Snorkeling Tips and Gear

Working on snorkel and dive boats I have learned many important tips that will make your snorkeling trip safer and more enjoyable. If it is your first time snorkeling practice before going on a dive boat to a reef offshore. Practicing can be done in a pool back home, a pool at the hotel or in a beach where you are vacationing. If you do not have snorkel gear and are not going to practice knowing the information below will greatly increase your chances of having a great snorkeling experience.

I scuba dive and snorkel and in most cases I find snorkeling to be more fun than scuba diving. Snorkeling can allow swimmers to see more fish and get closer to fish. The most important thing to do when snorkeling is to relax. People are positively buoyant in water and snorkelers do not need to work at all to float in the water. In saltwater people are even more positively buoyant. To get close to fish it is important to not use your hands. Not a single fish in the ocean has hands and people simply scare away fishing with motion of their arms and hands. When snorkeling place your hands behind your back and gently kick with your feet.

Most people are a bit nervous when going a few miles offshore in the ocean and are then told to jump in! People are most commonly worried about sharks! Then jellyfish and then waves and drowning. In reality these fears are of very little danger to snorkelers.  The actual common ways people can get hurt are falling or slipping on the boat, hitting the boat or swim ladder when entering the water or holding onto the swim ladder as the boat rocks in large waves. Other dangers include strong currents sweeping divers away from the boat and people get to far from the boat and having a boat that is not paying attention run over a snorkeler. If diving with a professional dive shop all these factors are taken into account and snorkeling is a very safe activity. However safety should not be taken for granted or overlooked. I can tell you that many people on vacation that rent boats and go snorkeling have no idea about how to snorkel and dive safely.

Masks

A basic mask and snorkel will work great for your average two hour reef snorkeling experience. The most common problems people have with a leaking mask is caused from the mask strap being two low on their head. The mask strap should be near the top of the head and not low near the neck. Also the mask does not need to be super tight to work properly.

Cressi panoramic mask is a great for snorkeling and diving.

Cressi panoramic mask and dry snorkel set.

Mask defog solution- Keeping the mask fog free is essential to seeing lots of fish. Even on days with great visibility if your mask is foggy the water will seem murky. This is an easy problem to fix with proper defog steps. First if you have a brand new mask it is important to scrub the inside of the mask with toothpaste. This removes a think silicon layer that is on the lens due to the manufacturing process. If this layer is not removed the mask will fog even when defog is applied. Toothpaste that is paste must be used not toothpaste that is a gel. Second the defog solution must be applied to the inside of the mask every time the mask is used. Johnson’s baby shampoo works great as a defog solution. A light layer of soap should be applied by adding a small drop of soap an rubbing it around the lens of the mask. The soap can also be applied with a spray bottle of diluted soap. If there is a heavy layer of soap the mask can be rinsed quickly in fresh or saltwater. If all the soap is rinsed off the mask will fog. Over rinsing the mask is a common problem. Leaving a layer of soap on the mask lens is the way to go! Sea drops also work as a defog solution.

Johnson’s baby shampoo works great as a mask defog solution.

A new and popular mask for snorkeling is a full face mask. I can tell you that about half the time people love them and half the time they do not work at all for people. I would recommend trying one before making the purchase. Full face mask have a very large air volume and are only good for snorkeling at the surface, not for diving down. The large air volume makes it hard to dive because divers cannot pinch there nose to clear their ears so it is hard to equalize pressure changes as the depth increases. The other problem people have is that the mask leaks. Peoples face shape and size vary drastically and having a full face mask size that fits and seals for all people is a difficult task. However if you get claustrophobic and really need to breath with your nose a full face mask would be a good choice. The large field of view also seems to be a selling point. Personally I like a basic mask for snorkeling and diving.

Seereef full face mask and snorkel, also comes with ear plugs and a travel bag. This mask has a decent design and is very affordable compared to other full face masks.

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Snorkels

When first breathing through a snorkel and getting a mouth full of water makes people not trust that the snorkel works. This is typically caused from wrong snorkel positioning. The snorkel is to be worn on the left side of the head. The snorkel is designed to work when looking out, not straight down at your feet. If looking straight down water can enter the snorkel. Dry snorkels have a one way valve that helps prevent water from entering the snorkel. This is not really needed but can be nice for people that do not know how to clear a snorkel. To clear a snorkel you need to have the snorkel above the water and blow out forcefully and the water will clear. Some snorkels have a clear valve at the bottom to make this easier. In most cases a basic snorkel works great. If the snorkel fills with water and you are not confident the top of the snorkel is above the water. Just stick your head above water for a second and dump the water out of the snorkel.

Cressi adult dry snorkel is a great choice for beginners. The float mechanism helps prevent water from entering the snorkel when going under the water.

Cressi Corsice freediving snorkel. This lightweight compact snorkel is great for advanced snorkelers and scuba divers.

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Fins

When using fins the basic strategy is to keep your legs straight and scissor kick up and down.  Kicking in a circular motion like riding a bike is not an effective way to kick. The fins should remain in the water and not slap the surface which simply scares fish away.  The three common fin options are an adjustable strap with an open heel, full foot fins and open heel fins with neoprene dive boots. For more specific applications there are free diving fins and split fins.  For basic snorkeling I would recommend adjustable strap open heel fins. They work for a variety of foot sizes which can be nice in case someone else needs to borrow them. Also the tightness of open heel fins can be adjusted. If you are snorkeling all the time getting a properly sized full foot fin is the most comfortable. For scuba diving a fin with boots provides the most secure connection which can be helpful when diving in strong currents. Split fins are good for a medium amount of propulsion without as much resistance when kicking.

