Snorkeling is one of the most enjoyable activities that you can do in the water. If you know how to swim, you can see all types of animal life and coral under the water, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can travel to one of the many shipwrecks or amazing reefs that can be found across the globe. Of course, this will require a bit of experience. This guide is designed to help make sure that you are prepared to snorkel in any body of water. Learning how to snorkel correctly will take time, but this guide will teach you how to properly use a snorkel and the equipment that you need for a successful dive.
What You Need
What do you need to snorkel? Well, there are a few things that are essential for the most enjoyable underwater experience. Let’s take a look.
Obviously, to snorkel, the first thing that you need is a snorkel. There are four different types of snorkels that you will need to consider before you decide as to which one is best. Each type has advantages and disadvantages that you will need to consider.
This snorkel is a simple plastic tube that is shaped like a J. It is the more affordable option on the market for snorkeling, but the rigidness of this gear can make it a bit uncomfortable to use. With that being said, this is the option that will be best for most beginners.
This is another type of snorkel that can be used to go scuba diving or snorkeling. The bottom portion of the snorkel is flexible, while the top is still rigid. This flexibility allows the snorkel to drop away from the face when it’s not in use. There’s a valve at the base of the snorkel to get rid of any water in the tube.
This is a combination of a dry snorkel and a flexible one. It has a purge valve at the bottom to clear away water and a splash guard at the top to help make sure that water does not splash into the snorkel. It will not keep all of the water out if you full submerge, but it will minimize water splashes when you are trying to breathe.
The dry type of snorkel is designed to keep water from entering the tube, even when it is fully submerged. It is an excellent tool for divers to use to save energy when reaching the surface of the water; however, the valve at the top of the tube can get blocked easily, which can make it difficult to breathe.
If you have never snorkeled before, you may be wondering how to wear a snorkel. The snorkel will connect to the mask with an integrated slot or an attachment that clips onto the strap. The mouthpiece needs to be comfortably at your mouth, and there will be guards on the snorkel that you bite down on while you are wearing it to keep it in place.
There are also a few different types of fins that you can consider for snorkeling. These include:
Snorkeling fins are designed for divers that will frequent shallow areas, so the fins are typically shorter in length. This allows you to maneuver in the water without stirring up the sand or damaging the coral around you. Most of these fins will be between 15 and 20 inches long. They can have an enclosed or an open heel with a strap as well.
Scuba Diving Fins
The longer scuba diving fins are typically designed to be longer than snorkeling fins so that you can travel further in the ocean with less effort. These fins generally are between 25 and 30 inches in length. The streamlined design allows you to make more significant kicks, which means that deeper water will be best for these fins. They can also have an open or closed heel design.
When you look into getting a mask, you are going to need to decide whether a full face mask is an option that you can work with or not. If you get one of these types of masks, you will not need a separate snorkel because it will be built into the mask. This will allow you to simply breathe normally as you swim. Having said this there have been some reported fatalities linked with cheap generic full face snorkel mask brands. As a result many snorkel outfits forbid them.
Traditional masks, which are probably what you think of when you think of snorkeling masks, are designed to cover only your eyes and your nose. They are ideal for snorkeling, but to use one of these, you will need to break through your mouth when wearing it. If you wear glasses, these are the type of mask that can be fitted with prescription lenses that will help you to see better when you are under the water exploring.
Sometimes, these masks will fog up while you have them on. This is because the water and the air create little droplets on the lens, which become more plentiful when there is more humidity in the air. If your mask is fogging up a lot, you can use a little bit of saliva to clean the lens, which will help to stop the lenses from fogging up. They do sell anti-fog spray that you can use as well, but personally, prefer to coat the inside of the lens with a few drops of baby shampoo or toothpaste. Once the lenses are coated and thoroughly rinsed off, they will no longer fog up.
It must also be said that you must defog yoru mask everytime you resurface in cold water. Similar to a car windsheild getting fogged up in the winter, the scuba mask gets fogged easily because of the drastic temperature changes between the outside water and your face.
