Hey guys! So you are thinking about or actually want to go snorkeling. Well read on because we have got some useful advice & pointers on snorkeling basics. How to get the most out of this fantastic experience while staying safe & looking out for the ocean. Once you enjoy snorkeling once, you will want to keep going back for more. So let’s take you through all you need to know to start snorkeling.
what is snorkeling
Okay before we get started. What is snorkeling? Snorkeling is the practice of swimming through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask. A shaped breathing tube called a snorkel and swim fins. This is the dictionary definition anyway. But snorkeling is so much more, it is a beautiful freedom that lets you explore where before you could not.
The snorkeling equipment allows you to swim. While breathing with your face and body underwater. Unlike scuba diving though. You mainly stay on the surface to avoid water in your snorkel. Unless you are feeling a little adventurous.
Things to consider before snorkeling
Some preparation is helpful if you want to make the most of your snorkeling activity. So you can truly enjoy the experience.
Improve your swimming
If your swimming skills are not where they need to be. Take the opportunity to take some swimming lessons at your local pool. For me you can never be too good at swimming. So look to improve your swimming. As this will benefit you in the open ocean and will enhance your experience.
If you are not a strong swimmer you will need a snorkeling vest which helps you with flotation. Yet it also hinders your movements in the water. And makes it harder if not practically impossible to carry out dives to explore reefs or fish.
Speaking from experience. Improving your strength & endurance will help your muscles when kicking in the water. Thus this will help you snorkel more with less effort. leaving you free to enjoy the environment around you. Which is why we do it right?
Practicing with fins will really help you out when you go to snorkel.
Swimming is one thing but swimming with fins on is something else and requires getting used to.
The extra weight & drag of the fins will require extra effort from your muscles. This can lead to cramping up in legs if you are not used to fins.
So when you are practicing your swimming take your fins with you so you get used to them.
Conserving air & energy while snorkeling
Enjoying yourself in tropical waters. Taking a leisurely swim may not sound energy sapping but that is exactly what it does. Even in warm waters. Your body will lose heat continuously, due to water’s heat capacity being greater than airs. (link)
As I have mentioned propelling yourself with the use of fins takes a greater amount of energy as well. So you can see why conserving your energy expenditure is useful.
Snorkeling in the water is either a new or rare experience for most. So taking your time to relax your body & mind is a big first step to maximizing this fantastic experience.
Most people who are new to snorkeling continue to try and swim using their arms still (like they normally do). However using your arms will mean you move too fast. And you will swim past all the interesting sights the ocean has to offer.
Our legs especially with fins on will perform perfectly well. More than enough to get around without using your arms. So keep your arms at your side & focus on your fins instead, this is a good why to conserve energy.
When using a snorkel, take deep breaths to get the most out of it. Breath deep & slow. Breathing like this also helps keep your heart rate down. Which will in turn help you conserve energy and enjoy the experience. (remember breathing through a snorkel is different from breathing normally. So relax and take your time).
Learn how to fit your mask & prevent fogging
When selecting your mask choose ones that are of a high quality. With a high Silicone percentage in the skirt. This is the part that seals to your face. Ensure when picking a mask that it looks like it may be good for your face shape.
When pulling the straps around your head. Take a look in a mirror & notice where the skirt foot lies. You don’t want the skirt so close to your eyes that the skirt is not laying flat against your face. Ensure your nose has plenty of room, check pushing the mask in a little bit. Make sure it does not hit your nose. Try this because when you are snorkeling, water pressure will press the mask into your face a little.
So if it seems the mask is a good fit with the strap resting over the top without pulling it over your head. Press the mask slightly against your face. Then inhale a small amount through your nose to create suction against your face. Then release your hands. The mask should suction to your face without continuing to inhale. You should be able to move around a little without it falling off.
The straps should sit high on the back of your head, not rest on your ears as this will become painful. If you find you have pulled the straps tight to get a fit, or if you have red marks when it comes off, you may have it too tight. A leaky mask is more often a case of straps too tight than too loose.
