Drift diving in strong currents can be a challenging experience. In Cozumel, drift diving is a daily thing! The island has some of the best drift dives in the world, from smooth and relaxing to real roller coasters! But no worries, with the right preparation, techniques and supervision, it can also be exhilarating and rewarding.
Here are some tips to help you drift dive safely and enjoyably in Cozumel:
1.- Know the dive site:
It’s crucial to research the dive site beforehand and gather information on the water’s currents and underwater topography. Some sites have channels or walls that can increase the water’s flow, while others may have protected areas with calmer waters. Knowing the site’s layout and potential hazards can help you plan your dive and make the most of the current’s flow.
2.- Use proper equipment:
Make sure you have the right equipment and training for drift diving. This includes a surface marker buoy (SMB) to signal your location to your boat, a dive computer to monitor your depth and time underwater, and a strong and well-maintained regulator. In some places, you can use a reef hook to anchor yourself to the bottom but this is not allowed in Cozumel.
3.-Check the current before your entry:
When diving in strong currents, it’s important to check the current direction carefully. Depending if it’s going to the North or to the South, it can change your dive completely. The divemaster will define the entry point depending on that factor and ask the captain to move the boat to the North or to the South of the reef to start the dive.
4.- Stay close to your buddy and follow the dive plan:
When drift diving and particularly in strong currents, it’s crucial to stay close to your dive buddy and follow the dive plan; this means staying in visual and physical contact at all times, using hand signals to communicate, and keeping a close eye on each other’s air supply and dive time. Make sure you have a plan in case you get separated and make sure you follow the dive plan and stick to the predetermined depth and time limits. Strong currents can be exhausting, and it’s essential to conserve your energy and air supply to ensure a safe ascent.
5.- Stay alert:
Keep an eye out for any changes in the current or the environment and be prepared to adjust your plan if necessary. Be aware of your depth and air supply, and never exceed your limits.
6.- Practice good buoyancy control:
Good buoyancy control is essential when diving in strong currents. Keep yourself streamlined and avoid flailing your arms or legs, which can waste energy and make it difficult to stay in control.
7.- Use proper diving techniques:
When diving in strong currents, you’ll need to use proper diving techniques to help you conserve your energy and stay safe. This includes using a proper descent technique, such as a negative entry or a controlled descent, to get you quickly and safely to your desired depth. Additionally, you may need to use a horizontal or diagonal swimming technique to move against the current, rather than fighting against it. You can also use the current to your advantage by using a drift dive technique, where you let the current carry you along while you enjoy the scenery.
Some other tips can be interesting to use in other places than Cozumel:
Check the weather and tide conditions:
Before diving, it’s essential to check the weather and tide conditions. Strong currents can be caused by tidal movements, and diving during low or high tides can make a significant difference in the strength of the currents. Also, check the weather forecast for strong winds or storms, as they can also affect the currents.
Plan your entry and exit:
when drift diving in strong currents, it’s important to plan your entry and exit points carefully. Look for areas that are sheltered from the current, such as coves or bays, where you can enter and exit the water safely. Avoid areas where the current is strongest, such as narrow channels or areas with strong upwellings or downwellings.
Remember, safety should always be your top priority when drift diving in strong currents. If you’re not comfortable with the conditions or with your diving skills, don’t dive!
You can always ask local divers! They know about the area and conditions; listen to them!
BLUE Project’s divemasters have thousands of dives experience in those conditions. They will always be happy to give you tips on board to make you better in the water.
And if you want to improve your skills through a study program, you can make your PADI Advanced Open Water certification and take the Drift Diving specialty or take the Drift Diving Specialty course.