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What Is Snorkeling?

Snorkeling (Spelt Snorkelling in the UK) simply put, is swimming with a mask, also sometimes called goggles, to keep water out of your eyes and ensure you can see clearly and breathing through a snorkel, a pipe coming from your mouth. 

Snorkeling is incredibly fun, relaxing and a wonderful way to explore the ocean without having to worry about carrying loads of scuba gear and technical issues (as with scuba) - you can just drift through the water, relax and enjoy an ocean wonderland. We have literally taken hundreds of people snorkeling for their first time and the results are the same each time, they are addicted. If you get a chance to go snorkeling, take it. But first, lets explain what snorkeling is, what you need to know to keep safe and how to enjoy your snorkeling adventure. 

History of snorkeling 

Snorkeling, according to Wikipedia is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually fins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods of time with relatively little effort.

Snorkeling is a very popular activity, particularly in locations with clear, calm, warm oceans. The primary appeal is the opportunity to observe underwater life in a natural setting without the complicated equipment and training required for scuba diving and it appeals to all ages because of how little effort there is, and without the exhaled bubbles of scuba-diving equipment. For most people, this is their first introduction to marine life and inevitably want more. 
 
Modern snorkeling can trace its roots back over 5,000 years of history. As technologies advanced through the ages, so too did efforts to explore the ocean’s depths. Evidence from 3000 B.C. point to some of the earliest known free divers; sponge farmers in Crete. In a forerunner to the modern snorkel, ancient divers used hollow reeds to allow them to breathe while submerged in water. Luckily we have moved beyond using reeds to breathe, with modern technology we can create more complex and technical snorkeling equipment, it has also led to improvements in the most basic diving tools. Rubbers and plastics made possible snug fitting masks and goggles, while treated glass improved the diver’s safety. Materials were developed which could better withstand the corrosive ocean atmosphere and which allowed divers to better view the underwater arena. More efficient and easy to use snorkeling fins were developed to allow divers of all types to navigate the waters. Ultimately, these improvements in technology and equipment have made it that much easier to explore the ocean through snorkeling.
 
Snorkeling differs from "Free Diving" in that you seldom dive deep or hold your breath for extremely long periods of time as free divers do. For the large part, snorkeling is a lot easier, safer and focused on shallower waters. 
 

Snorkeling Equipment

The basic equipment used by snorkelers include a mask (or goggles as some people call it) that fits over your face allowing you to have clear vision underwater. A snorkel, which is simply a pipe which attaches to your mask and sticks out the water above your head, allowing you to breathe. And fins or flippers which fit onto your feet like large shoes, giving you more control and swimming power in the water. Choosing your snorkeling gear is important, you want your gear to be comfortable and fit. As a rule a full set of snorkeling gear should not cost you a lot of money and should last many years if you take care of your gear. Just be sure to always rinse your snorkeling gear in fresh water after being in the ocean and you should have years of service! 
 

Why People Go Snorkeling?

For most people, snorkeling represents a very easy, safe and cost effective way of exploring the ocean and life in the ocean. The cost for snorkeling equipment is normally quite low and it is easy, if you can swim, you can snorkel. Some people snorkel for the pleasure of just being free in the ocean, others snorkel to see and photograph specific marine life, others snorkel for sport such as spear fishing or free-diving. Compared to Scuba Diving, snorkeling is very inexpensive and very simple. Scuba Divers generally need a license and training to dive to certain depths, diving requires you to be accompanied by a certified Dive Master and inevitably means purchasing or hiring of expensive equipment.  Many Scuba Divers begun Scuba Diving after learning to snorkel, snorkeling provides that little taste of the ocean that will have you wanting more. For some people, snorkeling also offers many health benefits from the mental / meditation benefits of the slow rhythmic breathing to the physical benefits from the impact cardio exercise snorkeling provides. 

What Do You See When You Go Snorkeling?

Different snorkeling sites have vastly different marine life to see and experience. Some shallow intertidal rock pools can be filled with incredible life forms, sponges, corals and fish. Other snorkeling spots are more open and limited to seeing fish or specific animals (such as snorkeling tours specifically to see dolphins or whale sharks) - No two snorkeling spots are the same. Snorkeling spots on Coral Reefs can be very rich in sea life but also difficult to get to (if you are a typical city dweller) - the point is, no matter where you go along the coast, there will be a spot to go for a snorkel, the safety of that site and what you will see varies dramatically from sit to site and from day to day. Because the ocean is such a dynamic place, even a snorkeling spot that you visit every day can be different each time you go there. A good rule though, like most wildlife, time of day and how quiet you are makes a huge difference, we really recommenced being slow, quiet and calm when you go snorkeling and you will see a lot more marine life. Have a look at these useful tips for getting the best marine life viewing experience when snorkeling. 

What are the rules of snorkeling?

That is just the great thing about snorkeling, there are no real rules, although there are some important etiquette and snorkeling safety concerns to remember.

  • Never go snorkeling alone, especially if you do not know the area well. Always have a "buddy with you" and get advice from people who know the snorkeling spot
  • Do not go snorkeling in areas where you may feel unsafe or "out of your depth" in terms of your swimming ability, get local knowledge first if you are uncertain, the sea is an unpredictable place and currents can be deadly. 
  • Never touch, damage, harm or remove any marine life. 
  • Beware of your fins and where you stand, snorkelers are often criticized for damaging reefs and harming marine life without even knowing it. Be slow, gentle and careful. 
  • Be courteous, if there are other people around snorkeling, don't just swim in or make a huge noise, it will definitely scare off a lot of fish and ruin the moment for other people. 
  • The slower you go, the more you will see, it's as simple as that.
  • Breathe slowly and gently, remain calm at all times, this makes a significant difference to your entire experience. Just cross your arms across your chest as RELAX

Conclusion 

Snorkeling is quite simply put, dead easy, relatively safe and will expose even the most unfit of shore people to something that would otherwise be inaccessible, albeit for health, financial or fitness reasons. Even for experienced divers, a snorkel can often be a wonderful break from the diving gear, noisy bubbles and air/time constraints we normally face. For underwater photographers is offers you a chance to sit on one spot and just watch, wait, much like wildlife photographers do in bird hides on land.
 
Perhaps snorkeling is something we should be promoting more of, it is after all the simplest and most cost effective introduction to what the ocean has to offer and from our experience, the perfect way to expose people of all ages, develop their interest and curiosity about our rich marine biodiversity. More people sharing their crazy enthusiasm for the ocean and its creatures, that can only be a good thing. 

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