Snorkeling 101: Everything You Need To Know

Beneath the shimmering surface of the sea lies a mesmerizing world waiting to be discovered. For those seeking adventure, tranquility, and a glimpse into the wonders of marine life, snorkeling is an extraordinary gateway. With just a mask, snorkel, and fins, you can embark on an exhilarating journey into an underwater paradise. From vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish to the ethereal dance of graceful sea turtles, snorkeling offers a front-row seat to nature’s breathtaking spectacle. In this article, we dive into the depths of snorkeling. We unravel its secrets and unveil the tips and tricks that will transform your underwater explorations into unforgettable experiences. So, slip into your wetsuit, adjust your mask, and prepare to immerse yourself in the captivating world of snorkeling, where adventure and serenity converge beneath the waves.

​If you’ve been on any beach vacation, you might’ve seen those funky snorkeling masks with tubes and wondered how they work. What exactly are they for, and how are they used? You might be doing some research into snorkeling while you plan your next vacation. Either way, we’re here to give you all the basic information you need to start snorkeling today.

What is Snorkeling?

person swimming in body of water during daytime

Photo by Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Let’s start with the basics. Snorkeling is an activity where you swim over the water’s surface while wearing a special diving mask. This diving mask has a snorkel breathing apparatus; that’s how it got its name.

Snorkeling is a way to explore sights under the water’s surface without too much effort. Usually, someone that’s snorkeling will also wear swim fins to make swimming easier.

Using fins is important because snorkeling is most prevalent in warm waters, where there is often much tropical water life to discover. Hence, the swim fins allow someone that’s snorkeling to spend less of their energy swimming through the waves and allows them to enjoy more time observing things under the water.

Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity because people of all ages can do it. The relative lack of necessary equipment makes it much more accessible than scuba, which often requires much more complicated equipment. It’s less dangerous than scuba diving because you generally stay in shallower waters and on the water’s surface.

Despite these differences, scuba diving grew out of snorkeling, or rather its predecessor, known as freediving. Even though the snorkel only works at the surface of the water, you can combine it with breath-holding techniques and dives under the water’s surface in what’s known as freediving to get a better look at the things below.

While this article will focus on the recreational activity, technically, snorkeling is done any time someone uses a snorkel and is done by scuba divers when they are on the water’s surface and in some water-based sports.

Snorkeling is a great activity for those that want to:

  • ​Enjoy time outdoors

  • ​See a variety of undersea life.

  • ​Do something active outdoors without being too strenuous.

  • ​Do something special that everyone in the family can do

Snorkeling skills

​Even though it’s very accessible, a variety of basic skills can still be developed to make the activity more fun and enjoyable, no matter your swimming level or comfort with water sports.


finger of a person with sunscreen

​Image via Pixabay

Just because you’re not scuba diving doesn’t mean you won’t run into everyday dangers associated with the beach and water sports. Even though you’re in the water, your skin is susceptible to sunburn, so you’ll want to be sure to wear waterproof sunscreen of at least 30 SPF.

It’s important to remember you’ll be face-down with your back to the sun, so you’ll have to be sure to cover areas of your skin you may not be used to, like the backs of your knees, legs, and ears. It can also be helpful to wear a waterproof shirt to help keep the sun off of you.

You should always enjoy water activities in groups for safety. You want to make sure everyone in your group has the same plans and knows what to do in case of an emergency. If you’re snorkeling with children, you’ll want to go over water safety with them and maybe practice going out into the water without the snorkeling equipment so they can get comfortable in the environment.

It’s also helpful to have new snorkelers practice using the snorkel in shallow waters or even a pool so they can get comfortable with the different breathing rhythms it can cause and they can get used to the angle they need to swim at to prevent water from splashing into the snorkel, which can be very uncomfortable.


two person swims on opposite direction

Photo by Jonny Clow via Unsplash

When you snorkel, it involves quite a bit of swimming, so everyone can benefit from improving their swimming skills. While a small child could be reasonably held and led along through calm waters, it’s still best to have them comfortable in the water. A good way to do this might be by having some lessons at a local pool before going out.

No matter your swimming level, you’ll want to work on your freestyle swimming technique, as the kick used for freestyle swimming is the same one that needs to be used to swim successfully and economically while wearing the swim fins most people wear while snorkeling.

Improving your swimming skills will also give you more freedom in the water. While most wear floatation vests while snorkeling to make observation easier and more relaxing, they aren’t necessary and can sometimes even make swimming harder to swim in a wave or subtle current. If you’re comfortable enough to swim without a vest and have built the endurance to do so easily, you can even access snorkeling areas you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise and can easily transition into freediving if you want to.

