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How to drift dive safely ? Part 3: The right equipment.

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

Diving in strong currents can be daunting and can be dangerous, if not done with the right precautions, preparation, and gear.

Here are a few tips divided into 3 sections to minimise the risk of mishaps and maximise pleasure.

Part 3 Essential gear

Essential gear for drift diving

The gear you need is what will make you be spotted easily on the surface and there is also a fun little gadget you might enjoy in current.

The Must-Have Cannot-dive-without-it dive kit essential

If you do boat diving, and even more so if you do drift diving from a boat, you will need a Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB) - a long sausage-shaped buoy- usually used on a reel and deployed at the end of the dive for the safety stop. This allows the captain and boat crew to see you from the surface when you are doing the said safety stop and prepare to come to pick you up. Having one that is 1,5 m long or more and in a bright colour ( bright orange, pink and yellow are favourites) will allow the boat to spot from far away if you have drifted well away from where they were expecting you to ascend. It will also mean you can be found more easily in the unlikely event that you get lost and they have to send out search parties. Combined with a torch ( see below) it can also become a beacon in the night/bad weather to find you with. Each diver should have at least a DSMB( even if they don't have a reel) available in their BCD pocket in case they are separated from the group so they can signal their presence on the surface.

Diver in Nusa Penida
Delayed SMB

The boat- must-have-one essential

It's always a good idea to have a radio on board a boat to be able to communicate with other boats, but when drift diving, other boats can give you tips on conditions if they were diving before you, help you locate misplaced divers, and of course offer and receive your help in the event of any type of emergency. Make sure your divers know the name of their boat, in case they are separated and another boat needs to contact you on their behalf.

The goes-without-saying essential

If you are diving in current the chance of being separated from your group is a possibility, therefore you need to be as autonomous as possible. Each diver needs to have their own dive computer to be able to safely end a dive if needed.

The always-on-you essential

Each diver needs to have an audible signalling device, this is usually in the form of a whistle attached to the BCD. Most dive shops and dive centres will sell/rent/lend out BCDs already equipped with it. If diving in really remote places, some divers will go for louder devices such as fog horns but you may want to decide on that depending on where you are diving


The useful-to-have-and-easy-to-find essential

A reflector of some kind will help locate you by being able to create a flash on a sunny day. A small mirror or a CD/DVD back can do the trick just fine.

The better-safe-than-sorry essential

A torch is a useful thing to have on a dive, it can help show sea life to your buddy without getting too close and personal (and trying to avoid blinding the poor creature involved), but mostly it can become a very useful beacon when used in poor weather conditions like heavy rain and fog or during the night, either on its own or as a lightsaber by lighting the inside of your DSMB.

The very very remote/ very very strong current/ tech diving locator device

Though the cost tends to discourage most dive centres from equipping their divers with the Diving marine GPS locators, you may want to invest in one for yourself if you're a current junkie, do tech diving, use a DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) and like to go to deserted areas to dive. This waterproof little GPS locator is attached to you and ensures you can be found easily, some models even have a radio so you can communicate with your boat. Priceless some would say, but in fact, think price-tag over 200 euros which tends to curb the enthusiasm.

The fun to have/ superman gadget

A dive hook can turn you into a superhero! A strong current, some cool pelagic to watch, hook up onto a part of the rock or base reef (e.g. Not fragile live coral). Choose your spot carefully as to not damage or break anything and/or for it to give way sending you flying away with a large portion of the base reef when you least expect it. Make sure you are securely attached, in a balanced way but that you can unhook easily if necessary. Then become super-aqua-man, gliding through the current amongst the sharks.

Diving in currents will give you great thrills and an amazing adrenaline rush, allow you to encounter sharks and other big pelagic in their favourite spot and become a super-hero, it's all about a little planning and preparation and the right tools to do it safely.

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