May 2015

Snorkeling Safety Tips

By Mike Waddington

Snorkelling is a great activity that can be enjoyed by almost anybody who has access to a body of water, such as a lake, a river or the ocean. Snorkelling is often shunned by scuba divers, but snorkelling is cheaper than scuba diving, generally safer, it requires less instruction, it takes less time and most importantly, it is open to (almost) everyone. If you are an avid diver, you can snorkel on the last day of your trip before you need to fly home, or it is a great way to get the younger members of the family interested in the oceans.

These tips can help make your next snorkelling adventure even safer and more enjoyable:

Always Have a Buddy.
The vast majority of diving accidents occur when a diver is alone, so having a buddy is always a good idea in case something goes wrong. The same applies to snorkelling, you should always go with a buddy and you should stick together.

One Up, One Down. The one up, one down rule applies to those who like to throw a bit off Apnea (freediving) into their snorkel sessions. It means exactly what it says. If you of your buddy teams swim down to the bottom, the other one should stay on the surface. This way the one left on the surface can keep boats away. If the free diving snorkeler gets into trouble underwater the surface support can be ready to quickly duck down and help out.

Stay Close to the Shore. When people first get into snorkelling they often misjudge their own endurance and capabilities. Longshore drifts and rip currents can quickly carry you away from where you intended to be, and with a mask and snorkel, most people won’t even realise they are caught in a current until they are far away.

Retain Some Energy. Even if you are a super strong swimmer you should still take a floatation device with you, especially if you are swimming a little way from the shore. Snorkelling can actually be a very strenuous exercise because conditions are generally worse at the surface than underwater, which is where you will be spending most of your time. Cold waters can also drain your heat quickly, which will have a negative level on your strength levels, so if it is cold water then you should wear appropriate exposure protection.

No Touching. Just like when you are diving, you should never touch another organism underwater. Most creatures will actively try to avoid you, but the shallows can be full of cool but potentially dangerous creatures such as stonefish or cone shells. The best way to make sure you don’t get attacked by anything is by keeping a respectful distance away.

Watch your Surroundings. Keep an eye on where you and your buddy are in relation to the whole area. Keep an eye out for boat traffic and warn them if they get too close. Be careful around rocky shores if the surf is pumping, a rogue wave can easily take a person and dump them onto very shallow and usually sharp rocks. Because you and your buddy will spend most of your time at the surface, you both need to keep an eye on the surface conditions and call it a day if they get bad.

Protect from the Sun. When you go diving you will normally spend a bit of time in the sun, but most of the time you will be underwater away from the worst of its harmful UV rays. When you go snorkelling you will be very exposed to the sun, and its effects are made worse by the reflective water. When snorkelling it is a good idea to wear a full wetsuit, or at least long board shorts and a t-shirt. The area most at risk is the shoulders, back and neck, so make sure you cover these areas up properly.

Be Seen. You should always let somebody onshore know what you are doing, and roughly where you are going. You should take something bright out with you, such as a life jacket or an SMB. This will help make yourself stand out to passing boats. Although many snorkels have bright orange or yellow tips, I would still advise taking out something bigger, and the small snorkel tip may go unnoticed until it is too late.

One of the best things about snorkelling is that it is cheap to get into, and then when you have the equipment it is free! To get the most out of snorkelling you should buy your own mask, snorkel and fin set. Don’t be too cheap with this, as a poor quality set will be uncomfortable and break quickly. A good mask and snorkel set you cost you between £40 and £60, and fins should be an additional £50.

‘Snorkeling Safety Tips’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!


PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia