Many holidaymakers drop into the dive shop to rent snorkeling gear for the day. This is not a quick transaction. It usually turns into quite a conversation filled with snorkeling tips. A lot of people have not snorkeled before. In fact, many are not sure how to snorkel.
To find out how to snorkel and everything you need to know to get started, check out our index that you can use to navigate the page!
Table of contents
- How To Snorkel
- Prerequisites for Snorkeling
- Snorkeling Equipment
- Considerations for Snorkeling
- Advanced Skills
- Some Final Tips on Snorkeling
How To Snorkel
The most traditional snorkeling gear is simply a mask and snorkel.
Snorkeling allows you to continue to breathe and see the underwater world while remaining on the surface of the water.
In order to do so, you need to attach the snorkel to your mask and create a watertight seal around your face with the mask.
You then use the snorkel to breathe without lifting your head up.
Using fins or floatation devices while snorkeling is optional.
How to Attach Snorkel to Mask
The first challenge is often how to connect the two together to make it comfortable to wear and not lose the snorkel.
A few things to consider.
A snorkel is correctly worn on the left side of the mask. This is due to the regulator hose coming from the right side in scuba diving.
You want to make sure that the snorkel tube is on the outside of the mask strap so that it does not press against your head. This is very uncomfortable.
Rotate the mouthpiece and position it so that you can keep a watertight seal by pressing your lips together lightly.
Ensure that your snorkel faces up to prevent water from entering the snorkel.
There are several types of snorkel releases, each with their advantages and disadvantages.
Removable Snorkel Clip
+ Attaches well
+ Easy to remove
– Gets caught in hair
– No flexible adjustment
Simple Snorkel Clip
+ Easy to attach
+ Easy to remove
– Disconnects on its own
– Gets caught in hair
Silicone 2-ring Loop
+ Very flexible adjustment
+ Stays in place
+ Attaches very well
– Gets caught in hair
In diving destinations, the silicone loop is the preferred option. It is very easy to adjust the snorkel’s vertical positioning for maximum comfort. Divers prefer it due to how well it attaches and how easily it can be adjusted underwater.
How to Use a Snorkel
Knowing how to use a snorkel may seem obvious to some people. However, some people have never tried it. Whatever your level of snorkeling, here are a few things to be aware of.
- Always breathe cautiously just in case some water enters the snorkel. You should be ready to blow that water out of your snorkel at any time.
- When water enters your snorkel, press your lips together and forcefully exhale through your snorkel. This will blast the water out the top.
- Breathe slowly and deeply to expel all the Carbon Dioxide from the snorkel. Snorkels have a fair amount of dead air space, which in extreme cases can contribute to hypercapnia.
Snorkeling is a very popular recreational activity especially in warm waters around tropical islands. It is very accessible to anyone with little equipment and no required training. Grabbing a snorkel, mask, and fins is the easiest way to explore coral reefs. The simplicity of the activity appeals to many travelers seeking a simpler lifestyle on […]
Prerequisites for Snorkeling
What is required to go snorkeling? It is commonly agreed that anyone can snorkel.
This is true. However, there are a few things to consider, such as the ability to swim and your comfort level in the water.
Do You Need to Know How to Swim to Snorkel
It may not sound romantic to learn how to swim in a pool with an instructor and floatation tubes.
When you’re on holiday, you just want to grab your best swimsuit and carry your mask and snorkel down the beach and head in to explore the reef.
So, do you have to know how to swim to snorkel?
This is a question we get asked a lot.
The short answer is no, you do not. But it isn’t quite that simple. Scuba diving is primarily equipment-based, whereas snorkeling is mainly skill-based.
Knowing how to swim will make snorkeling a lot more safer, efficient and enjoyable.
Here’s a detailed guide on the benefits of knowing how to swim when snorkeling.
But wait, we just said that there is not much equipment needed when snorkeling. True, but the little you take needs to be properly cared for so you can trust your gear in the ocean.
What Do You Need To Go Snorkeling?
The appeal of snorkeling is the simplicity of it. All you really need is a mask and snorkel and you are good to go. While this is certainly the simplified and romanticized idea of snorkeling, it is this thought that attracts a lot of people to go snorkeling.
It is true, you can literally grab those two pieces of equipment and go.
But what else could you or should you take?
Maybe some exposure protection (rashguard, wetsuit, or even a drysuit!), some fins to propel you through the water, sunscreen to protect your skin, and maybe a floatation device for added safety?
It all depends on your experience level, conditions, and circumstances. Here is a more detailed guide on what to take snorkeling.
You just arrived on a beautiful tropical island with your family. Now everyone wants to hit the beach for their first time snorkeling experience. But what do you need to go snorkeling? Is there any special equipment needed? What about the equipment quality and where do you get it from? Working in the diving industry […]
How Does a Snorkel Work?
A snorkel is a very simple piece of equipment. It is a tube that allows you to breathe air from the surface while your face is submerged in water.
