- What is snorkeling?
Snorkeling is swimming with fins, a mask, and a tube called a snorkel that allows you to have your face down in the water and still breathe.
- What is the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving?
Snorkeling doesn’t require tanks or regulators. Scuba diving allows you to breathe underwater, while snorkeling allows you to breathe while you are on the surface with your face down. Snorkeling doesn’t require any certification, while scuba diving requires certification.
- Why do people snorkel?
Because it’s fun!
- Is snorkeling safe?
One of the wonderful things about snorkeling is that people of all ages can participate. And one of the great things about Puerto Rico is that there are many great places for beginners to try it out.
- Do I need to be a good swimmer?
Well, it sure can’t hurt, but it’s not required. It is recommended that you do have some comfort and experience when you are in water though. A few things to consider are that your fins help you a great deal in terms of movement, and they float. The mask that you wear has air trapped in it and helps you float as well. If you don’t feel safe enough, you can also use snorkeling belts to float, which are included on all our snorkeling tours.
- What equipment do you need to snorkel?
Well, there are three main things that most snorkelers use.
This allows you to see underwater without getting your eyes and nose wet. It’s important that the mask is a good fit when renting or buying. If the mask doesn’t fit well, you will experience some leakage of water in the mask. I would highly recommend using a mask that has a “silicon skirt.” The skirt is the soft substance that is molded to fit your face and prevents water from entering the mask. You can also rent or buy masks that use rubber as the skirt, but the seal is not nearly as good as the silicon and is quite simply a dated technology. Ask your local snorkel or dive shop about choosing a mask that fits well. They will know what to look for.
This is what makes you a snorkeler. A snorkel is a hollow curved tube that is placed in the mouth and allows you to breathe while you are face down in the water. So basically, while you looking down into the water, the other end of the snorkel is sticking out of the water.
This is what makes life a lot of fun. Fins allow you to swim like a fish. Yeeehaw! There are two kinds of fins, but for snorkeling in warm water, most people will do just fine with the closed-heel kind. The open-heel kind is more for scuba divers, requiring a special boot (bootie), or for colder waters. Make sure that the fins are a good fit, or else you will either be cutting off circulation to your feet or they will easily come off. Make sure that they are a snug fit, but you should be able to wiggle your toes.
- How do I snorkel?
It’s a good idea to get comfortable with your equipment before you go out to the reef. Try out the equipment at your hotel pool. The first step is getting used to the mask. One thing about masks is that they have a tendency to fog up. You can either apply anti-fog goop (available at the dive shop) to the inside of the mask, or you can use your own spit. It sounds gross, but spit works quite well for preventing the fogging up of your mask. Make sure that the spit/anti-fog goop is spread across the full surface of the glass on the inside of the mask. Now wash it out in the water. This should prevent, or at least greatly reduce, any fogging up of the mask. When putting on the mask, make sure there are no hairs stuck in between the silicon part of the mask. Hair will break the seal that keeps the water from entering the mask. Also, keep the strap in the middle of the back of your head, and don’t have the strap too tight. Now, put on your mask on and look underwater while you’re standing up. You’re looking underwater. No fish yet, but soon…
Next, attach the snorkel to your mask strap with the clip that’s on the snorkel. Put the snorkel in your mouth and breathe. Don’t try to breathe with your nose or else the mask will quickly fog up. Breathe through your mouth in relaxed, normal breaths. Now try breathing with your face in the water. Nothing to it, right? Take as long as you want to get used to breathing underwater. That’s the biggest mental hurdle for first-time snorkelers. Are you comfortable yet?
If so, put on your flippers and give it a try. With your face down and body stretched out, start kicking with your fins. Remember to keep your legs straight while you lightly kick. You don’t have to thrash around to swim well. Stay relaxed, and swim around the pool, getting used to breathing, kicking, and looking around.
- Can you go underwater with a snorkel? What if I want to get close to things?
Although many snorkelers dive underwater, I have found that some people would rather not, or don’t find the need to do so. If you see a fish several feet below you though, and you want to get a closer look, you’ll have to dive down. By doing this, your snorkel will fill up with water, and you will not be able to breathe until you clear the passage of your snorkel of water once you have resurfaced. It sounds a bit iffy, but it’s a common thing for more experienced snorkelers to dive down and fill their snorkel with water.
To clear the snorkel of water, you must resurface, give a good strong blow of the snorkel as your head reaches the surface once again, and the top of the snorkel has penetrated the surface of the water. This should clear most if not all of the water that has filled the snorkel and allow you to breathe normally through the snorkel once again. If you use what is called a “purge” snorkel, (which I would recommend), you will rarely get water back in your mouth. I would also recommend trying this technique first in a pool.
Once you get comfortable doing this as well as the other techniques mentioned, you will feel more confident and will have a more positive, relaxed experience out on the reef.
- What conditions are good for snorkeling?
The best time to go is when the waves are minimal and it’s sunny outside. Not only do large waves make things more challenging to get around and potentially dangerous, but a disturbance such as big waves also make the water murky, greatly decreasing visibility. I’ve had to cancel a few snorkeling trips because the waves were too high. A good rule of thumb is, if there are surfers in the area, it’s probably a bad day or place to go snorkeling. Bays often offer more protection from a surge (big waves). The ideal snorkeling conditions are waves at 0-1 feet. Listen to the radio for a marine forecast, which should mention these kinds of conditions.
It’s also best to go snorkeling when the sun is out. Sunlight increases visibility and brings out the true colors of fish and coral. It brings out the “wow” factor for fish and the overall experience. But the sun also brings out the sunburn factor. If you’re not wearing some sort of wet suit, shorty, or other coverings, makes sure that you’ve got your back, neck, shoulders, butt, and thighs covered in sunblock. To make things a bit easier, I would often just wear an old junky shirt.
- How do I take care of my equipment? How should I store it?
Protect your equipment from light, heat, and fumes. Sunlight is known to damage the silicon parts of the mask, making the seal brittle. Heat also degrades the mask as well as the snorkel.
After you finish snorkeling, make sure your equipment gets washed off with fresh water. Salt water that dries will start wearing away at your equipment. Many beaches have a place to do this. If not on the beach, make sure you wash the equipment off back in your hotel room that day.
It’s also a good idea to wash your mask lens with soap or toothpaste every once in a while. This washes away any grease that causes your mask to fog up. Just make sure that you’ve washed it out well so there is no residue.
Don’t pile heavy objects on top of any of your equipment. Prolonged weight on top of a mask, snorkel, or fins can warp them. To avoid bent fins, they should lie flat and not on their tips. Keep walking in your fins on land to a minimum.