Snorkeling is fun, most people agree on this. But your first few times can be a bit uncomfortable, sucking up sea water, unreasonable feelings of panic, not finding any cool critters, fogging mask, you know, those niggly little things that can make a perfectly good morning in the water a lot more complicated than it should be? Here are some simple but important tips to remember
Slowly slowy - relax
Yes, we understand, it can be difficult to relax with your face under water breathing through a glorified straw for the first time, but the key really is to relax, for many reasons more than just for the "sake of relaxing" - Firstly, taking slow relaxed breaths will ensure you do not accidently take in a fat slug of sea water through your snorkel. With fast heavy breathing, all you need is a bit of water to splash into your snorkel and you find yourself having an underwater coughing fit, not cool. If you breathe slow and steady (even if you are terrified) you will notice the water coming in and have a chance to clear your snorkel before inhaling it. See our advice on how to snorkel for tips on clearing your snorkel.
By being totally relaxed you will also start to find how your breathing affects your buoyancy in the water, slow and relaxed, deep, even breathing, you're almost certain to "just float" in the water with very little effort. As you breathe in, you will feel how you float more, as you breathe out, you sink a little. Crazy person breathing and flapping around doesn't do the trick. Focus on nothing else other than slow regular breaths and the pretty colours, cross your arms across your chest and just leave your legs floating gently behind you. Everything will slow down and become a lot more fun.
Be quiet - treat it like a drive in a nature reserve.
You wouldn't think that being quiet underwater is an issue? But it is. Sometimes in the excitement of being in the water you feel the urge to swim about like a mad thing finding new critters, don't worry, we find ourselves doing this all the time. But it's not a good habit. Being in the ocean is much like being in a a game reserve, if you are quiet, drive slowly and look carefully you see all sorts of cool things, if you are racing down the road at 60Km'h with your car's engine roaring, you're unlikely to see anything more than a few Impala. It's the same in the sea, fish and all sorts of critters scatter the moment you get into the water. They do hide and wait for you to pass. Just float quietly and watch an area for 5-10 minutes without moving and you will see what we mean, all sorts of things come out of hiding and even get quite inquisitive. If you are quiet and get close up to the underwater feature, look carefully, minimize how much splashing you cause and keep your hands and arms across your chest, we promise, you'll see a LOT more cool critters.
Use your finger
If you are moving around a shallow area, gently use your finger to pull yourself along (one finger and watch where you put it, you don't want to squash a cool nudi or poke a scorpion-fish) - you will be amazed at how steady you can hold yourself, even in a good current, using just your index finger as an anchor. We don't mean grabbing a patch of coral like a nice juicy apple, we do really mean, just using one single finger to steady yourself, as in the pic above. It's surprisingly effective, allows you to hold yourself steady with zero effort, no noise and no flapping of fins behind you.
Get a waterproof torch
Even when snorkeling in broad daylight, we have found having a small underwater torch is very handy for spotting creatures hiding under ledges or in small caves. Moray Eels, many little shrimp species and a load of more unusual fish take refuge in dark caves and under overhangs during the day. Shine a light inside and you'll see things, cool things. Try it.
Dealing with mask fog
Every snorkelers nemesis, the fogging mask. Why your mask fogs and how to fix it is a bit like getting your swimming pool blue after it turns green, everyone has a theory and favorite solution but none of them work every time or work for you. New masks tend to fog more than old masks, however, we have had days where an old mask that has been working great for months suddenly decides that today is the day and won't stop fogging. It just happens. How to deal with it? Trick number one of course is to give your mask lens a good rubbing with some spit (or cucumber) before getting into the water. Also be sure to wet your face thoroughly, the temperature difference between a warm face and the cooler water is a sure cause of fogging. But the most fool proof method, let a little bit of water into your mask, just so it sits at the lower part when you look ahead (and doesn't affect your vision) ...when the fog comes, just look down, the little bit of water will run forward across the fog and clear it. Repeat if necessary. If you have scuba dived, you will of course also have learned how to flood and clear your mask totally, this is also great, if you can.
Try not stand at all
Besides the fact that by standing you're almost certainly squashing something with those great big fins you are wearing, you will almost always get some sand in your fins after standing on the sea floor. Sand in fins = guaranteed discomfort and even some nasty blisters. Always keep your fins and feet behind you. If you must stand for some reason, first look where you are putting your feet, then take the time to remove your fin and clear the sand before continuing. Another downside to standing, especially in small enclosed areas or tidal pools, you stir up sediment and your visibility decreases rapidly, we have seen crystal clear water turn murky in a matter of minutes with enough stomping around and sediment being stirred up.
Hope these are helpful, any other peals of wisdom you can add to this or things that really niggle you in the water?