You can learn more about Traditional snorkels, Dry & Semi-Dry snorkels, as well as Full Face Snorkel Masks in our complete guide on how snorkels work.
Clean Gear in Working Order
It goes without saying that the gear you take needs to be up to the part. A leaky and foggy mask and a moldy snorkel are not the way to go. So how to clean snorkel gear, and how to clean snorkel mask or even how to clean a snorkel mouthpiece?
Here are is a step by step guide on how to clean snorkel gear:
- Rinse the mask & snorkel in cool soapy water
- Rinse off the soap
- Spit or apply a small amount of soap on the inside of the mask
- Wash the mask in freshwater with antibacterial soap
- Rinse off all the soap
- Flip the mask so the glass is on the top, with the strap below. This will allow water trapped inside the mask to run off
- Leave it to dry properly out of direct sunlight
This is the best way to properly clean a snorkel mask setup. For more information on how to defog a foggy mask, check out some of these tips for new masks.
Considerations for Snorkeling
So, we now know snorkeling is super easy and anyone can try it.
But let’s take a look at some of the considerations and special circumstances and how to deal with them on your next snorkeling adventure.
Can you Snorkel while Pregnant
Short answer is yes! You can absolutely snorkel while pregnant.
Snorkeling does not require breathing of compressed gases and therefore does not present the risk of decompression sickness to the baby.
We do however recommend that you go for some light & easy snorkeling in a shallow bay so that you do not over-exert yourself.
We have a great guide on what to take into consideration when snorkeling during your pregnancy in the article below.
Being pregnant can be a wonderful thing; you are creating life, your skin takes on that radiant glow, yadda yadda. But being pregnant also means you miss out on some fun things such as, eating cheese and sushi, drinking wine, and activities such as scuba diving. But what about snorkeling? Can you snorkel while pregnant […]
Snorkeling with a Beard or Mustache
Beards are great. They are great for storing a little snack for later or to impress the ladies with! Depending on how thick your beard is, however, it can become something that needs managing.
If you have a full beard or mustache, there are some extra steps to take to ensure you have a comfortable experience.
The main issue is maintaining a proper seal with your mask. Your beard hairs will push the silicone skirt away from your skin, creating leaks. You can use vaseline on the hair to seal up the hair and minimize leaks, or better yet learn how to clear a mask.
In simplest terms, you inhale through your mouth, exhale through your nose while pushing the top of your mask frame towards your face. This creates a small gap on the bottom of your mask and removes the water by displacement.
My beard causes my mask to leak on dives and I am used to clearing it regularly.
If you are the proud owner of Viking facial hair like the dude above, we have a more in-depth guide on snorkeling with a beard.
How to Snorkel with Glasses
Glasses add a challenge to snorkeling. It really depends on what correction you have. If you have very small corrections of -1 to -2 you can most likely get away with just leaving them on the beach. In fact the refraction of light rays as they travel from the water through the air pocket in your snorkel mask correct almost -1.
If your vision needs correcting of around -3 to -4 you could consider contact lenses. Using contact lenses in the ocean brings its own challenges which we look at in the next section.
If you have a -7 correction it is a different story. In this case, we highly recommend ordering a prescription diving or snorkeling mask.
Please refer to our extensive guide on how to scuba dive and snorkel with glasses below to get an idea of how to deal with prescription glasses when exploring the ocean.
A common question asked by new divers is whether you can go scuba diving with glasses. Unfortunately, you cannot use your prescription glasses during a dive as the mask cannot seal onto your face properly. However, there are many options for divers who wear glasses on-land that we will look into below. You may also […]
Can I Snorkel with Contact Lenses?
The short answer is yes. You can most definitely snorkel with contact lenses. There are a few things we really recommend considering before doing so. We have written a comprehensive guide on how to snorkel with contact lenses and recommend starting there.
Because snorkeling seems so easy, it is often underestimated in terms of the skills needed and potential dangers. Many tour companies throw a ton of people on a boat and stick them all in life vests with a mask and snorkel. Then drive this boat to a bay and blow a whistle to get in the water.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Well, many things in fact. As a dive instructor teaching people scuba diving, it was the snorkeling skills that proved to be the hardest to teach and the most difficult for students to master. I would be more nervous taking ten people on a boat for snorkeling than 10 scuba divers.
Why is that. Well, it is mostly due to the fact that scuba divers adhere to certain standards. They need to hold a certification in order to fun dive. If they do not hold a certification, they are either in training or simply doing a try dive. Try dives are conducted under the close supervision of a senior scuba diving instructor.
On the contrary, while there are snorkeling certifications, hardly anyone bothers to get one and it is not required to hold one in order to go snorkeling.
Is Snorkeling Dangerous
I spend considerable time teaching new Divemaster Trainees how to deal with snorkelers. This is because the risks are real, but often quite invisible to new professionals and beginner snorkelers alike.