Some of the other gear that may be important for a snorkeling excursion include:
A Wet Suit
This is a piece of gear that you may want to consider if you are snorkeling in cold water. A wet suit is designed to keep your body warm while you are in the water. They will also make you more buoyant, so staying afloat will not be an issue. Because of this, you may need to wear weights to get you to the proper trim level.
A Snorkel Vest
This is a lightweight life jacket that is used by snorkelers to help keep them a float. The vest will make it so that you do not need to tread water constantly, which can make you tired when you are trying to explore. This is considered a manditory option for a beginner or anyone who is uneasy in the water, especially minors.
Snorkeling socks are kind of like socks that you wear on your feet when you are snorkeling. They are designed to protect your feet from the fins when you are in the water. Yes, your fins may feel comfortable now, but since they are likely to rub and chaff while you are swimming, they may be uncomfortable later after you have been kicking for a while.
These are necessary if you are crossing rock or are snorkeling in areas with rocky shoreline. The only problem with these is the fact that they are floatie so you may need to have ankle weights to get you to the proper trim.
How to Prepare Yourself
If you are uncomfortable snorkeling or this is the first time that you have attempted to go snorkeling on your own, some of the steps that you will need to take to prepare yourself include doing activities in and out of the water. Some of these steps to take include:
Improving Your Swimming Skills
A strong swimmer is going to have a much easier time getting used to snorkeling than a person who does not have any swimming skills. When you swim, most strokes will require you to have your head under the water while doing them, so you are likely going to feel comfortable in the water. This comfort level will transfer when you are snorkeling, which can help make the activity more enjoyable. If you are not the best swimmer, one of the first things that you can do is to improve your swimming skills so that you can easily move around the water and see the sights that you want to see under the water.
If you don’t even know the basics of swimming, but you would like to try your hand at snorkeling, then you should take some swimming lessons at your local pool. This can help you feel more secure in the water and give you some of the basic skills that you will need to use while snorkeling.
If you know basic skills, you will want to improve on your freestyle swimming technique because that is the same technique that you will need to use to move around the water while you are snorkeling. If you are a strong swimmer, you will be able to snorkel without a life jacket, which will give you more freedom to explore in the water. Floatation devices can hinder your ability to move in the water, and you may not be able to dive down under the water to explore a reef with one of these devices.
Improving Your Diving Skills
When you are snorkeling, you may be able to see the majority of the site that you are exploring from the surface of the water, but when you are looking at a shipwreck or an extensive coral system, you may want to dive under the water so that you can see more. With that being said, diving from the boat is one thing and something that most will be able to accomplish, but how do you dive when you are already in the water? Well, the easiest method to learn is a duck dive. Before performing this diving technique, it is best to be relaxed and not exert yourself trying this method out. This diving technique emulates the way that a duck dives under the water to find fish. Basically, you bend at the waist to put your head in the water and your feet above it. Then, you will need to use your arms to pull your body further into the water.
You will not want to kick until your feet are fully submerged. It is not an easy maneuver to do, but with a little practice, you will be able to do it with ease. This diving ability will allow you to see much more while you are snorkeling, so if you have trouble with it, make an effort to practice before going out. You will need to know how to clear your snorkel with this diving technique, so make sure that you are comfortable getting the water out of your snorkel. In addition, this is not a technique that is possible to do when you are wearing a life jacket, so make sure that your swimming skills are up to par before attempting it.
Any time that you are diving while you are snorkeling, you will need to equalize your ears as soon as pressure is felt while diving underwater. As you go deeper under the water, the pressure will build in your ears. This pressure can rupture your eardrum if you go too deep, so you need to equalize the pressure. To do this, you simply need to plug your nose and blow gently through your nose until you hear a pop.
Learning Breathing Techniques
When you are snorkeling, the bottom line is that you may not need to hold your breath, but controlling your breathing is important so that you feel more comfortable in the water. Without the ability to control your breathing, diving may not be an easy concept for you to be able to do while you are snorkeling. To manage your breathing, practice taking medium breaths and holding your breath for 30 seconds at home. This will give you some leeway and help you avoid swallowing water by mistake if it gets into your snorkel.
While some snorkel guide will tell you that deep breathing is a good idea it can actually cause reduced CO2 levels in the body which can also lead to symptoms such as shallow water blackouts.