You may be surprised to learn that the number one reason for a foggy mask is a dirty mask. Moisture forming inside your mask has to attach to something. That something is dirt speaks & oils. So you need to clean your mask often and then don’t touch the inside.
One quick tip for cleaning your mask is by using toothpaste. A small amount and scrub the glass using a toothbrush, not your fingers. Rinse off in hot water. If you have a plastic lens then use dish soap & a soft brush so it does not scratch the plastic. (Always pack a travel size with your snorkel gear) we do!
Choosing your mask, Snorkel, Fins & Rashguard
Once you have determined which masks will fit you properly. another consideration is field of vision. Some masks permit more view to the sides than others. But above all else focus on fit not features. Don’t get caught up on all the different features mask companies use for their products. As long as you are looking at quality products, we would be happy to buy a 30$ mask if it had a better fit than a 90$ mask.
There are three basic types of snorkels. A classic or J snorkels, semi dry snorkels & dry snorkels. Although these describe specific features. You can find snorkels with just about any mix of features you may want.
A classic is just an open tube with a mouthpiece along with a mask strap attachment. Normally the tube does not bend. Although you can get many snorkels with a flexible section down by the mouthpiece. This can make the snorkel more comfortable. Because it conforms to your mouth position better than a hard tube.
There are many different types of semi dry snorkels. But essentially a dry snorkel blocks water from easily coming down the tube. A splash guard is a great feature that can make a huge difference, particularly on wavy windy days. From our experience a decent splash guard is nearly as effective at keeping out water as dry valves.
As with semi dry snorkels. Dry snorkels have many variations but they all boil down to having some sort of float at the top of the snorkel. When the snorkel is immersed. The float raises up closing a little silicone door or a ball float to seal the breathing hole in the snorkel. For people who only snorkel on the surface we recommend a good dry snorkel. It is your personal choice for people who dive down if they choose a dry snorkel. As these often come with a flexible tube section. That can collapse suddenly from water pressure which can be a bit of a shocker if you are not expecting it.
We always recommend using fins when snorkeling. As they make a huge difference to your experience. Ensure the fins are not too tight but also not too loose so take time to check they fit properly. Fins can have different fin areas. A larger fin area may allow you to swim somewhat faster but will need more horsepower to operate. The larger fin area will also be heavier. There are fins with a smaller fin area, again this is down to personal choice and what you are looking to achieve. Just be sure they fit comfortably as nothing will raise a blister quicker than a ill fitting fin.
If you are planning a full day of snorkeling, it is best to wear a Rashguard to avoid yourself from burning.
Advice for when you Snorkel
Using a snorkel & mask
We have already discussed prevention for fogging. Before entering the water check you mask is on correctly. Make sure you angle your snorkel so you can reduce water into your tube. keep the snorkel upright while you are swimming face down on the surface. The snorkel strap will need to be adjusted properly on the mask strap. now you can swim along the surface, breathing through the snorkel. When you want to be more adventurous you can hold your breath and dive down to have a closer look. To stretch your time below, it is important to relax and not expend a lot of energy. It also helps to be able to get down quickly. To start down. Rotate your body so that you can put your head straight down and stick your legs straight up and out of the water. Then let gravity do its thing and you should be on your way below without moving a muscle. When your downward speed has deteriorated you can begin kicking to continue. Then when you need to return to the surface, tilt your head back and watch where you are going. You should make sure you have enough air in your lungs. So that after you break the surface, with your head still back so that the open end of the snorkel will be pointing down. You can blow out a quick burst of air through the snorkel to help expel any remaining water. Then you are ready to continue swimming on the surface.
Breathe in Breathe out, stay calm
After making sure your mask & snorkel works & fits, carry out a little test run. Get used to breathing out of a snorkel. Having a little swim around the pool will help you in getting used to the feeling first.
By practicing. You are preparing yourself for the feeling of breathing through a snorkel. So you breathe more naturally.
