During our travel we climb mountains and volcanoes, walk through rainforest, fly above clouds...But what we enjoy most are our trips to the underwater world. Just equipped with goggles and a snorkel it is amazing how easy it is to discover a totally new habitat of millions of species. And the best is you do not need any courses or licenses. Just look for a great spot, take your gear and the adventure can begin!
You have never snorkeled before and you are a bit insecure what you have to do? No problem, in this post I put together the most important things you should know. There are just a few things you should keep in mind for a great first snorkeling experience. Let’s start!
1. THE EQUIPMENT
Like with a lot of other things, the equipment is important. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money but sometimes it is also good not to go for the cheapest.
When you look for goggles you should always try them before you buy them because you want to make sure that they feel comfortable during your snorkeling trip.
It is very easy to find the right size. Put the goggles in your face and breathe in trough your nose. Do not put the leash around your head because you want to find out if the goggles stay in your face without those. Take a deep breath, take off your hands and see, if there is air circulating between the mask and your skin. A mask with the right size will stay easily in the face and it will feel comfortable.
Some goggles have one window whereas others are divided in the middle. It is the same with different types of sunglasses. Just compare and try with which one you can see well. However, usually you do not even feel any difference.
Black or transparent? Probably you have already seen that there are goggles with a black or a transparent mask body. There are different opinions about which one is the better one. We bought transparent goggles because we like it when more light is coming into the goggles. However the transparent masks can get dirty after many snorkel trips due to the salt water. This does not happen to black masks. But with these you can get the feeling of a tunnel vision and the mask can get warm when snorkeling in the sun. You see, both goggles have their pros and cons. You can choose which aspects are more important to you.
There are also different types of snorkel, too. The mouth piece as well as the upper end of the tube can vary.
Cheaper snorkel are open at the end and water gets in easily when there is a stronger wave coming. For emptying the tube you have to take a deep breath and push the water to the top end of the tube.
Other snorkels are equipped with water protection at the top end and let hardly any water into the tube. In case it happens, there is a membrane at the mouth piece through which you can easily empty your snorkel. You do not need to push the water up to the very top of the tube; you just blow it out through the membrane. The membrane only allows water to go out but stops water from getting inside.
More expensive snorkels have a water protection at the end of the tube that closes the tube during a dive. It is a very simple but effective mechanism. As soon as you dive the water pressure closes the top end of the tube and no water can come into the snorkel. When you swim back to the water surface the snorkel is still empty, the mechanism opens again and you can easily continue with snorkeling. It is all a question of how much money you want to spend and how much comfort you want to have.
Fins are especially helpful for longer snorkeling trips because they make it easier to move within the water. Sometimes the guides snorkel very fast as they want to find interesting species for you. In these situations fins are perfect. When you just want to enjoy a relaxing snorkeling trip then you do not need any fins.
When you book a tour it usually includes a pair of fins. It is important that you try them before you start the tour because the size can vary from your normal shoe size. Normally you take one or two sizes smaller so that they have a good hold. But they should still feel comfortable. When the fins feel very tight than take one shoe size bigger. Although you will be in the water and you are afraid that you can lose them easily, don't worry. Usually that hardly ever happens.
Before you start your snorkeling trip you have to prepare your goggles. Usually the glasses start to get foggy after a short while in the water. The easiest way to prevent that is to spit into your goggles. It sounds disgusting but it really helps. Disperse the spit with your fingers so that the whole glass front is covered from the inside. Then rinse it shortly with the sea water and the mask is ready.
A more comfortable but also more expensive option is to use anti-fog spray. Usually you do the same procedure just using the spray instead of your spit. The bottles are normally quite small because you do not need a lot for each snorkeling trip. One bottle costs roughly 7 dollars.
In case the mask gets foggy during your trip do not panic! Stop snorkeling, take off your mask, rinse it and use the spit-procedure (You won’t have your anti-fog spray with you). Then put the mask back on and enjoy your snorkeling adventure.
2. THE FIRST SNORKEL TRIP
The first snorkeling tour is so exciting! You do not really know what to expect and how it will feel to breathe under the water. There are a few things that you should consider during your first trips.
- Do not overestimate yourself! When you do not feel very secure with swimming, wear a life vest. A lot of tour operators offer them and especially during the first snorkeling tours it helps a lot because you can concentrate on the breathing and the beautiful things you see around you. Do not be ashamed to ask for a life vest. It will make you feel much more comfortable!
- Do not go into bumpy water or strong currents! When you have to swim against a strong current or when high waves are moving you, you cannot enjoy the snorkeling at all. It is very exhausting to fight against current and waves and you get tired very quickly. Also, there will be poor visibility in the water and you won’t be able to enjoy it anyway.
- Take something to drink and to eat with you! You will be surprised how tiring snorkeling is. In the water you do not feel how much you sweat and how much you move. When you get out of the water you will be happy to have something prepared.
- Be careful with the water pressure while diving! Sometimes you want to see animals or corals from a closer distance and you start to dive with your snorkel gear. After a few tries it can be a lot of fun. As soon as you get deeper you will feel pressure in your ears. Some feel it more others less. To reduce the pressure close your nose with one hand and equalize the pressure. When this does not help and you feel a pain in your ears do NOT dive deeper. Go up again and try it again later. Usually your ears get used to it after a while.
3. DON'T FORGET YOUR T-SHIRT
Protect your body from the sun! In snorkeling spots with colder water your tour operator will offer you a wetsuit. It keeps you warm and it protects you from the sun. When the water is warm enough and you do not need a wetsuit a bikini or shorts are not enough. Your back, butt and legs will be burned very quickly, even with sunscreen.
Always put a t-shirt on!! Combined with shorts you are much better protected. Especially girls have to be careful. They should also wear some kind of shorts or personally I prefer a knee-length running tight. With these my legs are very well protected and it is even warmer and therefore more comfortable in the water.
When you use sunscreen do not put it on your forehead. The sea water will remove it and then the sunscreen runs down into your eyes. And that burns. Usually you are looking down anyway all the time so it’s okay not to protect it. Very important is the back of your arms, your neck and your calves. These parts are in the sun all the time.
4. AFTER SNORKELING IS BEFORE SNORKELING
You want to enjoy your equipment for a long time. Therefore, rinse your snorkel equipment after every snorkeling trip with fresh water. Salt water, especially in combination with intensive sunshine, is very aggressive and affects the material. As mentioned before transparent goggles can get yellow and the material becomes porous. After rinsing it just let it air-drying.
Always before you start your snorkeling trip have a short look on your equipment to make sure that everything is okay. You really don’t want to go out to the sea by boat and then realizing that something is wrong.
Last but not least:
ENJOY your snorkeling trip!! I am sure the first minutes of your first snorkeling trip will feel a bit strange because the way of breathing under the water through a tube is unfamiliar. But very quickly you will realize how great snorkeling is! Enjoy the amazing underwater world around you, listen to the sounds of the sea and take your time to discover this totally different surrounding.
"The world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves." -Wyland
I wish you a lot of fun!
Thanks for reading and safe travels!