An important thing to remember is that you’ll likely be wearing swim fins while snorkeling, so you’ll want to practice swimming in those as well. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, if you aren’t used to wearing swim fins, your muscles can get sore or may even cramp because the extra lengths of the swim fins put more strain on different parts of your leg. It can be helpful to practice using them in a pool or shallower waters before going on a snorkel excursion.

Conserving Energy

woman snorkeling

Photo by Maja Novak via Unsplash

In the previous section, we used the word excursion for a reason. Sometimes you have to travel out to special snorkel spots to be able to see the impressive sea life and reefs. That means snorkel trips can take all day. Think about how tired travel can make you, especially if you have to take a boat in the sun, and then consider snorkeling on top of that! That’s why learning how to conserve your energy while swimming and using a snorkel is important.

Going for a swim while wearing swim fins and a floatation vest might not sound like hard work, but if you do it for long periods in the sun, you can get tired. The most important thing to remember when snorkeling is to let the equipment do the work for you.

Often, new snorkelers will fall back into freestyle swimming, but using your arms burns more energy than kicking alone and usually isn’t necessary for a leisurely snorkel.

Your technique plays a big role in the amount of energy you expend as well. New snorkelers often try to suck air through the snorkel, which can lead to stifled breathing. Remember to take long, slow breaths through the snorkel and trust that it’ll work for you.

Another factor in conserving energy is the thing that will be using most of it, kicking. Because you’ll be wearing swim fins, you don’t need to kick very hard, and kicking too hard can cause splashing that disturbs the beautiful sea life you’re trying to see.

Snorkeling Equipment

We’ve mentioned some of the basic snorkel gear you’ll need to get started, but there are a few things to consider when looking to either purchase or rent snorkeling gear.


diving mask in the sea

Image via Pixabay

The mask is vital to being able to enjoy your snorkeling experience. You want to make sure your mask is appropriate for outdoor snorkeling. That means it’ll be made of tough material that doesn’t deteriorate in seawater. It will also have a relatively low volume in the mask portion. This design will prevent too much pressure from building around your eyes. It will also be easier to clear if water gets in.

You also want to check to see if the straps on the mask are comfortable. Make sure it fits your head size, as you’ll be wearing it for long periods.

An important note: full-faced snorkel masks have risen in popularity because of their full range of view. But there have been a number of troubling reports about their risks, and we don’t recommend them.


snorkeling fins placed in a wooden char

Image via Pixabay

A key factor when choosing fins is knowing what the temperature will be for the water you’re swimming in. In warm water, you’ll want the extra comfort and security provided by a full-heel swim fin. When swimming in cooler waters, you’ll want a half-heel swim fin that can fit over a wetsuit.

If you’re going to be snorkeling in calmer waters or casually, a shorter swim fin is more comfortable. It requires less exertion and is easier to pack if you buy your own.


Like the swim fins, choosing the right snorkel will depend on the kind of snorkeling you want to do. Most people will be best suited to using a medium-length snorkel. While it might be tempting to get an extra long snorkel to prevent splashing, proper snorkels will be equipped with a filter to prevent water from splashing in easily; long snorkels make it harder to draw breath.

Final Thoughts

group of women snorkeling

via Giphy

In conclusion, snorkeling is a captivating adventure that allows us to connect with the awe-inspiring beauty of the underwater world. Mastering the fundamentals of snorkeling and equipping ourselves with the right gear and knowledge opens up endless opportunities to explore. The ocean comes to life with its vibrant coral reefs and fascinating marine life. We have delved into the essential aspects of snorkeling. From selecting the right equipment to practicing proper techniques for a safe and enjoyable experience. We have also explored the importance of environmental conservation and responsible snorkeling practices. Emphasizing the need to protect and preserve the delicate ecosystems, we have the privilege to witness.

As you embark on your snorkeling journey, always approach the ocean with respect, curiosity, and a sense of wonder. With each dive, you can discover a hidden world beneath the waves. This world will forever inspire and remind you of the extraordinary wonders nature has to offer. So, take a deep breath, and plunge into the crystal-clear waters. Let the magic of snorkeling transport you to a realm of beauty and serenity.

​Now that you know the basics of snorkeling and snorkeling gear, you have all the information you need to get started. Enjoy all the wonderful experiences snorkeling can offer. See you in the water!

​Featured Image: Photo by Carolina Garcia via Unsplash