71% of Earth is covered by water, which means there is a lot to explore! So if you ready to take the plunge into the water world, let’s look at the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving, and why you might choose one over the other, or why you should do both!

Difference between Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Infographic showing the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving

Equipment Differences

Equipment for Snorkeling

  • You will use a snorkeling mask to see underwater. This will include a nose pocket, which makes it different from swimming goggles. The nose pocket allows you to equalize if you decide to ‘duck dive’ down underwater.
  • You will also use a snorkel, which is a tube with a mouthpiece on it. The mouthpiece goes into your mouth, allowing you to breathe the air from the other end of the tube. You will need to make sure the end of the tube is sticking out of the water so you can get air!
  • You may also use fins (flippers) on your feet. This allows you to swim more efficiently which means you use less energy, allowing you to snorkel and swim for longer!

Equipment for Scuba Diving

We won’t go too much in-depth about the equipment for scuba diving. But you will use the following:

  • A diving mask – This should be able to withstand the pressure of the water. The mask will also have a nose pocket so you can equalize as you descend.
  • BCD (A buoyancy control device) – This will look like a jacket or a ‘wing’ that can inflate and hold air.
  • A regulator – This will have several hoses, which will have mouthpieces to deliver air from your tank, a gauge to see how much air is left in your tank, and a depth gauge.
  • A scuba tank or cylinder – This contains your air. 
  • Fins – This will allow you to swim efficiently underwater!

Breathing Differences

When you are snorkeling you will be floating on top of the water, looking down. You can keep your face submerged without lifting it up as you will be using the snorkel tube to continue breathing.

When you are scuba diving, you will fully submerge your whole body. This means you will be using the air tank/cylinder to breath. You will need to keep an eye on your gauge to make sure you return back to the surface before running out of air!

Depth Differences

Snorkeling is mostly on the surface of the water but you might want to check something out underwater and swim down. Most people can comfortably swim down to around 2 meters / 6.5 feet before coming back up.

Scuba diving allows you to explore much greater depths. The Discover Scuba Dive depth limit is 12 meters / 40 feet, and the certification depth limits can go down to a recreational limit of 40 meters / 130 feet!

Time Differences

If you are comfortable with snorkeling, you may want to try a ‘duck dive’ which means swimming down under the surface. For this, you will need to hold your breath as the snorkel tube will also be underwater. Most people can hold their breath for an average of 1 minute. This means you will need to swim back up to the surface to clear your snorkel and take a breath of air.

When you are scuba diving, your supply of air is on your back, attached to a hose with a mouthpiece. This means you can continuously breathe, as you should never hold your breath when scuba diving. Depending on how fast you breathe and your lung’s capacity, you could potentially have an hour-long dive.

Experience Differences

Snorkeling is highly accessible for anyone who is comfortable with the water. Check out if you need to know how to swim to snorkel. This means you do not need a guide or much experience to start snorkeling.

Scuba diving, on the other hand, requires you to go with a scuba diving instructor for your first few dives. This can be an introduction dive, or getting your certification. Whatever the dive, you will need to go with a professional who will teach you about the equipment, the basic skills required for scuba diving, and the safety procedures.

Safety and Risk Differences

With any water activity, there are the usual risks such as; boat traffic, getting drifted out to sea by a current or riptide, drowning, jellyfish and marine life stings, bites, etc. Snorkeling will have similar risks to swimming however, scuba diving will carry more risks

When you are breathing compressed air while scuba diving, there are more risks involved. These include;

  • Decompression Sickness from nitrogen forming bubbles in your body
  • Oxygen Toxicity when the oxygen’s partial pressure is too high
  • Gas Narcosis which may cause you to act overly confident
  • Lung Over Expansion injuries which is caused by ascending and holding your breath

The Takeaway

Snorkeling and scuba diving are very fun activities that both take place in the water. However, there is a difference between snorkeling and scuba diving as we can see. As a scuba diver, I much prefer scuba diving and immersing myself completely in the underwater world. However, I can see the benefits of snorkeling, especially if you are new to the water world. Snorkeling and scuba diving go hand-in-hand, and snorkeling can be a wonderful introduction to scuba diving. Just take the plunge and give them a go!


  1. It’s good to know that snorkeling is more accessible to people without much training in diving. I guess it will be worth it to go on a snorkeling tour next year in order make up for all the cancelled vacations this year. Some of my friends are pretty interested in trip that are close to nature too so inviting them along would be a blast.