Koh Lipe is located at the north end of the Malacca Strait, where the Indian Ocean meets the Pacific.
The currents that run in the area are the reason for the incredible diversity of marine life that live in the waters around the islands.
Diving in the currents requires a few special techniques so here are a few tips.
1) Use a line.
Currents tend to be stronger on the surface. In surface current conditions a length of rope is normally run alongside the boat. Upon entering the water you can use this to pull yourself to the mooring line. Keep a good hold on the line whilst preparing to descend. You can then use the mooring line to pull yourself down to the shelter of the reef. Be careful where you place your hands, the permanent mooring lines sometimes have sharp barnacles growing on them.
2) Buoyancy Control.
How often have you heard your dive instructor talking about the importance of good buoyancy and trim? Diving in a current is no exception. If you are carrying excess weight this tends to pull the lower half of your body down. Ensure good weighting and distribution to help achieve the perfect trim. Less experienced divers often tend to adopt a ‘doggy paddle’ position, with their feet below their head. In this position your body presents a large surface area and will tend to be pushed around by the currents. Work on developing a horizontal body position, many divers find the ‘Superman’ position with the arms stretched out in front of them helps to bring their trim position forward. You can check your trim position by hovering in what you think is a horizontal position above a flat insensitive bottom like sand. Breathe out so you lower your body to the sand. If your legs hit the bottom first you need to adjust your trim position forward. Good buoyancy also allows you to remain closer to the reef, allowing you to shelter from the strongest effects.
3) Monitor your Air Closely.
Swimming against a current causes you to consume your air more rapidly. If you ever find yourself getting out of breath on a dive, find something to hold onto, stop all activity and rest. You can normally find a stone to hold, and often a single finger contact is all that is needed to hold steady as you restore slow breathing. Just make sure what you grab is a stone and not a stonefish!
4) Watch the Anemones.
Close to the reef the current tends to swirl around, rather than follow a straight path. You can watch marine life such as soft corals and sea anemones to see the strength and direction on the current, allowing you to navigate your route following the path of least resistance.
5) Drift Dive.
Many dive site allow the possibility of drift diving, letting yourself be carried along with the current. When drift diving maintain good trim and if going sideways remember to watch where you are going. Always carry a surface marker, so that you can easily be located by the boat.
6) Have a Range of Finning Techniques.
Whilst the basic flutter kick will get you from A to B, it lacks the finesse required for good control in a current, learn to frog kick, helicopter turn and back fin to help you maintain your ideal position. Often it helps to ‘sail’ across the current at an angle, like a boat tacking into the wind.
7) Plan your Dives.
Most tidal dive sites have a period of slack water, usually around high and low tide. This is when the current slows down and stops before resuming in the other direction. Most tidal dive sites have two or four slack times per day. Plan your diving trip to coincide with the neap tides. When the Earth, Sun and Moon are in alignment the tidal movement is bigger, this is called a spring tide and will give rise to stronger currents. These follow the full and black (new) Moon. After the half Moons, the effects of the tide are reduced. This is called the neap tide and typically gives rise to the best diving conditions. There are two spring tides and two neap tides every month, so plan ahead and book your trip accordingly.
8) Get more Training.
On the PADI peak performance buoyancy adventure dive you will spend time learning buoyancy skills, finning techniques and work on your weighting to help you glide through the water effortlessly. On the PADI drift adventure you learn the techniques involved with making drift dives. Both can be credited towards your PADI advanced open water certification.