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Navigate a dive site? No way...

The mystery of the compass explained!

This fortunate Dive Bunny recently enjoyed a fantastic holiday in a place referred to as 'the diver’s paradise'.

Bonaire…utterly mesmerising and I highly recommend it as a destination - although a tad on the expensive side to make it on to our regular warren list.

One of the best bits was the freedom to shove our kit in the back of the hired truck, grab our tanks from the drivethru and take ourselves off across the Island.

But (and it’s a big but) I’m lucky enough to be shacked up with someone who is happy to drop into an unknown dive site anywhere for the very first time and find his way around. OK, so he never seems to find anything of any interest but at least we end up back where we started!

So how hard is it to navigate an unknown site?  Do you have to be some sort of navigation wizard or can anyone do it?  What are the secrets to safe navigation?

We asked Compass Bunny to shed some light on the matter:

“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult at all but you do need to be disciplined – you need to remember that you’re navigating rather than just spending your time looking at the fishes.

Most important is getting your bearing to and from the shore – that way if all else fails you can always get back to shore, even if it’s a bit of a trek back to the car.

Start shallow and make it a 20 minute dive.  From the shore take a bearing from your compass and make a note of the return bearing – it’s what gets you back to your point of entry.  Then, dive out on the bearing you’ve decided upon and look for points along the way that you can use to guide you."

​Fantastic, thanks…but

In Bonaire all the points that I’d have used such as a huge coral or a sand drag seemed to be everywhere. How do you know which point to choose?

Compass Bunny explains, “On the way out just use the odd rock formation – nothing too specific. When you reach the edge of the reef use what I call the 'Rule of three'. Look for something really notable and then for two other things that have a proximity to the first pilot point that are pretty unique.  Give them a name that you won’t forget – most of which I can’t repeat here - something that makes you smile and you know you won’t forget.

Pick up the current...and dive into it until it’s time to turn the dive. Simples! When you get back to your main pilot point, you take your return (reciprocal) bearing and dive back, taking the individual rocks you used on the way out to ensure you arrive close to your exit point."
This doesn't sound too complicated to be honest. The next time around, this Dive Bunny is going to give it a go - and will report back on the experience :)