How To Improve Your Underwater Navigation Skills

How To Improve Your Underwater Navigation Skills

How To Improve Your Underwater Navigation Skills

I know that when I started diving, I found it difficult to get to grips with understanding underwater navigation. It’s often a skill that people are uncomfortable with and like to rely on others, such as their divemaster, to safely guide you to your exit point. But as you’re reading this blog, you know that it’s important to learn your underwater navigation skills so that you can become more of an independent and better diver. Here I want to share with you our top methods of how we’ve improved our underwater navigation skills so that my dives have become safer and easier. 

Plan Your Dive 

As always, make sure to plan your dive before jumping in. If you’re unfamiliar with the dive site, ask the local dive centre about conditions, points of interest, reef locations, entry/exit points, etc. This is so you can get a better understanding of what to expect before you dive and so that it’s easier to navigate. 

Map Out The Dive Site 

When you’re planning your dive, draw a map of the dive site. Include significant points of interest, such as corals, rocks, sandy patches and all the key points you know at the dive site! By mapping your dive site, you can better visualise the dive site before jumping in and will, therefore, be better at navigating throughout your dive. When you’re on your dive, take a mental note of other significant focus points so that you can keep adding to your more, therefore gaining a better map of the dive site. 

Track your distance 

A common problem about losing track of location is that divers usually keep track of the direction of travel, yet don’t keep track of the distance travelled. One of the best ways of tracking your distance underwater is to count your fin strokes. But if you don’t want to be spending your whole time counting, you can track your distance by monitoring your air consumption. Or by simply looking at your dive time you can estimate how far you've travelled and how long left you have remaining of your dive. 

If you’re starting off with learning underwater navigation or are learning a new dive site, then counting your fin strokes might be the best method for you.   

Identify Key Points

When you’re diving, observe the sites, objects and marine life around you. Is there a significantly big rock that’s 5 metres from your entry point? Is there a large coral fan five minutes into your dive? Start observing and taking note of the things around you when you’re diving. Mark those points in your head so that you can find your way back using your mind map. Draw a map of those key points after you dive so that you can build a clearer picture of the dive site, ready for your next dive. 

Don’t Rely On Currents

Do not use currents as an indicator of your direction of travel. Currents can quickly change all the time, so they’re not a reliable source of underwater navigation. As currents can twist and change all the time, they can completely confuse you and lose your knowledge of your location on the dive site. 

Use Your Compass For Direction

One of the most important tools for learning underwater navigation is your compass. Learn to put trust in your compass and let it guide you to your desired destination. When learning how to properly use your compass, take it on guided dives so that you get the hang of how to use it correctly. Once you’ve got the hang of it, then you’ll feel more confident about going out on your own. 

Clear Day? Good Viz? Use The Sun!

If the conditions are great, the water is clear and the sun is shining, using the sun can be a great way of locating your direction and finding your way to your exit point. As we know, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, use the sun’s position to find your direction of travel. 

Practice Makes Perfect!

And as always, with any scuba diving skill that you’re mastering, practise always makes perfect! Don’t feel discouraged if you’re not getting the hang of underwater navigation straight away, it will come to you in time and will become second nature to you. Try planning some shore dives, just to brush up and practise a few different scuba diving skills. Keep practising with your compass by swimming in squares and counting the kicks so that you end in the place that you started. 

Instead of using a divemaster on your next dive, plan a dive with just you and your buddy so that you can learn to become more independent. You can learn to use your judgement, observe things better and keep track of your compass. 

Final Thoughts 

Mastering underwater navigation is just another one of those scuba diving skills that is going to make you a better diver! Now you know my top tips to improve your underwater navigation skills - it’s time to get diving and get practising! If you have any questions, please email us at where we have a team of scuba diving professionals here to help you out with all your scuba diving questions.