No experience on earth compares with the exhilarating freedom of drifting in
the open sea. It was a friend's tale of drift diving in Cozumel that initially
inspired me to try snorkeling and diving. My friend, a scenic artist by trade,
likened the experience to watching a giant moving movie screen filled with extraordinary
Technicolor scenery. I was intrigued.
A year later I went to Cozumel and learned to scuba dive immediately. Several
months later, when I moved to the island, I didn't have the money to go diving,
so snorkeling became a favorite pastime. I soon discovered I could reach a few
of Cozumel's famous reefs from shore; the currents, however, were a bit of a
problem. Diving in Cozumel is a bit like pushing off the top of a waterslide;
once you start there's no way to turn around. So, I learned drift snorkeling.
I found a similarly economically challenged snorkel buddy and several times
each week we would embark on an ocean adventure. We would swim out to the reef
and drift for an hour or more (depending on the strength of the currents), then
exit at a local hotel and take a taxi home. Those afternoons spent riding the
ocean currents are among my most treasured memories.
The single most important consideration in any ocean activity is safety and
drift snorkeling is no exception. My snorkel expeditions in Cozumel were definitely
in the advanced realm and we always took all necessary precautions, including
towing a dive flag like the Scubamax
Floating Ball Flag Holder with Flag found at Scuba.com, carrying whistles
and inflatable Safety Sausages, and, most importantly, telling someone on shore
of our plan and expected time of arrival. The safest and easiest way to drift
snorkel is from a boat so help is moments away if you have a problem and a platform
is available if you want to get out of the water.
Typically, currents are strongest along the outside edge of the reef or in
blue water; this is also where you'll usually find the heaviest boat traffic.
An easy way to prevent accidents is to tow a visible red and white divers down
flag, which will alert boaters that divers or snorkelers are in the water. This
is a good idea even if a boat is following you on the surface; when it comes
to safety you really can't be too cautious.
Drift snorkeling is perhaps the easiest sport in the world and suitable for
all skill levels;you float on the surface and the ocean does all the work for
you. However, being at the whim of the sea can take a little getting used to.
In most places currents are relatively moderate and more often than not with
slight effort you can kick against the current and go in any direction. However,
in destinations such as Fiji and Cozumel the currents are usually swift and
can, at times, make it impossible to go in any other direction. Actually, strong
currents make the best drift dives. Like big roller coasters they're a bit scary
but incredibly exciting!
You'll find the most comfortable position for drift snorkeling is streamlined,
with your arms at your sides and your legs straight out behind you. You can
use your fins like rudders to aim your body in your chosen direction. However,
because you will essentially be going where the ocean wants to take you, it's
best to stay away from shallow corals. It's also a good idea to wear a Lycra
or nylon dive skin, many like the Henderson
Lycra Suit which can be found at Scuba.com, wetsuit or some type of clothing
that will protect you from the sun and jellyfish or other small stinging, hard
to see creatures you might unknowingly drift into.
The key to enjoying drift snorkeling is being comfortable in the water; stick
to sites that are suitable to your skill level. With a little training drift
snorkeling is fun and easy;just catch a current and watch the world go by!