Cressi adjustable strap fins open heel are a great fin for basic snorkeling. These are what are typically used as rental fins on dive boats. They are durable and fit most people comfortably.

Cressi CLIO full foot fins are comfortable quality fins.

Mask fin and snorkel package by Cressi. The most affordable way to get all the gear you need is with a snorkel combo pack. Here is an example of a decent snorkel package that also comes with a gear bag.

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Wetsuits

If you are going to be snorkeling in water that is colder than 78 degrees I would definitely rent or buy a wetsuit. A shorty wetsuit is typically all that is needed and is much easier to get on and off. Wetsuits also provide sun protection and protection from jellyfish. If a wetsuit is not needed but you still want sun protection while diving a rash guard shirt is the way to go. If diving in a shorty wetsuit do not forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your legs if snorkeling for an extended duration.

Seavenger 3mm wetsuit for snorkeling with sizes for both men and women.

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Safety

Snorkel vests or noodles – snorkel vests are good idea when snorkeling. Air can be added for increased flotation but the main purpose of the vest if so that other boats can see snorkelers when they are in the water. This also helps people in the boat keep track of where people are located. If the vest is filled air it tends to float up around the neck and can be uncomfortable. If you really want extra flotation a noodle is the way to go. If you want to be able to dive and not worry about the noddle floating away a snorkel vest is the way to go.

Adult inflatable snorkel vest by Rrtizan.

A noodle serves two purposes, extra flotation and good visibility for boat traffic to see you in the water. If a boat is approaching and you wave a noodle it is very likely the boat will see you. Placing the noodle through your arms is a comfortable way to float and the ends extend above the water so you are visible to boat traffic. The disadvantage of a noodle is when diving down in the water the noodle cannot be taken with you. If there is strong wind the noodle can blow away. However for most cases a noodle is the best way to be visible and float while snorkeling.

Dive flags– divers and snorkelers are to stay within 300 feet of dive flags. Boats are only allowed to go closer than 300 feet of a boat flying a flag when at idle speed. It is not uncommon for boats who do not know what a dive flag is to drive full speed by a dive boat closer than 300 feet.  Be careful when in the water and have someone on the boat to signal other boats that divers down. People driving boats tend to be overconfident. Then may say “yeah I see the snorkelers” as there boat is driving over scuba divers. It is a big ocean and there is rarely a good reason to be within 100 yards of a boat at non idle speeds!

Dive flag 20 inch X 24 inch with removable stiffening pole.

Air horn – It is a good idea to have an air horn on the boat when snorkeling . If a boat is driving toward snorkelers or divers and is not paying attention this can be the only way to quickly get their attention.

Marine air horn in 3.5 ounce or 8 oz size, meets United States Coast Guard standards for a noise making device.

Whistle – having a second way to make noise is also a good idea. I have had an air horn not work when trying to alert another boat that divers where down. A Whistle is a full proof way to make a loud noise that will get someones attention. Do not over use a whistle though because it can be really annoying.

Sonik blast safety whistle up to 120 dB.

Tag lines– It is important to run a tag line from the back of the boat. This consist of a long rope attached to a float buoy. The rope should be about 100 feet long. If there is strong current snorkelers should swim in front of the boat and never get behind the tag line buoy. When coming back to the boat the snorkelers can hold onto the tag line rather than the ladder when taking off fins. This is much safer as the ladder can rock and smash into the divers.

Buoy for a tagline, comes in six sizes. Size a-0 or a-1 is always good to have on the boat. This buoy with a tagline can always be thrown to someone in a man overboard situation.

Sea sickness- when you have a large group of snorkelers and divers one think for certain is that someone is going to get sea sick. This can be a miserable experience. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do. Get a good night sleep the night before and eat healthy the night before and morning of the trip is a good practice before a boating trip. When taking Dramamine it is important to take it more than one hour before getting on the boat. Taking Dramamine the night before is best. Once you are sea sick staying in the water is typically better than being on the boat. However if you are to sick it is not safe to be in the water. Sipping a small amount of ginger ale can help. Also nibbling on a ginger snap can help. What helps the most though is throwing up. Just make sure you are throwing up over the side of the boat. Do not go in the bathroom as this will make you way more sick.

Dramamine for sea sickness, 24 hour less drowsy formula.

Jellyfish sting –for jellyfish stings the most common treatment it to apply vinegar. Do not touch or rinse the sting with fresh water. Also do not apply hot or cold water. Remove tentacles if present with a tweezers and then rinse the area with vinegar.

Heinz distilled white vinegar for jellyfish stings.

PLB or submersible radio – If snorkeling or diving in areas with strong current it is possible to be swept away from the boat. If you are snorkeling in a private boat and no one remains onboard the anchor or mooring line could come loose separating the divers from the boat. In these situations a radio or PLB is the only sure way you have to contact help. These devices are small and can be worn on a belt or attached to a snorkel vest while in the water. See the PLB page for more information about the best rescue signalling devices.

Nautilus submersible marine rescue GPS. This does not allow for two way communication but broadcasts you GPS position using AIS and DSC radio frequencies to nearby vessels in an emergency.

For people that love to fish and snorkel it is not uncommon for them to love spear fishing. Spear guns and pole spears can be used to harvest most fish with the same fishing regulations used when fishing with poles.

Here is a video where I was scuba diving with sea turtles. These turtles are often seen when snorkeling as well.

Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you have a more enjoyable and safe snorkeling experience!

If you have any suggestions about snorkeling, leave a comment below!

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