Complete Snorkel Guide

In this snorkel guide you will learn how to float on the surface and see the underwater world. You can breathe thanks to a snorkel tube attached to your mask.

You might think it’s better to just become a certified scuba diver. But they are not exclusive. I love to do both, and I even prefer snorkeling so I don’t have to worry about scuba gear. You can carry everything you need in a backpack.

We will discuss everything in this article. From equipment to techniques to the best places to snorkel. We’ve got you covered!

What is snorkeling?

Snorkeling is using a mask and tube to breathe while floating on the water’s surface. It’s more about floating than about swimming. You won’t produce bubbles as with scuba diving, so you won’t scare marine life and can get closer to them.

It’s also more versatile because of the gear, which is less, cheaper, and lighter. You don’t need to scuba to find marine life or see wrecks.

Anyone can snorkel. You can use a life vest so it doesn’t need you to be fit or to train. It’s even therapeutic as it is more like a meditation than a physical sport.

What Gear do I Need?

You can rent or buy your snorkel gear. Just don’t go for the cheapest options, get something nice. It can be the determining factor on whether you love it or hate it.

Diving Mask

Try different sizes until you find one that is comfortable. Seal it around your eyes and nose by pulling the straps, and try it in the water if you can. It’s important that it fits your face well so there are no leaks.

If you use glasses you can get them prescripted or use contact lenses.

Snorkel Tube

This will attach to your diving mask so it’s important that you get that first. Adjust your mask’s straps and make sure the tube is close to your mouth. It shouldn’t be tight, but fixed when you bite it.

It is your first time snorkeling, get a dry snorkel with a splash guard. It will cost you more but it’s worth it. It has a special valve that doesn’t allow water to come in, and you can blow it more easily if there is any. That way, you won’t have to worry about getting water inside by waves or your head tilting a bit.

Fins

You may be thinking that you don’t need them. But you absolutely do. It’s not a matter of convenience, but safety.

You can get tired and far from the shore when you spend a few hours in the water. Add a riptide, and you could be in trouble. Fins will save you tons of energy, and you will be able to fend off riptides.

Get fins that fit you well. Your feet will shrink due to the cold water, so make sure they are tight.

Swimsuit

Whether you snorkel in warm or cold waters, you should cover your body for two reasons.

First, water conducts heat so you will get cold after a while even in warm waters. Second, you will be floating on the surface and receiving a lot of sun exposure.

Try to avoid sunscreen as much as possible. It will stay in the water and harm reefs and marine life. If it’s too hot for a wetsuit, use a rash guard.

Buoyancy vest

Snorkeling is mostly about floating. If you have a life vest, you will keep on the surface with no effort.

It’s also great for other people to spot you. You will be quiet, so boats could be dangerous if they don’t see you.

You can also use a water noodle instead of a life vest.

How to Snorkel

Bite your snorkel and put your face in the water. Relax yourself by taking deep breaths and lay flat on the surface once you feel comfortable. Focus on your breath and let it go.

You will find yourself floating in the water with no effort, so you can enjoy the underwater views

Clear the snorkel tube

It’s normal to get water in your tube. The sea is a moving thing. There are waves, splashes, and even your own movement can put the tube underwater.

When you feel that there is water in it, exhale quickly and hard through your mouth. Think about how whales do it. You may need to do this a couple of times if it is completely flooded.

You will feel how the water goes out of the tube.

If you find yourself with no air in the lungs don’t worry. Get your head off the water, put out the snorkel, and breathe as normal. If there is just a little bit of water on the tube, you can take a slow breath so the water doesn’t come into your mouth.

Swimming

A rule of thumb is to not splash. Keep your fins underwater and your arms next to your body to reduce drag. This will make you stay horizontal and thus be more efficient.

You can move fast with your fins, but there is no need to. Slow movements with your whole legs are enough to displace yourself without scaring sea creatures.

How to dive (Skindiving)

When you dive you can get closer to have a better look.

Snorkeling is all about floating. If you feel comfortable in the water, you can hold your breath and dive for a bit. That is called skindiving. You will need to take off your life vest or use an inflatable one.