Remember don’t flail around otherwise you will soon be out of breath. Snorkeling is more like floating, use your legs with fins on to power you where you need to go. Relax and take your time, you will get more out of the experience this way.
Check ocean conditions
Understand ocean currents, waves & surges. The ocean is a live with strong currents that can take you with it. Understanding the basics of how the ocean moves. Where you within this movement is important for safety.
Before you snorkel take a look at the ocean conditions. Look at the size of the waves, surge & ocean currents & if there is a wind present. If it does feel safe then it probably isn’t.
When carrying out your visual checks. You may see large waves and it may be even possible to get in & out of the water okay. But snorkeling in wavy conditions is not much fun. You get bounced around, it is more difficult to swim. The underwater visibility is greatly reduced.
It is important for you to be aware if you are being pulled by ocean currents away from your snorkeling spot. Even minor currents that you use to swim with on the way out, will make it much harder for you to swim back. It is quite possible for a person to enter the water with only a small current , only for the tide to change. So you have to be aware if you are being moved along by the ocean current. Ocean currents move left to right along the shore or they can pull you out. Snorkeling is a wonderful experience but always be aware of your surroundings.
Ocean surge are like waves. Except that instead of it being a wave that moves up & down. This is a much bigger motion. It is the ocean itself that moves up and down. When you are close to the shore a surge can quickly flush you in & out. Despite the waves not being too big.
Always be wary of snorkeling in very windy conditions, where the wind could push you offshore. Wind can push you around like currents. It is worth noting if the tide changes & starts moving in the opposite direction to the wind. The wave size can increase quickly.
Choose your location
If you’re a newbie snorkeler, do not attempt to snorkel anywhere that has a strong current or strong winds. Waves are not great when snorkeling especially if it is your first time. The effort you need in moving around will increase greatly. Waves almost always reduce visibility. So you won’t be able to see anything of interest. Instead choose an area that has calm waters.
We suggest also going from a beach at first instead of jumping out of a boat. As you can gradually swim towards a depth you are comfortable with.
Choose a place which you know will have lots of interesting things to look at and explore. A good site will probably be in a protected bay where there is calm water & not much current.
Relax & enjoy this experience
The best advice we can give to any newbie snorkeler is to relax. The world underwater is a fantastic place. Where you can have truly magical unforgettable moments. Yet if any point you feel panicked in any way, simply lift your head up & float on your back. Take a moment to calm yourself.
The opportunities that you can experience are endless. Snorkeling through beautiful coral reefs. Witnessing many species of fish & marine life. Snorkeling with majestic sea turtles, observing schools of fish to whale sharks. Snorkeling is the easiest, most rewarding way to explore our wonderful ocean.
What we have spoken about so far is advice on keeping yourself safe. Along with how to get the most out of your snorkeling experience. However it is just as important at the same time we give back to the ocean. We do this by taking care of it. Do not touch fish, corals, turtles or any marine life. That also includes taking care with your fins. The only things you can touch safely are rocks, sand & water. Also do not use harmful sunscreen. Most of the common sunscreens are causing coral reef damage. Use biodegradable sunscreen that will not harm sea life.
Dos & don’ts for newbie snorkelers
- Don’t snorkel alone. If you are new to snorkeling, buddy up with a more experienced person. As you can be vulnerable to things like currents, wildlife & sharp reefs.
- Don’t touch anything. Some marine life can feel threatened by your fingers & hands. Keep them to yourself. Respect & observe only all the marine life & corals.
- Don’t panic. Flail around or pull down on anyone. Remember if you do start to panic, float on your back & calm yourself. Call for help then if necessary.
- Do practice first before entering the ocean. This will help you maximize the experience.
- Do spend time choosing your equipment.
- Do get to know your surroundings before you start to snorkel. Check where other people are snorkeling and ask locals about current & riptides.
So we have provided some advice & hopefully some useful pointers. On how to get the most out of your snorkeling experience. Snorkeling gives you a window to a new world. So relax fully and enjoy your time in the ocean as it is a gift and I am sure you will get the bug like us and go back for more….