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 for many years, I have given hundreds of people advice on how to snorkel and what to take.
Here are some of my most common snorkeling tips.
What do you need to go Snorkeling?
Don’t worry, you don’t need much! But some things are essential snorkeling equipment to enjoy your day exploring the shallow reefs.
Mask & Snorkel
The obvious one. Without a mask you cannot see. Without a snorkel you cannot breathe. Many dive shops will rent snorkeling gear for very cheap. Make sure the mask is not scratched and the silicone skirt is not ripped or really tough due to prolonged sun exposure.
Always try a mask! It needs to fit your face for comfort. Many snorkelers opt for the clear skirt mask which allows for more peripheral vision and light.
How to try on a mask for snorkeling
Very simple steps to follow:
- Look up to the ceiling
- Rest the mask on your face
- Feel around the skirt of the mask for gaps
- Lightly push the mask down and breathe in your nose
- The mask should suck onto your face and create a vacuum (this means it seals)
- Make sure the mask does not press between your brow or on the side of your eyes
Try to use a mask with tempered glass for added safety when duck diving.
Often snorkeling masks are cheaper equivalents made of acrylic. These scratch much more easily and can have horrible visibility.
With your snorkel, try to find one with a drain valve for an easier experience. This is how to snorkel without swallowing water. Also, make sure you use a silicone loop release to fix the snorkel to your mask. The plastic clip on ones are less flexible and it is very easy to lose your snorkel and your deposit.
Do You Need Flippers to Snorkel?
You mean fins. Flipper is a dolphin.
Now that we can see and breathe, let’s consider propulsion. The cool kids look like they are using fins. When choosing fins for snorkeling, you want to stand flat on the ground and lift your heel up. Your foot should remain in the heel pocket of the fin.
Most places will not rent open heel fins with boots for snorkeling. Open heel fins are generally preferred when scuba diving because they are more comfortable to wear and allow for more flexible motion. For snorkeling, however, closed heel fins are often enough.
There are even special snorkeling fins, which have a much shorter fin just extending a few inches past the foot pocket. This makes it easier to avoid touching coral while still providing additional propulsion.
Why fins? Fins allow you to dive down more easily and swim against currents more easily.
Always make sure the snorkeling destination allows fins. Unfortunately, many places do not allow fins because people are not careful enough and break a lot of coral exploring shallow reefs.
The ones that do, will allow you to swim down and spend time closer to the reef and its inhabitants. I often refer to snorkeling as a graceful entry into the underwater world. People that love to snorkel should certainly consider scuba diving.
Read our guide on snorkeling vs scuba diving
It depends on your comfort level and experience. If you take a life jacket it needs to be fitted properly otherwise it can become a hazard itself. Wearing a life jacket will not allow you to dive down.
PADI offers a skin diving course, which utilizes a BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) for snorkeling. A BCD is traditionally used for scuba diving. It allows you to control the amount of air inside it. Therefore the benefit is that you can dive down using a BCD as a floatation device while snorkeling.
Never leave inexperienced swimmers unsupervised while snorkeling. It is an activity that is often underrated in terms of possible dangers. Accompany children and introduce them to snorkeling over deeper water slowly and at their pace.
Take a look at our write up, is snorkeling dangerous?
This is quite possibly the most important thing you need to go snorkeling. Apply a layer of reef-safe sunscreen about 45 minutes prior to entering the water. I also recommend a full sleeve rash guard. While rash guards do not keep you warm, they protect you from the sun. A thin layer of water above your back all afternoon will magnify the sunrays and roast you slowly!
Some of the most horrific sunburns I have seen are as a result of not wearing some form of exposure protection while snorkeling. Time flies when you are having fun. The water keeps us nice and cool and before we know it, the sun has done its damage.
Now we’ve answered, what do you need to go snorkeling?, you are ready to get out there and explore the beautiful reefs.