We are lucky to have some really nice drift and reef dives in Swanage. On a spring tide, water is in the 12-16m range which is ideal for a second dive. And for those of you who like a fast drift, it moves at up to 3.5kts - possibly the nearest feeling to flying underwater that you can get! The closer you get your nose to the bottom, the faster it seems you are moving.
On a drift dive, it is vital to use a red SMB (submersible marker buoy) from the start of a drift dive. Without one, it puts years on my life waiting to see if the diver will come up near where I think s/he should be! The reason for a red SMB is that yellow ones are hard to spot in the sun's reflection (and, in my opinion, the round red and white SMBs should be sent back to Italy with a hole in them!).
There is a nice drift site by Anvil Point Lighthouse on the Old Mussel Beds... but be warned, this is an area with no mussels! Some years ago, they used to extend out 300-400m from the cliffs but have since legged it... well, they would if mussels had legs!
You can drift on either the ebb tide or the flood tide as there are no obstructions going East to West. The water gradually gets deeper at the end of any drift in this area. Average depth is approx 15-17m.
2 hours after high water on the Kyarra, it is possible to dive the Peveril Ledge Drift, just to the East of Swanage. This is an interesting area with gullies 2-15m deep. On this drift, keep inside the Peveril Point buoy as the bottom shelves away to 27m as you head to the East.
The below video of the Peveril ledge was very kindly filmed and edited by James Clark.
Just outside Swanage Bay and 300m SE of Peveril Point Buoy is The Well. We only offer this drift on a flood tide. This is a great drift which includes a very deep hole (38m), so it is good to do as a first, deep dive. Depths outside the hole range from 20-30m with lots of fish, rock formations and interesting changes to the topography of the seabed. It's not often dived (due to the depth and the fact that it is not dived on an ebb tide or on Springs) but divers who have visited this site claimed it was very enjoyable.
Another drift site is St Aldhelm's Head (the next headland to the West of Durlston); this is a ledge of rock which extends 5 miles out to sea. With depths of 10-20m on top of the ledge and a sometimes steep bank towards the west, this area is only dived on, and just after a neap low water slack (meaning little water movement and a flood tide). When the tide turns, the flood tide means you will be pushed, gently at first, back up the bank. We do not recommend that this site is dived on high water slack, as the ebb tide will take you down the slope... where the deepest hole is at 50m+. Please take care here - this is not a drift for the novice diver!!!
If the wind is blowing from the SW, it may not be possible to dive the above sites, in which case Old Harry Drift is a favourite and only 2 miles from Swanage, towards Studland. Old Harry (the rock, not a local!) was used for target practice by Spitfires in World War II. As a result, 20mm shells are regularly found on the seabed during this drift and polish up nicely. There is a wealth of marine life in this area and divers regularly report sightings of dogfish, undulate rays, spotted rays, red gurnard, cuttlefish and flat fish such as sole and plaice. Some lucky folks even see starry smooth hounds as they sweep in for a closer look at visitors to their patch. Average depth in this area is approx. 15m, but can be deeper if requested.
Also sheltered from a SW wind, we have a 2 small wrecks situated at the north side of Swanage bay: the Fleur de Lys (approx 45-50’ long) and the Bombay Barge (approx 85 - 90' long). They are at a depth of 13m and around 30m apart; there is a rope between the two wrecks so you can visit both in one dive. This site can be dived at any state of the tide and is ideal for novice/open water divers or those looking for lots of marine life. Look both in and under the wrecks as it is surprising how much life there is on it (from cuttlefish to John Dory, lobster, nudibranchs, shoals of bib and triggerfish). Once you have explored the wrecks, and as long as it was agreed with the skipper beforehand, it is then possible to drift off - don't forget to send up an SMB so the skipper can monitor where you are.
Tanville Ledge is another great site when it's blowing from the SW. It offers a shallow (10m) reef suitable for novice divers as there is very little tide and is sheltered from all winds except from the east. The reef is approx 2m high, plenty of life including crabs, lobsters and fish.