too much moonlight. The bioluminescence was so strong that you could see the reef without any artificial light, thanks to the glow. Swimming fish and reef squid left blue trails like chemtrails in the sky. I’ll never forget it!