Snorkeling is an incredible way to get a sneak peek of everything the underwater world offers without all of the gear, training, and costs that come along with scuba diving.
So in this guide, we’ll discuss everything there is to know about snorkeling so that you get the most out of your next snorkeling vacation.
How to Prepare for Snorkeling
In order to prepare for a snorkeling trip, you’ll want to do a few things.
First, we recommend getting comfortable with the snorkel gear and some sun protection (sun burn is it the biggest injury when snorkeling). Reef-safe sunscreen is best as you don’t want to hurt the corals and wildlife.
If you’re planning on buying your gear, why not take it to the pool and get a quick test run in?
If you’re renting gear at a resort, maybe try it in the pool there first?
The most important thing when it comes to any adventure sport is to be comfortable and calm. Practicing with your gear in a pool before going out in the ocean will help build confidence and relaxation massively.
Practice Your Swimming
The first tip we have for you when it comes to preparing for snorkeling is to practice your swimming skills and make sure you’re the strongest swimmer you can be.
When snorkeling in a pool or freshwater, you will be less buoyant than in salty oceans. So it may appear harder to stay afloat in the water than it actually is, especially if you’re very lean.
Get Comfortable, Conserve Energy
Being a strong swimmer will give you the confidence to pull off this next tip, of being comfortable in the water.
Besides the obvious reasons, comfort in the oceans and while snorkeling is essential, as it will allow you to conserve energy.
Another energy saver tip is to use your fins for power, and not your arms. It many not feel super natural at first, but you will get power much more efficiently from proper leg kicks, than any arm movement.
Practice Leg Kick Technique
If you have a lot of ground, or should we say ocean, to cover, then proper snorkel finning technique is essential for energy conservation and speed. This video does a great job explaining how to utilize snorkel fins properly.
This tip isn’t for everyone, but if you’re planning to do any freediving or skin diving then consider practicing breathwork before your trip.
The difference between freediving and snorkeling is that while freediving, you can dive under the surface of the water while holding your breath, in order to take a closer look.
It goes without saying, the better you are at holding your breath, the more bottom time you’ll have.
Learn Proper Snorkel Position
One of the most important things to do correctly when starting a snorkel trip is placing your snorkel in the right position. If it’s not placed correctly, then water can get into the tip of the snorkel much more easily.
While placing a snorkel incorrectly will allow you to practice our next tip often, we do not want you to constantly have to clear your snorkel.
Practice Clearing a Snorkel
In order to properly clear a snorkel in the event some water makes it’s way into the tube, you’ll want to forcefully exhale out of the mouthpiece, pushing the water out the top.
It’s not as hard as it sounds, you’ll be surprised how simple it is to do!
If you are having trouble doing this with your face down in the water, you can tread water for a few seconds while you go upright to blow air out.
Practice Clearing Snorkel Mask
Even if your mask has a tight seal, it’s likely that you will encounter some leaking.
That being said, it’s super simple to clear your snorkel mask when it fills up.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video is worth a lot more…
Prepare for Mask Fogging
In order to prevent your mask from fogging, there’s a few things that you can do.
The first is to remove the layer of silicone that comes on most new masks. Some people use a lighter to burn this layer off, but we don’t recommend this. Some toothpaste and a toothbrush and some effort work just fine.
Once the mask has been scrubbed of any residue, there are two main ways to prevent it from fogging up.
The first is using a mask defog solution. These typically come in the form of sprays or gels that you rub into the mask and rinse with a splash of water.
A second option is a free option, and kinda gross, and that would be spit. If you feel comfortable with this, go for it, but I personally don’t like to do it, unless it’s 100% necessary. Many divers report the mask gaining a smell or growing mildew over time.
Snorkel Gear You Need
There are a few different pieces of snorkel gear that you will absolutely need to snorkel, and then some others that are optional but useful in certain scenarios.
Mask & Snorkel
Considering the entire sport is called snorkeling, you’re going to need a snorkel, and ideally something to see out of. Unless you’re willing up with blurry vision and burning eyes, you’re going to need a mask.
Your options when it comes to a snorkel mask are either traditional snorkel masks or full-face snorkel masks. We won’t go too in-depth on the pros and cons of these masks, but feel free to read the respective guides on each above.
If you’re typically a glasses wearer, you’ll definitely want to wear contacts. You could get a prescription mask, but these are much more expensive given they are custom.
Next up, you’re going to want to look into options for fins.
You have a few options here, snorkel fins, scuba diving fins, and free-diving fins.
We don’t want to bore you with the differences between all the fin types, but the right fin-type will depend on your goals.
Scuba fins are designed to be used whilst underwater, and snorkel fins are designed to be used on the surface.
If all you plan on doing is staying on the surface, go with snorkel fins.
If you are planning to do a combination of scuba diving and snorkeling, then you can use scuba fins or snorkel fins.
If you’re going to use scuba fins, be sure to get ones that are neutrally or positively buoyant, as some are negatively buoyant.
And as you probably guessed, if you plan on going free diving at all, use free-diving fins.
