Drift Diving in Cocos island

Photo courtesy from Just Gotta Dive

Located in the offshore areas of the Pacific ocean, Cocos island is a convergent zone of oceanic waters where it often creates strong water current. Exploring the underwater habitats of this beautiful Costa Rican island means that you have to deal with the prevailing physical properties of oceanic waters. While it may sound difficult, most divers who have been to Cocos island find it very easy in handling the situation. In fact, they have appreciated the distance that they have traveled underwater without putting too much effort on using the fins.

Tips on How to Safely Dive with Strong Current

Descend down as Soon as Possible

Photo courtesy from diving.ie

When you arrive at your chosen dive site and you are right on top of your entry point, enter the water immediately with full gears on. In some spots, plunging down can be easy as you will descend down following an anchor line. But in some areas, there are none. With this situation, the best way to get rid of being drifted away is to descend down right away going to your target area, which is often a cleaning station at 30 meters (100 feet).

This doesn’t mean that going down is a race. You still have to stay within your group. The common practice in Cocos island is that you all perform a simultaneous controlled seated entry or back roll. Make sure that you completely deflate your BCD and empty it with air. Otherwise, you will float back to the surface. In effect to this method, nobody is left behind in the boat and you start your descent all together as a group. Just don’t forget to follow your divemaster as he will be the one to lead the way going to your targeted spot.

Prepare yourself with the Sudden Effects of Increasing Pressure

Photo courtesy from Dive Compare

You should know by now that as you go deeper, pressure also increases where you can feel it through body discomfort especially in the ear. While it can easily be address by doing an ear equalization, by not doing so will lead the discomfort in to a full-blown pain and may restrict you to stay at shallower depths or even abort the dive.

In drift diving, you should have no problems with ear equalization. In this manner, you can prevent from being drifted away and reach your target depth with no problems.

With this, we highly suggest that you equalize your ears early on even before the start of the dive. When you start descending, you need to frequently equalize your ears and do not wait for the pain or discomfort to occur. Just in case you forget to equalize and ear pain suddenly sets in, you need to ascend up a little bit to an area where pressure is minimal or until the pain is gone. After which, you can commence ear equalization until you reach your targeted area.

Go with the Flow

Photo courtesy from Blue Vision Adventures

Not unless you are an expert in using the fins or the speed of the current is minimal where you can swim through, otherwise, we highly advise that you do not swim against the current. Doing so increases your breathing rate, can lead to exhaustion and may deplete your air supply.

The keyword here is “go with the flow”. You should know that riding along with the direction of the current has its own benefits. First, you don’t need to struggle swimming against it. In this case, the purpose of your fins may not be primarily for forward motion, but instead, to steer you on corners following your plan.  Second, as you are not intensely moving your fins, you will feel more relaxed and may save up to your air supply. Lastly, you will be surprised that you will cover up long distances as compared with diving with no current.

Stay Close to the Reef Bottom

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If you try to look at the dynamics of water current, you will see that it is more intense at the surface up to the mid-water. However, in a vertical profile, the current speed is minimal near the reef bottom.

You will experience this first hand when you go diving in Cocos island. At first, you may engage in strong current at the surface and you will feel its sweeping power while holding the anchor line or while drifted in mid-water. But as you come close to the reef, its speed may subside and you will feel a significant decrease once you reach the reef bottom.

Lucky enough for us, this area with minimal current is the place where we interact with sharks in a cleaning station. But as you finish your interaction and leave the confines of the reef, you may again engage in strong current where most dives end up out in the open water.

Equip yourself with Drift Diving Accessories

Photo courtesy from notey.com

While it may sound crazy being drifted away out in the open ocean, as predicted in some adventure movies, drift diving is relative safe if you follow the rules and your plan. But just in case, it is still better to equip yourself with accessories necessary in performing a drift dive.

Although it is not purely practice in Cocos island, having a reef hook can be a good tool in securing your location close to the reef and without being drifted while doing a shark interaction. Included in your liveaboard package, each diver is provided with a Diver Beacon which is a device attached to your BCD that enables to signal your location in case you get lost. A surface marker buoy may also come in handy in case of sweeping currents. Usually colored bright orange, the surface marker buoy when inflated will give your boatman a clear view of your presence underwater and location at surface where you will be pick up by your service skiff boat.

Dive Plan: To Go Left or Right?

Photo courtesy from Undersea Hunter Group

There is a dive site in Cocos island that whichever the direction of the current goes will lead to a specific spot. We are pertaining to a reef in the northern coast called Manuelita. Since this area is situated slightly off the island, currents may go in a multi-direction especially when you reach the reef bottom.

Depending on the current direction, you may traverse an archway called Manuelita Deep that leads to a reef ledge where it has been considered one of the best spots to view hammerhead sharks in the open. If the current goes the other way, then you will go straight to Manuelita Garden where you will be amazed by a carpet of sleeping whitetip reef sharks.

So, which is which? Left or right? It all depends on the general direction of the current. Our advice: just enjoy this relaxing and effortless dive, where regardless of current direction, will give you an amazing underwater experience. After all, this drift diving adventure has already been sort out by your divemaster and the rest of the crew.

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Video courtesy from jean H

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