How to snorkel? That’s actually a very common question!
Snorkeling is one of the most loved watersports around the world. This is probably because snorkeling requires little equipment and anyone can pretty much do it with a few basic instructions – which I will cover in this article.
First time snorkelers might have their fears which is completely natural. But, once you get the hang of it snorkeling isn’t difficult at all and shows you a beautiful world hidden underwater.
Snorkeling requires a few main pieces of equipment: a mask, a snorkel, and fins.
If you are venturing into dark or colder waters you can also take an underwater flashlight and a wetsuit. And if you are snorkeling in tropical climates you might want to wear a rashguard and board shorts to protect yourself from the sun.
But I’ll give further equipment recommendations at the end of this article. Let’s start with the basics: what is snorkeling and how to snorkel?
People sometimes confuse snorkeling with scuba diving or free-diving, but whilst snorkeling you stay on the water’s surface to avoid water entering your breathing tube. This allows you to watch the underwater world for long periods of time without worrying about holding your breath.
How to Snorkel: Practical Snorkeling Tips for Beginners
If it’s going to be your first time snorkeling or if it’s been a long time, these snorkeling tips will help you feel confident and enjoy the experience.
I’ll try to answer all the frequently asked questions around the topic of how to snorkel to cover everything you need to know.
1. Check Your Equipment
Before you even enter the water you need to check all of your equipment to ensure it is functional and the right size. This can be done while purchasing your snorkeling gear or whilst you’re at the watersport center (if you’ve booked a snorkeling tour).
The first thing to check is your breathing tube or snorkel. Ensure you can fit it into your mouth and that you can create a good seal between the rubber/silicon and your mouth. This way no water enters your mouth while your head is underwater.
Next, check your snorkeling mask. Make sure you can easily adjust the tightness of the straps. To check if the mask is the correct size, hold the mask to your face and breath in through your nose. If the mask is the right size it should remain on your face with no additional support i.e. your hands or strap.
Lastly, you should check your fins. I would initially get the same size fins as you would wear as trainers. Try them on to make sure they are a tight fit. To do this I usually sit on a chair and raise my legs, kick my legs and make sure there is no slack or movement between the rubber and the skin. If there is, then try the next size down. Here is a clear guide on features to look for in snorkeling fins.
If you are less confident in the open water and require a life jacket to snorkel then ensure this is also in good condition and fits your body comfortably.
2. Check Your Snorkeling Location
If you are new to snorkeling and are looking for an easy place to learn, then pick somewhere that has calm water with little to no current. Strong currents can easily take you off course.
Also, check the snorkeling distance – can you easily swim back to shore or your boat if something goes wrong?
3. Relax, You’re Snorkeling, Not Swimming
Something to keep in mind is the fact that snorkeling is largely based on floating.
You’ll use your hands a lot less than if you were just swimming. In fact, you don’t need to use your hands at all and some snorkelers prefer to lock their hands in a single place, usually on the chest or behind the back.
You should calmly float on the surface of the water and use your fins to propel you along. Remember, snorkeling is a marathon, not a sprint. Using the correct technique will ensure you conserve more energy and keep you in the water longer.
Breathe in and breathe out through your snorkel. Stay calm and enjoy everything there is to see underwater.
And remember that you can simply lift your head from the water if you feel uncomfortable.
4. How to Avoid Swallowing Water
One of the main reasons people choose to go snorkeling is the ability to breathe whilst looking underwater.
So the one thing you don’t want is water entering your mouth. To make sure this doesn’t happen, check if your breathing tube is correctly clipped onto your snorkeling mask so it will point vertically out of the water whilst your head is facing down. This way the top part of the tube stays out of the water at all times.
Another tip to avoid the inlet of water is to make sure you keep a tight seal between the breathing tube mouthpiece and your lips.
5. How to ‘Clear’ Your Snorkel
Knowing how to clear your snorkel is important. It’s likely that whilst snorkeling some water will either make its way in through the mouthpiece or perhaps enter through the top of the breathing tube. Don’t worry it happens to everyone!
Clearing your snorkel involves you pushing the water back up the breathing tube and out the top, or out of the purge valve if your snorkel has one.
Just breathe out, strongly, to push the water out.
But, if you have swallowed some water or don’t have any breath left to clear your snorkel, then simply lift your face out of the water, and whilst treading water remove the mouthpiece and simply tilt the mouthpiece to pour out the water or take a deep breath and try blowing out the water again.
6. How to Defog Your Mask for Snorkeling
One of the most annoying things that can happen while you are snorkeling is your mask fogging up.
Knowing how to defog your mask is, therefore, an important skill in snorkeling. I personally always use baby shampoo – I rub the baby shampoo onto the inside of my snorkeling lens and rinse it with clear water. This creates a layer between the glass of the mask and the air (your breath), which stops the mask from fogging up.
Alternatively, you can purchase defogging sprays that work equally well to defog your mask.
Every time you get back into the water you will have to defog your mask again.
Note: if you forgot to bring baby shampoo or defogging spray you can also use your own spit. I find it doesn’t work as well, but it does work.
7. How to Snorkel With Glasses
Wearing actual glasses under your snorkeling mask is not possible, which is why most snorkelers opt to wear contact lenses.
Alternatively, you can purchase a prescription snorkel mask.
