Swimming in the ocean is one thing, but have you ever wondered what lurks beneath the surface of those crashing waves? It’s an entirely different planet down there, rich with color and teeming with strange and unusual creatures that you never even knew existed.
Snorkeling is one of the easiest ways to see that underwater world firsthand. But if you’re new to snorkeling, it may sound daunting and scary. But you don’t have to be! Because in this guide on how to snorkel we cover some great snorkeling tips and techniques for beginners to make you feel confident and look like a pro.
So, even if you’ve never dipped a single toe into the ocean before, you can still enjoy the experience by following our simple snorkeling tips and tricks.
Why Snorkeling is an Absolutely Incredible Experience
Snorkeling gives you the chance to see one of the least explored places on earth. The ocean is a vast, seemingly boundless place filled with unique sites you simply could never see on land.
When you go snorkeling, you can observe the fragile, colorful coral reef systems and come face to face with rare marine life like tropical fish, turtles, manta rays, and even whale sharks. You don’t have to go deep or far into the ocean to see a diverse array of flora and fauna with your own eyes.
And best of all, snorkeling requires minimal equipment and training. With a little patience and practice, anyone can learn how to snorkel in a day or two!
Things to Keep in Mind when Learning How to Snorkel
Although snorkeling is relatively easy compared to other water activities like scuba diving, it still takes a certain skill set and an adjustment period to get used to the new equipment.
This is especially true with your mask and snorkel. At first, it might feel very unusual to breathe through a small tube (remember, your nose is in your mask, so you can only breathe through your mouth). However, it will start to feel more natural with practice and experience, so don’t worry if you need to do a few test runs before jumping into the ocean.
Once you’re underwater, you’ll see plenty of new things that you probably have never seen before. Being surrounded by schools of fish and other marine animals is very exciting, although it can also be intimidating for first-time snorkelers as well.
The best way to combat those feelings is to remain calm and focus on your breathing. But If at any time you feel uncomfortable or panicky, then you can put your head above water or return back to land or the boat.
TIP: Not all travel insurances cover accidents caused by snorkeling. So, make sure to check your travel insurance before you go, or find out what travel insurance does cover snorkeling in our extended travel insurance guide.
7 Snorkeling Tips for Beginners on how to snorkel
1. Triple Check Your Equipment
If you want to learn how to snorkel it’s important to make sure that every piece of equipment is strapped, adjusted, and fitted before hopping into the water. The last thing you want to be doing is fussing with your mask or fins while trying to stay afloat.
You want your mask to be tight around the widest part of your head. Make sure the straps are snug and that there aren’t any gaps between the mask and your skin (this will cause your mask to fill up with water).
2. Practice in a Pool or Shallow Waters
Breathing through a snorkel can feel strange, which is why you should practice before you embark on a full-blown snorkeling trip. You can train your body to get used to the feeling by going for a test run in a pool or on the shallow shores. Strap on your mask and dip your face into the water to see what it feels like to breathe through the snorkel.
This is also a great way to test your equipment to make sure it fits. You can adjust your mask and practice blowing water from the snorkel to make sure everything is in tip-top shape.
3. Snorkel from the Beach
One of our best snorkeling tips for beginners is to start at the beach. A lot of tours will take you out on a boat, but the feeling of being far from land can be overwhelming when you’re just learning how to snorkel. Sticking close to shore means you can focus on your swimming and breathing technique without worrying about being stuck in deep waters.
This also means you’ll want to find a beach with lots of exciting things to see near the shore. Snorkeling for beginners should be done in calm, clear waters with a variety of coral or marine life close to land.
4. Pay Attention to the Weather
Even though you’re underwater, the weather can significantly impact what you’re able to see while snorkeling. Rain can affect water visibility (especially if you’re swimming in a shallow area), and heavy winds can change the current, which might make it more difficult for you to stay afloat next to the ocean’s surface.
When researching where to snorkel, you’ll want to take into consideration the weather patterns of the area. The ideal scenario is clear skies and sunshine, although overcast skies can also be pleasant if you’re snorkeling somewhere tropical. And when the sun is shining bright, keep in mind that the beams are even more powerful in the water. So, make sure to protect yourself with sunscreen and/or a rash guard.
5. Wear Appropriate Swimwear
It’s not the best time to whip out that barely-there two-piece bikini when you want to learn how to snorkel. Not only should you choose something practical and comfortable, but you should also wear something that won’t slip off if you swim fast or hit a strong current.
If you’re planning on snorkeling in colder water, then you might consider wearing a wetsuit to keep you warm. And as said before, you can also choose to wear a rash guard to help protect you from the sun. This will also help to protect you from any sharp, pokey, or itchy objects floating around in the water.