Learning to Read the Conditions
Being able to read the conditions before you go snorkeling is essential to make sure that you are safe while you are in the ocean. To start, you are going to need to determine what the weather is going to be like while you are out. The weather will impact the conditions above and below the surface, so you mustn’t go snorkeling in bad weather. Local weather reports can help you determine the weather conditions, but these are not always accurate, so learning to read weather patterns along the coast can help you get a more accurate picture.
The tides and the currents also need to be taken into consideration before snorkeling. Currents can pull you out to sea, so if you are not a good swimmer, snorkeling in water that has a strong current is not a good idea. It will be more difficult to swim, and current can easily drag you off course.
Pay attention to the tides and the wind direction as well. Typically, the tides travel in the same direction as the wind, but if they start going in the opposite direction, the size of the waves on the shore could grow quickly, which could be dangerous for a beginner. Waves that are too high can be dangerous if the area is rocky; in addition, they can reduce the visibility that you will have.
Best Places for Beginners to Learn Snorkeling
Regardless of where you choose to snorkel, your safety is the number one priority. That means that you want to make sure that the location is safe and that you have someone with you at all times who can help you out of a tight spot if you get into one. Some of the places that you can enjoy this activity include:
Especially as a beginner to the world of snorkeling, you are going to want to choose a location that has very still water. This will help ensure that you are not getting splashes of water into your snorkel, and it will allow you to become more comfortable with the gear that you are wearing. Your community pool is a great option to consider, but you may want to try out your snorkeling skills during a time when there are not going to be a lot of kids splashing in the pool.
A Calm Water Beach
Another option if you live near the ocean is to visit a calm water beach that will provide you with the option of exploring the sea life under the water without the risk of waves. This will help you to become more comfortable in the water and get you ready to snorkel farther out into the ocean.
Choose a Location with Lot to See
Once you learn how to snorkel dive in the ocean, you are going to need to select a location where there will be plenty to see. This will depend on where you live and how far you would like to travel to see something worth seeing while snorkeling. For example, you can see fish, coral, tectonic plates, shipwrecks, underwater museums, and more. Decide what you would like to see, and then do some research to see if there is a snorkeling location nearby that offers it.
Problems that You May Face
Not everyone is a natural when it comes to snorkeling, so to help you be more prepared, we need to talk a little bit about the problems that you could encounter while snorkeling.
A lot of people have a fear of the water that keeps them from feeling secure when they go snorkeling. Snorkeling itself is not a dangerous activity, but if you are afraid of the water, you are most likely also fearful that you will go under and drown while you are in it. Because of this, snorkeling in calm water is going to be the best option for you. If this is the first time that you have snorkeled, the water is unknown to you, which can amplify your fear levels. When you are afraid, your body tends to tense up, which can make you feel like you are losing control. These two feelings will feed off of each other, which can prolong your fear.
To help ease your fear, you must increase your level of safety. This means that you should always snorkel with a friend who is comfortable in the water so that you can have help if you need it. It will be beneficial to stay close to the shore as well. This will give you confidence while you are snorkeling because you will be able to touch the ground. Also, make sure that you are wearing a snorkel vest or a life jacket, which will give your body more buoyancy so that you will not go under while you are trying to look under the surface of the water.
Most importantly, if you start panicking in the water, take a few moments to relax before putting your head back under the water. Some people hold their breath when they are snorkeling because their head is underwater, but this will make you come up for air, which can result in you panicking more. When you are under the water, make sure that you focus on breathing as you look at the world below the waves.
The next big issue that you could encounter while snorkeling is having a mask that leaks. Some of the reasons that your mask can leak include:
Something Obstructing the Seal
Anything that gets under the seal of the mask and prevents it from sealing to your face properly falls into this category. It could be the hood of your wetsuit, a few strands of hair, or even facial hair. The smallest objects can keep the mask from sealing correctly, so always make sure to double-check that the seal is secure before diving in. One way to make sure that the seal is secure is to put your face into the water before you go out into deep water.
