Jul 292011

I remember the first time I went snorkeling.  It was in St. John, USVI, which is known for its amazing reefs.  I was immediately awe-struck by the new underwater world that had just opened up to me.  That was many years ago, and I’ve since become a certified diver.  But I’ll never forgot my first underwater love, and I have remained passionate about snorkeling and teaching others to snorkel.  Below, I’ll share my 10 tips for an amazing snorkeling experience.


1)  Do not touch the coral, the marine life or anything else underwater (except for your own gear if necessary).

2)  Know your limits. Return to shore or float on your back if you become fatigued.  Don’t panic.  Ask for help if necessary.

3)  Do not feed the fish or any other marine life.  This is very important.  It may seem like benign behavior, but if negatively impacts the ecosystem, changes fish behavior and can harm the fish.  It also teaches the fish to associate humans with food (hungry fish have been known to nip snorkelers).

4)  Try to avoid standing up in the water.  If you need to stand, make sure you are on a sandy bottom.

5)  Always ask the locals before snorkeling in unfamiliar waters.  They know the water better than you and can warn you of perilous currents, rocky outcroppings or other dangers.

6)  Go to a local dive shop and get fitted for a proper mask.  Nothing ruins a snorkeling trip faster than an ill-fitting mask.  Fins can be rented, but owning your own mask is essential.  I also recommend purchasing a snorkel with the mask.  Make sure to remove the film from your new mask.  The dive shop can show you how to remove the film by gently scrubbing the mask with toothpaste.

7)  Avoid excessive kicking and splashing.  You will scare away the marine life that you are there to see.    When you need to kick, keep you feet under the surface to avoid a splash and kick smoothly.  Also, keep your feet well above the bottom to avoid stirring up clouds of sand (which will tick off the snorkelers in your vicinity).

8)  Get a local fish ID chart.  It’s lots of fun to identify the fish you’ve seen when you’re sipping your Corona at sunset.  Here are a few from my collection.


9)  If you have long hair, tie it back away from your face (I do a french braid, not so stylish but I’m focused on efficiency underwater).  Stray hairs in your mask can cause leaks and fogging.

10)  Consider wearing a rashguard to protect your skin from the sun and other factors.  You’re also protecting the reef by using less sunscreen.  I did a post about rashguards here.

In addition to the rashguard, consider a skull cap if your hair is on the thinner side.  Mr. Reeftraveler likes the Under Armour 001 skull cap when diving and snorkeling.  It provides not only sun protection, but also warmth.  It also prevents stray hairs from sticking in your mask (which we know causes leaks and fogging – see tip #9).

Do you have any helpful snorkeling tips?

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  2 Responses to “10 Tips for Beginning Snorkelers”

  1. Hello
    I came to this sight looking for help with snorkeling with a disability.
    I had a SPI and can’t kick my legs. I can walk with crutches so I can move them I just can’t kick. I am looking for advise on how to keep my legs from sinking with out being able to kick them.
    I live in Michigan and am wanting to go snorkeling in Florida but not sure how with my disability. I live on a lake and can practice if given a method to use. Please advise on ways to do this.
    Thank you Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comment. I have a few ideas for you.

      1) Have you considered an underwater scooter? You could try to find a place that rents them, or invest in one yourself. I’ve seen people travel with these as well.


      2) You mentioned that you have some mobility in your legs. Have you tried to use the frog kick?

      3) I would also suggest contacting the Handicapped Scuba Association. They may be able to provide some good information or even connect you with a local HSA certified instructor who could teach you some helpful techniques.

      4) Sometimes when I snorkel I propel myself with my arms to get a good arm workout. And in this case, I don’t kick my legs. If you want to add some positive buoyancy to allow yourself to float easier, you could wear a wetsuit or even a snorkel vest while using this arm technique.

      Hopefully some of this proves useful!

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