6. Stay Calm and Focus on Breathing
If this is your first time snorkeling, then being underwater for extended periods of time will take getting used to. Even if you’re right next to the surface, it will probably feel strange to swim, breathe, and pay attention to everything that’s happening around you.
However, it’s crucial that you remain calm and relaxed. The more you panic, the more energy you’ll use trying to stay focused. If you start to feel panicky, we recommend focusing on taking long, deep breaths. And if worse comes to worst – don’t worry. You can simply pop your head above water for a fresh breath of air.
7. Make sure you have proper snorkeling equipment
Your snorkeling equipment can either make or break your underwater experience. This is especially true when you are still learning how to snorkel. This is why it’s worth investing in gear that’s durable, comfortable, and long-lasting. Below we’ll give you some tips on snorkeling gear, but feel free to look around to see if something else is a better fit for you.
Mask and Snorkel
A comfortable mask is the key to having a good snorkeling experience. One that is too tight can cause discomfort and headaches, while masks that are too loose will let in lots of water – two things you definitely don’t want when learning how to snorkel!
One way to test if your mask is a good fit is by holding it to your face and breathing in through your nose. If it’s tight and secure (no air pockets), then your mask is the right size.
- Our best pick: Mares Premium Snorkeling Mask with Tempered Glass, snorkel included
- Budget option: Wacool Snorkeling Mask, snorkel included
Swim fins allow you to navigate the ocean waters with ease. You can go a lot further with a few fin kicks than you would by paddling with your bare feet. When trying on fins for size, you might notice they feel a lot tighter than your normal pair of shoes – but this is totally normal. You want the fins to be snug, so they don’t fall off when kicking.
Although it’s not necessary, a floatation device or life vest can be useful if you’re not a very strong swimmer. Not only will it keep you safe in deep waters, but it can also help you relax so you can fully enjoy your first snorkel experience.
If you’re spending any amount of time outdoors, then you’ll want to protect your skin from painful sunburns and harmful rays. However, you can’t just slather on any cheap sunscreen you find at the store. If you’re snorkeling around fish and delicate corals, then you’ll need to wear sunscreen that is reef friendly or free of octinoxate or oxybenzone.
- Our top pick: Sun Beam, in a handy travel pack with sunscreen, lip balm and cool down lotion
Learning how to properly defog your mask is a critical part of learning how to snorkel – because if you can’t see what’s in front of you, then what’s the point of snorkeling?!
Cleaning the inside of your mask with a defogging spray or gel will prevent moisture from accumulating. We’ve also heard that baby shampoo can also work as a defogging solution. But if you’re in a real pinch, a little spit also works wonders.
Wetsuit or Rash Guard
Wetsuits are generally a good idea if you’re swimming in colder climates. You’ll feel much more comfortable and burn far less energy if you’re staying warm. In addition, it also blocks UV rays and protects you against particles in the ocean that could irritate your skin.
If it’s too warm to wear a wetsuit, you can also opt for a rash guard instead. They also protect against the sun, and many first-time snorkelers will wear one over their swimsuit or bikini.
How to snorkel: Do’s and Don’ts
We know you’re going to absolutely love your first time snorkeling. But as with all new things, there are a few things to keep in mind before you embark on this new underwater experience.
Do Go with a Buddy
If this is your first time snorkeling, then you’ll want to make sure you have a more experienced snorkeler or swimmer with you at all times. Although snorkeling is a relaxing activity, you’ll never know when you might come across a strong current or area with sharp rocks that could turn a gentle swim into a potentially dangerous situation.
Do Look for Other Snorkelers
Looking for a good snorkeling spot is also part of learning how to snorkel. Always keep your eye out for where other people are. Not only does this mean the waters are generally safe for swimming, but it’s also likely that there could be a lot of interesting things to see.
Don’t Exert All Your Energy Swimming
One of the biggest snorkeling tips we can give you is to float instead of swim. The more you paddle or kick around, the more exhausted you’ll become, which means you’ll have less time to enjoy being in the water. Try to keep your body flush against the surface of the water, or use a life vest or floatation device to help keep you afloat.
Don’t Touch Anything
That goes for corals and marine animals! Not only are many underwater creatures dangerous, but touching or interfering with their habitat can be destructive to the underwater ecosystem. Make sure to keep your distance from all types of creatures, including living coral reef systems.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
Here’s one last tip on how to snorkel: There’s a lot to see your first time snorkeling underwater, which can be very exciting. However, all these new sights and senses can also be a lot to handle, and you don’t want to become too overwhelmed with this new experience. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or tired, you should take off your mask or even head back to shore. The ocean isn’t going anywhere!
These are just a few tips to make your first snorkeling experience a memorable one! If you have any other tips on how to snorkel, please leave a comment below. Also check out our other travel tips for more travel inspiration.