Facial hair can be an issue as well, especially since the seal is right under your nose where a mustache would be located. If this is an issue for you, then you may need to cut your facial hair or at least trim your mustache before going snorkeling. If you are not in a position where you can trim your facial hair, then putting a bit of Vaseline along the seal in this area may help to fill in the gaps so that water cannot enter the mask. If you do this, make sure that you wash the mask off thoroughly after using it.
Over-Tightening Your Mask
There is a misconception that when your mask leaks, you can simply tighten the strap to stop the water from getting into the mask while you are snorkeling. However, this is not the way to address the issue. In fact, it is the opposite of what you need to do. When you tighten the mask, the seal shifts and can allow water into the mask. Water pressure is what keeps the seal secure, so you will want to make sure that the straps are secure, but there is no additional tension in the bands that will cause the skirt of the mask to buckle and break the seal.
Breathing Through Your Nose
For some, it is natural to exhale through your nose a little bit when you are breathing through the snorkel. This can move the mask and shift it slightly so that water can come into the mask. If this is occurring, you can pinch your nose to see if the mask still leaks. If you are breathing out through your nose, it may take a little bit of time to correct, but breathing techniques and practice will help.
An Improper Fit
Another reason that your mask may leak is that it does not fit properly. Always make sure that you test the fit of the mask before you make a purchase. To do this, you simply need to put the mask in place so that noting is hindering the seal and breathe in to tighten the seal. You will not need to use the strap during this process, and when the mask fits properly, it should stay in place on your face without assistance.
Water in Your Snorkel
If you are getting water in your snorkel because you are diving under the surface of the water, you are going to need to find a way to remove the water so that you can breathe when you need to. There are a few methods that you can use, and all of them are effective, so the trick is to find the method that works best for you.
The first method to consider is called the blast method. With this technique, all you need to do is blow air through the snorkel to blast out any water that’s in the tube. This will only work everytime you look up while you clear water out of the valve, and if there is still water in the snorkel after using this technique, create another quick blast to clear the airway. If you are using a snorkel without a purge valve, you can try to displace the water from the snorkel as you are coming out of the water. To do this, you will need to slowly blow air into the snorkel as you are rising to the surface. This will push the water out so that when you are out of the water and ready for a breath of air, the tube will be clear.
If you are still having issues clearing the water from the snorkel tube, you can take the snorkel out of your mouth when you are able to and allow the water that is in the snorkel to drain. This is the method that many beginners use until they are more comfortable with their ability to clear the snorkel with air.
Top Snorkeling Destinations
So, what are some great places around the world where you can go snorkeling? Let’s take a look at a few.
Great Barrier Reef
This is the largest reef in the world, and it is located off the northern coast of Australia. This reef is endangered, so if you can make a trip to see it, take advantage of the opportunity. The Great Barrier Reef is a total of 1,400 miles. At this location, you will see turtles, whales, seahorses, stingrays, and a myriad of tropical fish.
Komodo National Park
This is a park that is located in Indonesia. The main island, Java, is a volcano, and there are four other volcanic islands nearby that you can snorkel to and explore. Here, you will see a lot of komodo dragons because this land was made a park in order to preserve them. You will also be able to see turtles, small sharks, dolphins, mantas, and other tropical fish. There are several reefs that you can explore in this area as well, which include Pengah Reef, Siaba Besar, Batu Bolong, and more.
The Bay of Donsol
This is a popular location for snorkeling that is located in the Philippines. There are over 7,000 islands in this part of the world, so there is more than enough water to explore. If you would like to see a whale shark, this is a great location to see them while you are snorkeling. You will also most likely see turtles and other tropical fish in the water.
Bora Bora is a location that is known for its clear water, which makes it ideal for snorkeling. You will be able to go snorkeling right from the beach, and you will likely see stingrays because they tend to swim close to the shore in this area. Even though stingrays are common, you can also see turtles and different varieties of sharks in this area.
Devil’s Crown is a snorkeling location that is located off the Galapagos Islands. The rocky crown is a sunken volcano that is home to a lot of sea life. Snorkeling here, you will see turtles, rays, tropical fish, and maybe even hammerhead sharks if you snorkel outside of the crown.