Optional Pieces of Snorkel Gear
Life Jacket and Snorkel Vests
This is an optional piece of gear for snorkeling, but recommended for beginners considering safety and being calm are key.
The main difference between a snorkel vest and a life jacket, is that snorkel vests are designed for snorkeling.
Normal life jackets are designed to stop people from drowning, and therefore keep your head out of the water, which is not exactly what you want when trying to see the fishes!
Booties can help give you a better fit into the snorkel fins, as well as protect you from anything sharp or stings while you’re underwater.
Also, a long day of snorkeling on bare skin causes chaffing if there’s not a proper fit or poor material.
Lastly, if you’re going to be freediving or snorkeling in colder environments, the insulation that booties provide can come in handy.
Rash guards provide an extra layer of protection from the sun. Most places you will be snorkeling are tropical environments, where the sun is strong.
They aren’t mandatory by any means, but if something to consider depending on how long you’ll be snorkeling for and how much you care about sun exposure.
Snorkeling Safety Tips
Try to Snorkel in Calm Seas
One way to ensure your snorkeling is pleasurable is to go on a day when the seas are calm.
If you’re on a vacation and booked a trip in an advance, you may not have control over this. But if you can help it, it will make a big difference.
Rather than fighting current and waves the entire time, you can simply focus on observing the underwater world below you.
Don't Snorkel Alone
This rule is likely a bit more relaxed compared to scuba diving alone, but generally speaking, we don’t recommend snorkeling alone.
While snorkeling injuries and deaths are extremely uncommon, there’s no reason to risk going out alone.
In the event something happened to you, there would be no way for someone to rescue you and call for help.
Safe Full-face Snorkel Masks
We discuss full-face snorkel mask safety in our blog post and on Youtube, but the main thing to look for in a safe full-face snorkel mask is a good seal and proper cycle valves.
Bring A Snorkel Flag
In order to let boats and others know that you’re in the area, it’s key to bring a flag, DSMB, or float with you.
Depending on where you’re snorkeling, there may be regulations requiring you to have a signaling device with you.
Snorkeling on Boat vs Beach
Another thing to account for when snorkeling is whether you will be entering the water from the beach or a boat.
When snorkeling on a boat, you’ll have access to many more unique and exclusive spots, as some of the best snorkeling spots are not able to be reached without a boat.
That being said, snorkeling from the shore (this article is about scuba shore diving but has helpful tips as well) is likely a better introduction to snorkeling considering the comfort of the beach is right there.
In my time working on boats, I’ve seen many first-time snorkelers get seasick on the way out to the site, and either not enter the water at all, or enter quickly and get scared.
Best Snorkeling Locations
There’s no shortage of incredible places to snorkel around the world.
Below, we’ll list a few of our favorite spots around the world, as well as some information about them, like how to get to them, costs, and more.
Great Barrier Reef Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and a site that every diver and snorkeler should see once in their life. While it would be difficult to snorkel this spot without a boat or from a beach, many points of the GBR are not more than a 15-minute boat ride away. Due to how shallow the reef is it makes for great snorkeling.
Key Largo, Florida
Key Largo is the closest key to the mainland of Florida, and also the largest. With over 70 miles of the shallow reef for you to discover via snorkeling, we recommend you give it a visit!
The famous underwater sculpture and reef pictured above is known as Christ of the Abyss and is one of several statues in Florida’s waters.
Most hotels and beaches in Key Largo will have reefs you can easily reach, but the more exclusive sites require a boat.
Komodo National Park in Indonesia is one of the last untouched parts of paradise left in the world and has one of the highest levels of biodiversity.
Manta Rays, Hammerhead sharks, Eagle Rays, even Komodo Dragons. Not to mention the countless microfauna, anything from crabs, shrimps, anemones, and more.
You’ll find it all here.
Baa Atoll, Maldives
If you have any online presence, you’ve probably seen the Maldives on Instagram.
A nation of Atolls, there’s no shortage of snorkeling in the Maldives.
Baa Atoll specifically, in June to November, is some of the best snorkeling you’ll find in the world.
The Maldives has a lot of tourism and green fees, so trips here can get pricey.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main difference between scuba diving and snorkeling is that snorkeling is done at the surface and scuba diving is done under the surface of the water.
Scuba divers are able to go underwater as they bring an oxygen tank among other gear with them underwater.
Snorkelers can delve under the surface of the water while holding their breath, which is known as freediving or skin diving.
This is entirely dependent on your comfort level swimming and in the water.
Most experienced snorkelers do not wear snorkel vests or life jackets.
As we covered above, the only mandatory pieces of snorkel equipment are a mask, snorkel, and fins.
Optional pieces of equipment include a rash guard, snorkel vest, and booties.
Rash guards are optimal for locations that have very strong UV, like the Florida/Bahamas or Australia.
After reading this guide, we now hope you have some more insight on how to snorkel properly, and safely, and also where in the world to go!
Snorkeling is a great way to get your feet wet in the underwater world, and for the bold, we highly recommend you take the next step and try scuba diving a try!