8. Snorkeling Underwater
If you’ve watched people snorkeling before you might have seen snorkelers diving down and swimming underwater for a moment.
I personally like doing this because it brings me closer to the reef, the fish, a wreck or whatever I am looking at.
But, it’s a skill best taught in person. So if you ever go snorkeling with a guide or an experienced snorkeler and you want to learn how to best dive down and snorkel underwater, I’d recommend asking them for a demonstration.
If this is your first time snorkeling however, you might feel more comfortable just staying at the surface and enjoying all there is to see.
9. Do You Need a Life Jacket to Snorkel?
No, if you are a good swimmer you don’t need to wear a life jacket when snorkeling.
Of course, it does help you float so you might find it more relaxing.
Others, like myself, find a life jacket uncomfortable and it makes it practically impossible to dive down and snorkel underwater.
Some tour companies make using a life vest mandatory. If you’re on a snorkeling trip with one of those companies then, of course, follow their rules.
If you can’t swim I wouldn’t recommend snorkeling, not even with a life jacket.
I hope these snorkeling tips have helped you understand how to snorkel and have gotten you excited about your snorkeling trip!
But, continue reading to find out how to snorkel without harming the environment and what the best snorkeling gear is.
How to Snorkel Responsibly
1. Respect the Coral
Many people don’t know that coral is actually a living organism.
Please don’t touch any coral, always ensure you aren’t kicking any coral with your fins whilst treading water and never stand on it!
2. Never Touch Any Fish, Turtles or Other Marine Life
There are a couple of reasons here, the first is that you may harm it. Humans carry many bacteria on their bodies and hands which are very bad for marine life as they aren’t exposed to these bacteria regularly like humans.
Another reason is your own safety. Many fish, especially those in tropical areas can be poisonous if touched or if you get bitten. If you stay a good distance away from all marine life, you won’t have an issue.
3. Use Reef Safe Sunscreen
This is a topic that is finally getting some more exposure. Coral reefs across the world are dying due to pollution, climate change and the chemicals found in sunscreen.
Please use reef safe sunscreen if you are planning to get into the water, whether that’s for snorkeling, swimming, or any other water sport. You can find more information on reef safe sunscreen from Watersporting Adventure here.
4. Don’t Take Anything Home With You
This applies to everything you see whilst snorkeling and on the beach.
E.g. shells, coral, starfish. Some countries enforce strict laws if people are caught doing so.
Remember you’re there to enjoy the beauty of the underwater world, leave it for someone else to see as well!
Snorkeling Gear for Beginners – My Recommendations
1. Best Snorkel Sets
If you don’t have any snorkeling gear yet, the easiest option is to buy a complete snorkel set.
I would recommend this Cressi snorkeling set as perfect snorkeling gear for beginners. Cressi is one of the best brands out there so you’ll be sure to have great quality snorkeling gear.
If you’re looking for a cheap, but still good, snorkeling set I’d recommend this Wacool set. It doesn’t include fins, but if you’re snorkeling off the beach in calm water you don’t really need fins. And if you are snorkeling with a tour company they will have fins for you.
Wacool offers a snorkeling set for kids too.
Note: tour companies also provide masks and snorkels, but I HIGHLY recommend to always bring your own. First of all your own set will often be of better quality than the ones tour companies have but more importantly, you’ll know they are clean. Believe me, I’ve worked with companies who run snorkeling tours… they don’t always rinse those snorkels as well as you would like!
2. Best Masks for Snorkeling
If you’d rather buy a mask separately I highly recommend this Cressi mask.
Again, Cressi is one of the best brands out there and I would say this is the best mask for snorkeling and also one of the best masks for diving.
You can combine it with this snorkel if you don’t have one yet. And, especially if you have long hair I’d recommend getting a mask strap cover. It’s cheap and one of my best purchases because it just makes it SO much easier to put on the mask.
If the idea of having to breathe through a snorkel makes you feel uncomfortable then consider buying a full face mask.
With a full face mask you can breathe through your mouth and your nose and especially if it’s your first time snorkeling that might make you feel a lot more comfortable.
I’d recommend this full face mask for kids. And especially for kids I think these masks are a great option for a first time snorkeling. I’ve often seen kids getting very nervous about having to breathe through their mouth with a normal snorkel, and that fear is eliminated by using a full face mask.
3. Best Fins for Snorkeling
I love these Cressi fins for snorkeling because they are nice and small and therefore easier to pack.
Shorter fins will give you slightly less power and make you swim slightly slower than longer fins, but you are snorkeling, not joining a race, right?
If you do want longer fins – if you are snorkeling in strong currents longer fins do really make a difference – then I’d recommend these Cressi ones.
4. Sun Protection While Snorkeling
As I mentioned before, please use reef safe sunscreen. Apply it at least 20 minutes before you get into the water so that it has ample time to be absorbed.
I learned this the hard way after some severe sunburn! And yes, that was while wearing sunscreen.
There’s a wide range of rash guards for men, women, and children. Which one you choose is mainly down to personal style.
I’d recommend going for a short-sleeved and light-colored rash guard if you are snorkeling in very warm climates. If it’s a bit colder where you’re going snorkeling then I’d recommend a long-sleeved and black or dark rash guard – the sun will help you warm up quicker if the rash guard is a darker color.
That’s it. Those are all the snorkeling tips you need to have a great first time snorkeling!
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