  1. Take a deep breath to fill your entire lungs, from your belly to your chest.
  2. Put yourself vertically, with your legs on top to start descending. Use your arms to submerge.
  3. Your own weight and the vertical position will make you move down automatically with no effort. Once in the water, you can move your fins to dive deeper.
  4. Pinch your nose and blow out through it every few meters. This is called equalizing, and will release the pressure in your eardrums. Do it even if you have no pain in your ears. If they hurt any little bit, go up until they don’t and equalize before continuing descending.
  5. Put yourself horizontally once you reach your desired depth.
  6. Don’t wait to surface back until you run out of air. It’s also a bad idea to expel air during immersion, as it can trigger an involuntary breathing reflex. Be safe and come back well before you need to.
  7. Once you surface, clear up your snorkel. Stay quiet, take a few deep breaths, and relax to bring your heart rate down.

You may have read that you can hyperventilate to stay longer underwater. Don’t ever do this, especially if you are alone. Hyperventilating puts a lot of oxygen in your blood and can make you pass out, which is deadly in water.

Take a freediving course with professional instructors if you want to improve your breath hold. They will teach you how to properly do it in safe environments and under supervision.

Best Places For Snorkeling

You can snorkel on almost any beach. The best places are those that are calm but full of life. This means you should avoid waves, as they will make moving harder and more difficult, even getting seasick. They also shake the seabed and thus reduce visibility.

The best time to go snorkeling is on sunny mornings. You will find that there are many shops that organize boat tours to reefs and islands. These are great places due to their marine life, few waves, and clear water. Most marine life will be in rocky and seagrass areas, but waves could make them dangerous so keep an eye on that.

I have listed some of the best places in the world to do snorkeling. But make sure to check with locals to find the best spots.

Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

You will find beautiful corals and fishes.

It’s one of the most famous places in the world for a reason. You have it all here: corals, fishes, dolphins, turtles, whales…

It is 900 miles (1400km) long. It’s so big that you can visit it many times and still find something new to see.

Raja Ampat (Indonesia)

There is so many species that you won’t ever see them all.

If you think that the Great Barrier Reef is full of life, wait to see Raja Ampat. It’s the most biodiverse place in the world, and a paradise for snorkelers.

You won’t get tired of colorful fishes and corals, there is just so much to discover. It is called the “green lung” of Indonesia for a reason.

Jellyfish Lake (Palau, Micronesia)

The jellyfish follow the sun each day.

It’s the most magical place on this list. You will swim in a lake with millions of harmless golden jellyfish. They are great creatures, and getting close to them with no risk is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Just because they are harmless does not mean that you should touch them. Scuba is forbidden to protect them, so stay quiet and enjoy the views.

Silfra Rift (Iceland)

This is the most clear water you will ever see.

You will be swimming in two continents at the same time, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide. The water never exceeds 40ºF (5ºC), so you need a drysuit.

It has probably the clearest water in the world, which is enough to make it worth a visit. Thanks to that, you will have great visibility.

But be careful if you have vertigo. There is a giant crack in the ground that goes as deep as 200 feet (61 meters). Having such a depth below you while floating in “liquid air” will give you flying vibes.

Dean’s Blue Hole (Bahamas)

It has a misteryous vibe in the middle of the paradise.

If you think the Silfra Rift is deep, wait to see the Dean’s Blue Hole. It’s a giant hole in the ground that goes 663 feet (200 meters) down, which is larger than Seattle’s Space Needle!.

The water is crystal clear, but you won’t see the bottom. It’s also a great place for technical divers, so you will probably see them going up and down. It’s impressive to see how bottom suddenly disappear beneath you.

Tulamben (Bali)

You never know what you might find in a wreck. Some even have other vehicles!

Wrecks are one of the best things to visit when you get your diving certificate. But you don’t need scuba equipment to see one. In Bali, there is the USAT Liberty wreck, a World War II US Army transport that sank on the beach of Tulamben.

Its top is just 13 feet (4 meters) below the surface, so it’s accessible by skindiving. Even if you don’t want to dive and remain on the surface, you will get an incredible view thanks to the clear water.

What to do next

First, you need some equipment. I made a list of the best snorkel fins. Be sure to check it out!

Once you get comfortable snorkeling and skindiving, make sure to try scuba diving. It allows you to really discover the underwater world, and it’s like flying. You will love it.

Chek out our guide on how to become a certified scuba diver if you want to know how.

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Daniel Espada

Daniel Espada

Daniel Espada is a passionate adventurer, certified scuba diver, and the mind behind geardventure.com. With a background in Engineering, Daniel combines his technical knowledge and love for the outdoors to create content that not only informs, but inspires action.
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