In Granada, you will want to visit Molinere Sculpture Park to snorkel. It will require a boat ride to reach the collection of art that can be found under the Molinere Bay. The sculptures are made of cement that has been overtaken by coral in its natural habitat. Lots of colorful fish can also be found amongst the underwater art.
Off of the northern shore of Papua New Guinea, there is a place known as the Amazon of the Ocean. The reef is pristine in this area, and if you venture out far enough from the shore, there is a volcanic rock where you will be able to see tuna, barracuda, reef sharks, snappers, and more. In fact, there are even some shipwrecks from WWII that are worth exploring.
If you would like to swim with humpback whales, then you must visit this part of the Dominican Republic. The marine Mammal Sanctuary allows you to swim with the humpback whales, and between December and April is the time to go because they migrate to this area to mate and raise their young.
Isla del Cocos
Also known as Treasure Island, this UNESCO World Heritage site is located about 340 miles off of the coast of Costa Rica. The water is full of extinct volcanic tunnels, coral reefs, and caves that you can explore. In this area, you are likely to see manta rays, bottle-nosed dolphins, moray eels, and schools of hammerhead sharks.
Kitts is a beautiful tropical island that can be found in the Caribbean. It is full of marine life that you can see while snorkeling, but there is also a large collection of shipwrecks in the area that can also be explored. The best way to see the wrecks is going to be to take a boat out to some deepwater dive sites, which can easily be done with a snorkeling tour.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is snorkeling safe?
Answer: Yes, snorkeling is safe, and it is something that people of all ages can participate in and enjoy.
Question: Do I need to know how to swim in order to snorkel?
Answer: Snorkeling is in the water, so obviously, being able to swim will make you feel like you have more control. If you are snorkeling in shallow water, you will be able to touch the bottom, so swimming is not required, but in deeper water, a life jacket is the only way that you will be able to stay afloat. Knowing the basics of swimming and being able to float on your own is an excellent idea for any snorkeling trip, but it may not be required.
Question: Can you wear contacts while snorkeling?
Answer: Yes, As long as the seal is secure, your eyes will never come in contact with the water. If the mask happens to flood or leak, you could lose them in the water, but it is not something that happens frequently. If you are going to be using your own snorkel equipment, you always have the option of getting prescription lenses put into your mask.
Question: How should I store my equipment?
Answer: If you were snorkeling in saltwater, always make sure that you clean any salt and residue off of the snorkel equipment before putting it away. Salt can eat away at your gear over time. Also, don’t store your snorkeling gear in a sunny place because constant sunlight can be damaging to the silicone parts on the mask and the snorkel. Never put weight on top of your snorkel equipment because it can warp if it is left that way for a long period of time.
Question: Can I get seasick snorkeling?
Answer: Yes, since you are still in the sea, you can get seasick. Do you typically get seasick? If so, you could get seasick while you are snorkeling because of the waves in the water. Try to go snorkeling in an area where the water is calm, and if you would like to takes so added precaution, taking a medication that works for you when you are seasick. Make sure to take it a few hours before the trip so that it works when you need it.
Question: Can you snorkel if you are pregnant?
Answer: Snorkeling while you are pregnant will not harm the fetus. It is unknown how diving deep into the water can affect a fetus, so if you are planning on diving to any depth, make sure that you check with your doctor before going. However, for a typical snorkeling trip, a pregnant woman should be fine to take part in the experience.
Question: Can I take home coral from my trip for a souvenir?
Answer: Taking home pieces of coral is never a good idea. It is a living thing, and removing coral from a reef is never recommended. In fact, some locations, like the Great Barrier Reef, have laws that prohibit you from removing any living objects from the area. If you are caught with coral, seashells, or anything else, you will be fined heavily and possibly required to spend some time in jail. Most gift shops near popular snorkeling areas will have coral that was harvested legally that you will be able to purchase and take home with you.
Now that you have a better idea of how to snorkel for beginners, you can follow the steps above to get more comfortable with the water. Once you are comfortable with the water and the gear, you can start practicing your breathing techniques and practice in a pool until you have found a snorkel location that you want to visit. Always be safe in the water. Happy snorkeling!