I recommend at least skimming through the guide linked below.
Snorkeling can be dangerous, but it can also be super safe. The factors that decide this will be the water conditions, and your physical well-being. Let’s look at some of the risks of snorkeling, and what you need to make it a safe and enjoyable activity. Learn how to snorkel underwater and tips for snorkeling […]
Let’s summarise some of the main dangers below.
It goes without saying that it is easier to snorkel in 3 meters of water in a calm, clear bay as opposed to in high surf in cold water around a pinnacle off the shore. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The environment however will shape someone’s experience and really depends on their equipment, education, and experience.
You can snorkel in Silfra in 2-degree cold water. However, you will be taught special techniques and wear a dry suit to do so.
A lot of times friends of divers want to join the boat trip because they want to be a part of the experience. This is all well and good, but does it make sense? A submersed pinnacle 5 kilometers from shore might not be appropriate to snorkel, especially for beginners.
Where you chose doesn’t just depend on the natural environment, but also the boat traffic. Snorkelers in the ocean can be extremely hard to see for boaters. Knowing the local regulations and designated snorkel areas are well worth discovering before even getting in the water.
Being familiar with equipment is paramount in ensuring safety for divers and snorkelers alike. A crappy mask that starts to leak when you are far away from the boat can escalate into an incident very quickly. Floatation devices if used improperly while snorkeling, are often more dangerous than helpful. Especially if the snorkeler does not know how to use the particular device.
I personally dislike giving people floatation devices for snorkeling. It can create a false sense of security, takes away from the actual snorkeling experience and I believe that if someone is not comfortable enough to float independently, they should learn this prior to going snorkeling.
It is not wrong, however, and many people enjoy learning to snorkel and being more comfortable in the water simultaneously by using a life vest.
Getting people with a fear of water or fish or disabilities into the ocean using floatation devices can be very beneficial to them. They might fall in love with the underwater world and take on the challenge to become comfortable in the water.
One of the most important pieces of equipment when snorkeling is appropriate exposure protection. The most common snorkeling injury is severe sunburn.
As mentioned above, snorkeling is a skill that one can be certified in. However, most people don’t do this. They are peer pressured into “just doing it” and this can lead to perceptual narrowing, which can then lead to other issues and even an incident.
Snorkel tour operators, for the most part, are focused on profit. They will cram as many people on the boat as possible, poorly maintain their equipment, and often only provide one dedicated safety person on board. Not always, but from experience, this is the majority.
So, education starts by looking into who to go snorkeling with, learning the ins and outs from local guides, and start at your own comfort level.
It depends on how experienced someone is in what conditions. New snorkelers can get freaked out if they swim over a sudden drop off, for example. Pseudo-experience can cause complacency to fester. The phrases “it’ll be fine” or “don’t worry about it” are often the last phrases before an incident.
Even with many years of experience dealing with people in the water, I still take if very seriously when a new friend wants to try snorkeling. It is better to be humble about your experience as opposed to being humbled by the lack thereof.
Professional free divers, such as Tom Peled, are extremely serious when it comes to experience, their training and their equipment. Read our more in our interview below.
Tom Peled has been diving since 1989 as a dive instructor, commercial diver, and now a freediving breath-hold coach. He specializes in breath and body work for stress anxiety and trauma and has worked with injured veterans. His extensive diving experience extended to training Navy Seals and airforce rescue units in Israel. Tell us about […]
Ditched the floatation device and venturing a little further from shore?
It’s time to learn about some advanced snorkeling skills.
Learn How to Snorkel Underwater
What? So far we spoke about snorkeling being a surface activity?
Well, what about getting closer to that reef and seeing it in more detail?
Here’s how to do it:
- Take a deep breath in
- Dive underwater using your legs as weight
- Explore the underwater world while holding your breath
- Look up, swim up and clear your snorkel on the surface
Sounds easy enough, right?
It is, and the only way you get proficient at it is by practicing lots.
One of my friends always refers to snorkeling, particularly duck diving as the “graceful entry into the underwater world”. I think this accurately describes snorkeling. To explore the ocean, let’s see them as phases or steps. I would put snorkeling on the surface as phase one. Once you learn how to snorkel underwater or how […]
Some Final Tips on Snorkeling
Now that you have a solid foundation on how to snorkel, it is time to get out there and try it! Practice snorkeling often to get good at it!
The only way you will fine-tune your skills is by getting in the water and trying it out. Get comfortable in shallow water first, then you can push yourself a little further and eventually dive down to get closer to the reef and fish.
We still love snorkeling as divers. There is something special about not relying on a ton of gear to be able to explore the ocean. A mask and snorkel is quite crude, but allows us to adapt to the water and become a part of it relatively easily.
Snorkeling is the first entry into the underwater world for many people. Remember to be patient when you take your family and friends for the first time. Let them learn and discover this wonderful skill at their own pace.