Beginners Guide to Snorkeling

You may think you’ve already traveled the world and seen everything there is to see, but do you realize that 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is underwater? And many of the most beautiful and interesting areas of natural beauty are hidden by the waves, such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Snorkeling enables you to explore the shallow waters around our shoreline so you can come face-to-face with dolphins, swim around coral reefs, and explore ancient shipwrecks. Because snorkeling requires very little in the way of training and equipment, anyone can do it. Here is a selection of tips for absolute beginners.

1. What is snorkeling?

Snorkeling is a way to explore underwater by swimming near the surface and using a mask and a snorkel. The mask enables you to see clearly what’s under the water, and the snorkel allows you to continue breathing while your face is underwater.

Snorkeling is usually only done in relatively shallow water. This means it does not require expensive equipment or extensive training. It is also safer and easier than scuba diving or freediving.

2. What equipment do you need?

All you really need are a mask and a snorkel. However, you will find swimming easier if you wear fins. In tropical areas, a long-sleeved swimming suit is a good idea, and you should wear sunblock. A swimming vest can protect your torso from scrapes against coral, rocks, or submerged human structures. Enthusiastic snorkelers often invest in good-quality underwater cameras or GoPros to record the amazing sights they see under the waves.

3. Choose the best snorkeling mask for you

There are two kinds of snorkel mask: traditional and full-face. A traditional snorkeling mask only covers your nose and eyes, and you breathe through a mouthpiece attached to the tube. A full-face snorkeling mask covers your whole face. This not only enables you to breathe through either your nose or mouth but also provides better visibility.

Some full-face masks also protect your ear, which is useful for people who experience problems when they get water in their ears. And people who have poor eyesight can purchase special prescription masks that work the same as their spectacles.

4. Choose good-quality fins

You don’t have to wear snorkeling fins, but they will vastly improve your snorkeling experience. The human body wasn’t designed for efficient swimming, so you will get tired quickly just kicking with your feet. Fins help you imitate aquatic mammals and make propulsion through the water much easier.

Well-designed fins enable you to snorkel more efficiently creating more swimming force for less energy expenditure. The best fins combine compact design, comfort, and efficient propulsion. Fins also help you stay safe in strong currents.

5. Consider wearing a float vest

A good-quality vest will not only protect you from scrapes, but it can also double as a floatation aid keeping you close to the surface. Bright-colored vests enable emergency personnel to locate you quickly in an emergency. Seniors, children, non-swimmers, and beginners are strongly advised to wear vests.

6. Understand the risks and stay safe

Although snorkeling is relatively safe, there are always risks with any sport. You can suffer sunburn if you don’t regularly apply sunblock. There may be dangerous sea creatures where you are snorkeling, such as sharks or jellyfish. Rip currents or passing ships that don’t see you can cause you problems. If you don’t take precautions, there is a possibility of drowning.

What you should do is manage your risks. If you are new to snorkeling, choose locations that experienced snorkelers deem safe. Consider attending an introductory snorkeling course or read up on snorkeing techniques. Enlist the help of a friend or guide with snorkeling experience to come with you. It is not a good idea to snorkel entirely on your own. If something unexpected happens, you’ll want someone along to help you out or alert others to help.

7. Practice

Although snorkeling is easy, you will get much more out of your snorkeling adventure if you first practice somewhere safe and controlled. Practice donning and removing your mask in the hotel swimming pool. Make sure your mask fits the shape of your face and the straps are adjusted to the right length. Have a go with your fins to see how you can handle them without any waves to worry about.

Practice your breathing technique when using a snorkel. You might like to try breathing through the snorkel with your head out of the water first before submerging your face and trying it under the surface. If you’re comfortable with using your mask, snorkel, and fins in a swimming pool, then you’ll feel much more confident the first time you swim out into the sea.

A common snorkeling problem that you might want to practice solving in a swimming pool is removing water from your snorkel or diving mask. To remove water from your snorkel, blow the water out. Some snorkels have a valve to release the water. If you get water in your mask, lift your head above the surface and lift the lower part of the mask so the water falls away.

8. Ensure you’re allowed to snorkel there

In some marine preserves, snorkeling is banned in order to protect the local sea life. The areas near naval bases also sometimes restrict access. On occasion, snorkeling may be prohibited near shipping routes, near harbors, or in locations where the tides are considered too dangerous.

9. You don’t need to be an expert swimmer

Although it’s easier to snorkel if you’re already an experienced swimmer, you can begin snorkeling without any experience. However, if you can’t swim, you should practice snorkeling in a safe location alongside other people who can. Shallow water and calm weather are ideal. Also, stay hydrated. When you’re in saltwater, you’re working your body hard, and it’s sunny, you need to drink more water.

Using fins, you’ll find yourself moving through the water much quicker than by conventional swimming using your feet only. But this kind of swimming burns a lot of energy, so take it easy and remain calm. A floating vest will help you to float, so don’t panic. Take a break every 30 minutes or so to conserve your energy.

10. Try freediving

Once you’ve built up some experience and feel confident about your snorkeling skills, consider freediving. Freediving means swimming deeper into the water to areas where your snorkel will no longer help you to breathe.

When you are visiting a coral reef or a submerged shipwreck, freediving enables you to see more and take some fantastic underwater photographs. However, this is something you need to practice in safe locations alongside experienced people. Do not try this for the first time alone. It is more dangerous than regular snorkeling.

You’ll need to learn how to hold your breath. And, once you’ve reached your chosen depth, you’ll need to release the pressure in your eardrums. To do this, pinch your nose then gently push air through your nose until you feel the pressure release. When you return to the surface, remember to clear the water from your snorkel before using it to breathe.

11. Visit super snorkeling spots around the world

After you’ve tried snorkeling once, you’ll catch the bug and want to snorkel all around the world. There are many fascinating underwater areas where snorkelers flock to admire the beauty of nature.

Many of the most popular spots are close to the tropics because of the coral reefs that surround islands in locations such as the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, and Indonesia. You can choose to snorkel directly from the shore or take a boat tour out to popular diving spots.

Bali, for example, is part of the Coral Triangle. It is one of the most biodiverse marine habitats in the world. The most popular dive spot is Tulamben where snorkelers love to explore the wreck of the USAT Liberty torpedoed during World War II. The wreck has become an artificial coral reef and teems with colorful marine life.

The Maldives boast 2,500 reefs and crystal-clear, blue water. Banana Reef is home to many beautiful corals, fish, and other marine life. Here’s where you can find a real-life Dory as well as sharks, barracudas, giant squirrelfish, and surgeonfish. And Manta Point is a popular snorkeling spot for people who want to swim with huge manta rays.

Tenerife is a popular destination for snorkeling with turtles. There are 5 different kinds of turtle found around the island, some up to 9 feet long. At the popular diving spot of El Puertito, the water is clear and suitable for snorkeling year-round. And the Playa del Duque is a quiet snorkeling spot where the Atlantic Ocean is shallow making it ideal for beginners.

Port Douglas is probably the world’s most popular snorkeling destination because it is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. From Port Douglas, you can join snorkeling tours that take you out to the best dive spots in glass-bottomed boats and enable you to view the vibrant marine life below even when you’re not in the water. There are also nearby idyllic islands where you can snorkel from the beach.

12. Be environmentally friendly

While you are enjoying the beauty of nature, do your best to help conserve what you are admiring. Don’t wear sunblock that is harmful to marine life. Don’t leave behind rubbish on the beach. Look but don’t touch the beautiful creatures under the water. If you want to make a real difference, clear up the trash that others have left behind on the beach and prove that you are a better person.

If you like snorkeling and want to explore more, try scuba diving

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