Compared to other aquatic activities, snorkeling is very low-difficulty and fun for the entire family – but like all sports, there are a few risks to watch out for. Every snorkeling destination offers unique obstacles to overcome but a little safety knowledge can go a long way to ensuring peaceful, hassle-free exploration.
What kind of risks can a snorkeler expect? This quick guide will help you prepare for your first snorkeling excursion – safety first!
Choosing a Safe Snorkeling Location
Snorkeling is not a one-person activity. At the very least, every snorkeler needs to have one experienced snorkeling partner and one person to watch from the shore. Beginners, on the other hand, should not snorkel in open water without the assistance of a professional. We suggest booking your first snorkeling excursion with a tour company that offers beginner-level lessons.
Look for a tour company with a good student-to-instructor ratio. Try to avoid mixed-experience groups unless you know that the experienced snorkelers are willing to pair up with and keep an eye on the newer snorkelers.
Your tour company should give you a quick course in snorkeling safety, but it’s still helpful to start planning well before your departure. This guide will explain why – you might need to do some location-specific research beforehand, or you may want to pick up a few safety devices in case anything goes wrong. Trust your tour guides but take initiative when it comes to your own safety.
Safety through Study and Practice
Snorkeling may seem simple at first, but there is always more to learn! Pick up a few snorkeling books or basic how-to guides, most of which will still prove relevant since snorkeling has not changed much in the past few decades. Simply reading a fellow traveler’s trip review should be able to give you plenty of fresh questions to ask your tour guides.
Use what you learn about the snorkeling basics to practice some common tasks. Take your snorkel and fins to the local pool so you can get used to using them (if you don’t have equipment yet, click here for SnorkelGear.com!) Use your pool time to learn how to clear your snorkel and goggles, practice breathing underwater, and try to perfect your snorkeling form.
Don’t forget to study the aquatic life native to that area. Learning how to identify and interact with various sea plants and animals is important for two reasons: checking out the aquatic life is the most enjoyable part of any snorkeling trip, and that same aquatic life can sometimes threaten the safety of snorkelers. The most common risks are certain types of jellyfish, urchin, and coral. Every location has different potentially hazardous species, so research is a necessity.
Packing for a Safe Snorkeling Excursion
First and most importantly, don’t forget to pack your sunscreen! That UV exposure is often very harsh even on the most overcast of days. While sunburn does not seem as threatening as some of the other risks mentioned in this guide, it’s still a very real concern – especially if you plan to snorkel on more than one day of your vacation.
Next, ask your tour provider if they recommend that you bring any safety equipment. Some snorkelers prefer to wear an inflatable snorkeling vest their first few times, especially those that are not very strong swimmers. Others wear a high visibility vest so that the tour guides and other boat operators will be able to see them.
Other helpful safety items include a whistle (so that you can alert the boat that you need help even if they cannot see you), and maybe even a signaling mirror (the reflection catches the eye of passersby in case you become seriously lost somehow).
Make sure that you always carry your waterproof case filled with your identification, insurance information, emergency contact numbers, and medical/allergy warnings. Bring extra copies for the tour company so they know what to do if you sustain an injury.
Always snorkel with safety in mind and make the most of your adventure every time! The more you know, the better your first snorkeling experience will be! Proper preparation will give you peace of mind, and having fewer questions to ask the tour provider will give you more time to take in the surroundings.