Snorkeling in current can be a truly exciting and rewarding experience. Drifting with the current as you soar over fields of reefs can not only be exhilarating but what is better than floating along while the world underneath passes you by delivering you an endless array of marine life with no heavy swimming involved?
Current is what moves all the ocean’s nutrients around which provide food for the corals and smaller fish and bring in larger fish and pelagics. Mantas, for example, will generally be found in areas where the water is pushed through narrow passages and channels as this is where plankton and other “manta food” is in heavy concentration and all they have to do is casually swim against the current as the food comes rushing into their mouths.
All this being said, as snorkelers we need to be aware of current and what it’s doing throughout or snorkel session to prevent things like drifting too far and maintaining energy levels.
Drift snorkeling can be an absolute blast, but don’t forget about your snorkel buddy/group, or where you started from if you are snorkeling from shore—you may be in for a long walk back to your resort. The best way to do a proper drift snorkel is with a boat that will drift alongside you so can continue to drift without having to worry about where you started, and just climb aboard when you are tired, or when the reef drops off so you can take the boat back to the beginning of the site for round two!
Unless you do all your snorkeling in ponds and pools you will undoubtedly find yourself in a bit of current at some point in your snorkel ventures. While drift snorkeling can be amazing, sometimes it’s not practical. So, what do we do when we find ourselves in current we don’t want to be in? Well, the best thing you can do is steadily—not frantically—swim perpendicular to the current in the general direction of your ultimate destination. Slow and steady wins the race as they say. Just keep a steady pace and keep breathing as if you were just going for a jog.
It’s a good idea to pay attention to topographic features either underwater or on land as they have a huge impact on the currents flow rate and direction. Bays and lagoons will have less current even if it’s really pumping just outside for example. Ridges and little fingers of rock that stick out into the sea will also provide shelter once on the down current side—the same way a building or wall provides protection from a strong wind. Also, if you find yourself drifting faster than you want, swim a bit closer to land as the shallow reef can slow down the current significantly.