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Snorkeling is swimming along the surface of the water and enjoying the underwater world equipped with a mask (or googles), a snorkel (a shaped breathing tube) and usually swim fins (or flippers). The mask allows having a clear vision underwater, the snorkel to breathe with the face submerged by water, and the swim fins to move with less effort and more control.
Snorkeling does not require any special training, major expenses or strong physical effort. It is mostly practiced freely, entering the water from a beach or rocks. However, to reach some spots located far from the shore, a boat can be needed. Many companies organize, all over the world, day snorkeling tours which allows snorkelers to enjoy these spots, like barrier reefs, islands or cays.
Perfect places for snorkeling are warm and temperate seas, with translucent water, almost no waves or currents, and with a vibrant marine life. The coral reefs, with their colorful and rich biodiversity, are certainly the most popular snorkeling spots, but many other aquatic environments can potentially be explored. Rocky areas, seagrass meadows, lagoons and mangroves often make great snorkeling spots, as well as specific underwater caves, fissures, lakes and even rivers, which offers memorable snorkeling experiences.
There’s no need to scuba dive to encounter the creatures we are all dreaming to observe underwater: colorful tropical fish (angelfish, clownfish, butterflyfish…), whale sharks, sea horses, sea turtles, reef sharks, rays, octopuses, starfish, giant clams, moray eels, and even dolphins and whales… In some parts of the world, you will even be able to snorkel with monk seals, sea lions, penguins and schools of stingless jellyfish. There’s nearly no limit to the underwater sights you can make while snorkeling. But for that, you’ll need to know exactly where the best sites are located. And this is why we designed Snorkeling Report: allowing you to enjoy freely the best snorkeling spots, all over the world!
First time snorkeler? Here are the first steps to follow to start enjoying the underwater world!
First of all, it is important to feel sure about your equipment – when you are buying it (a page about equipment is available to help make your choice), but also when you use it for the first time.
If it is your very first time, practice breathing through the diving mask and snorkel outside the water. Then choose somewhere where you are in your depth; stand upright, and then lean forwards, putting your mask into the water. Sometimes people need a few minutes to get used to it.
Then learn how to remove water from your diving mask and snorkel. If water gets into your snorkel, you just need to blow the water out of it. The water goes out through the valve provided (for snorkels that are fitted with them), or through the end. If there is water in your mask (which sometimes happens), raise your head out of the water and just lift up the lower part of the mask to get rid of the water. Some masks are fitted with valves that allow you to remove the water by breathing out through your nose in your mask, without you having to lift the mask.
The next step is to try snorkeling in a horizontal position, on the surface of the water, without touching the seabed. Just let yourself float, with your face in the water. You will see that you don’t need to make any particular effort and that you float “automatically”. Try to remain relaxed – snorkeling can really be a soothing activity.
Now try to move forwards. Make small slow downwards movements with your fins, while trying to keep them below the surface of the water. Remember to stay in a horizontal position. A rhythm of about 20 fin movements per minute is all you need to move forward slowly. You should keep your arms alongside your body or joined behind your back, to gain fluidity in the water. With practice, you will see that it is easy to reach quite fast speeds (and to swim large distances easily) when you use your fins more energetically.
For those who are interested, the next step is freediving, where you go below the surface of the water while holding your breath. By swimming a few meters under the water, you are completely immersed in the undersea world and enjoy the best angles for underwater photography (see the page here).
Starting from the regular horizontal position, take a deep breath, then dive straight down into the water. Use your arms to help you, then your fins, to keep in a vertical position (with your head below) and dive down towards the bottom. Once you have reached your chosen depth, you can easily regain your horizontal position and explore the seabed. It is extremely important to release the pressure in your eardrums when you go down (even at shallow depths, the air in most people’s ears is decompressed). To do so, pinch your nose and blow out the air gently through your nose until the pressure is released. When you return to the surface, expel the air from your lungs energetically to get rid of the water in your snorkel, and continue your explorations in a horizontal position at the surface of the water.
Freediving is dependent on each person’s lung capacity and can involve risks. Don’t try it if you are alone and stay within your limits (both for depth and for the time you spend under water). Never expel the air from your lungs before returning to the surface (even though it might give you more stability in the water), because it could trigger a reflex to breathe in and water could get into your lungs.