The Rip Snorkel

by Natalie Klein


The Rip Snorkel

LOCATION Direction Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands

DEPTH 1-10 Meters

WATER TEMP 25-30 Degrees


A strong current pulls you along a channel. Strong swimming skills are required.



Google Map data © 204 Imagery © Airbus, CNES / Airbus, Maxar Technologies

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The Rip Snorkel

LOCATION Direction Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands

WATER TEMP 25-30 Degrees

DEPTH 1-10 meters


A strong current pulls you along a channel. Strong swimming skills are required.


Direction Island Jetty

The Rip Snorkel

Between one end of Direction Island and what’s left of neighbouring Prison Island is a channel of water known as The Rip. Water feeds in from the ocean, funnels between the two islands and empties into the Cocos Lagoon.  There is amazing coral and fish life in the channel, you can spot everything from colourful tropical fish to reef sharks, big rock cod, rays and giant trevally.

What can I see?

What Can I See?

  • Reef Sharks
  • Stingrays
  • Giant Trevally
  • Parrot Fish
  • Passionfruit Grouper
  • Triggerfish
  • Turtles
  • Tropical fish
Getting There

Getting There

Direction Island is part of the Cocos Keeling Islands which lie 3000km northwest of Perth. Flights to Cocos Islands leave twice weekly from Perth via either Exmouth or Christmas Island.
From West Island in the Cocos Islands, there is a twice weekly ferry services to the uninhabited Direction Island on Thursday and Saturdays. The ride over takes 30 – 60 minutes depending on whether the ferry also stops at nearby Home Island.
From the Direction Island Wharf, turn right and it is a 10 minute walk to The Rip snorkel site at one end of the island.

Snorkel Entry

Where & How do you get in?

Getting in is the first challenge at the rip. There is a viewing platform at The Rip which has a couple of steps to the foreshore. Having some reef shoes is a big help to get you over the rocks to the water.
Because the current is so strong, it can be a bit rough at the water’s edge so get yourself ready before jumping in because once you are in the water you are on the move!

Best Season

Best Season

Cocos Islands has a wet and dry season. The dry season is from April to October when the weather is warm, there is a cooling breeze and the days are sunny. In the wet season, you can get rough weather in the storms.

Current Australian Sea Temperature


Potential Hazards

  • Strong Currents

Recommended Gear

  • Cameras
  • Reef Shoes
  • Food & Drinks
  • Cooler Bag

How Busy / Crowds

  • On the days that the ferry runs it can be fairly busy. People are generally happy to share the shaded picnic areas as you don’t spend too much time there. We got off the ferry and headed straight for the farthest picnic spot, nearest The Rip entry.


  • Parking is available at the boat ramp on West Island where you catch the ferry. It is also a fun place to go crab spotting – they are everywhere!

Costs / Permits

There is a small fee to catch the ferry from West Island to Direction Island. When we say small, it is $5 return. Have cash, there is no EFT facility.

The information for each snorkel spot is provided by people who have snorkelled there. However, snorkelling conditions change daily. Please be aware that wind, swell, tides and cloud cover can all affect visibility and your experience in the water.

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Best Conditions

Part of the fun of this snorkel is the ride you get on the current. It is one of the fastest drift snorkels you will do! For a slower drift, try doing the snorkel at the low tide – the current is not as strong and you are able to reach down and hold onto a rock so you can see what is swimming around you.

Windy Map Instructions – Click on the wind icon in the top right to see other conditions such as swell, temperature, rain. To clear the four day forecast click and close the wind icon.

Facilities on Direction Island

There is only a picnic shelter near the snorkelling site.
Between the Ferry landing and The Rip there are toilets and picnic tables and a couple of wood BBQs. But if you are heading over for the day, take everything you will need as there is nothing on the island.




Picnic Tables





About the Snorkel

This is one of the most memorable snorkels we have done. The current moves really fast, even strong swimmers can feel a bit out of control when they jump in. You literally have to relax and go with the flow.

There are a few other things to know about this snorkel. First, there is only one table close to The Rip so if you want to base yourself there for the day, as soon as you get off the ferry, make a beeline for the last table on the path – I think it is table 7.

Another memorable moment on this snorkel was seconds after one of us jumped in, we lifted up our GoPro handle – and no GoPro. Somehow it fell off on entry. Luckily we had another camera but that hurt!

Once you are in the water you drift over a deep valley that is full, i mean full of fish. There is everything from reef sharks, giant trevally and rays down deep to colourful reef fish including huge parrot fish, passionfruit grouper and triggerfish closer to the surface. It really is like swimming in an aquarium.

If you are a strong enough swimmer you can jump in and go like the clappers across to the Prison Island side of the channel. Here the water moves a bit slower and you can grab onto a rock and watch the marine life swim around.

Once you leave the channel, the current takes you into the shallow Cocos Lagoon. As the current slows you can take in more of the scenery. We spotted a turtle and rays and more colourful fish. From the lagoon, even though you are 100m or more from the island you can swim or even walk back to shore and do it all again. We went around 3 or 4 times. It’s worth doing it a few times because the first run through is a bit of a blur.

If the Rip looks too tricky, there is plenty to see just snorkelling between the coral bommies in the shallow, clear water of the lagoon.

YouTube video

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Natalie Klein
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