Dec 2019

Planning a Snorkeling Trip? This is what you need to know.

By Elena Vivaldo

Let’s be honest: there is a lot of misconception when it comes to snorkeling. Scuba divers often overlook it, and beginners are usually afraid of what this water sport entails. But because we can reframe our thinking in ways that make us more aware of our surroundings, this guide will open your eyes to the snorkeling world – which in turn will boost your confidence.

And you know what? Learning to snorkel won’t just make you a more successful swimmer – it will change the way you experience the world.

  • It makes you fitter and healthier, as you gently build your muscles.
  • It gives you a skill you can use almost anywhere in the world, from your home waters to exotic travel destinations.
  • It makes you a more interesting person to talk to – as you’ll have a wide repertoire of underwater adventures.
  • It reconnects you with nature, as you see animals in their natural environment (imagine swimming alongside a manta ray or a whale shark).
  • It will even make you happier and appreciate the little things in life (like taking a dip in crystal-clear waters).

Snorkeling will give you all this and much, much more. To deliver on the premise of this article, here are the essential snorkeling aspects that you need to know.

What Does Snorkeling Mean?

“Snorkel” is one of those funny words that we’re used to having in the English language, but if you say it a few times, it just sounds strange.

The snorkel refers to the tube swimmers use to breathe while keeping their face submerged. Hence, snorkeling refers to the leisurely activity of swimming on the sea surface and looking at the aquatic world beneath through a mask – while continuously breathing through the snorkel.

What is a snorkel

Snorkel was first used in 1945 to refer to submarines’ intake and exhaust tubes and the noise they made when in use. The word is an anglicized spelling from German schnorchel (“submarine snorkel”), related to schnarchen (“to snore”).

Who Invented Snorkeling?

Man’s fascination for the ocean’s depth can be traced back centuries, as far as 5000 years ago. Through the years, technologies have evolved to facilitate underwater exploration, from rustic hollow reeds to diving bells and finally, to today’s modern snorkel.

Where Did Snorkeling Originate?

The concept of snorkeling was first recorded in 3000 B.C on the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea, where skin divers used hollow reeds to collect sea sponges.

How Snorkeling Works

Right, let’s get into the practical part: how does snorkeling work? With few prerequisites and little snorkeling gear required, it’s easy to get started. So grab a mask, snorkel, fins and a healthy dose of motivation.

Step #1: Improve Your Swimming Performance

If you’re not a confident swimmer, you can get by with a life west and still enjoy what snorkeling has to offer. But, honestly, a life jacket will hinder your movements and make it impossible to dive and take a closer look at fish and corals.

So, take your time to improve your swimming technique in a swimming pool, paying particular attention to your swimming kick, as snorkeling is more about floating and using your legs than arm strokes. When you feel like taking things a notch higher, practice swimming with fins – as it will allow you to move through the water with less effort.

Pro tip: Beginners might find it unnatural to wear a mask and breathe through a tube, so get comfortable wearing the snorkeling gear. Don’t worry, after a few sessions snorkeling becomes second nature.

Snorkeling Sea

Step #2: Improve Your Breathing and Breath-Holding Technique

Snorkelers are often unaware that they are effectively engaging in breathing exercises. Even on the surface, snorkelers regulate in and out breaths through their mouth.

More advanced snorkelers, like to dive and spend longer times underwater while holding their breath and getting up close to marine life.

Snorkeling - breathing underwater

Step #3: Breathe In, Breathe Out, Relax

Learn to move with minimal effort, and let the occasional kick do the work. Snorkeling is not about wearing yourself out to the point of exhaustion, but rather spending up to a few hours admiring the aquatic world bursting with colours and marine life.

Are Snorkeling and Scuba Diving the Same?

It’s fair to say that snorkeling is a precursor of scuba diving and thus shares some similarities. Both activities give exclusive access to the underwater world, but they are not the same thing.

Essentially, snorkeling is all about taking in a panoramic view of the underwater world from the surface, while scuba diving sees divers completely immerse themselves underwater with a scuba diving kit. Read more about snorkeling vs scuba diving.

Where to Go Snorkeling

Choose a good location, obviously..

When you’re first starting out, avoid places with currents or waves. Rougher waters equal to more effort you have to put into going from one place to another, and nobody likes that. Instead, choose a spot with calm waters with plenty to see – it’s no fun looking at a barren reef.

Pro tip: If you’re not ready to jump off a boat, start snorkeling from the beach, where you can stay at a depth you are comfortable with.

Where to go snorkeling

Where to Go Snorkeling in Bali

Bali has something for everyone, and every year it attracts thousands of visitors who come to enjoy its cuisine, history and culture. Not surprisingly, Bali is also a hotspot destination for sea lovers, from surfers to scuba divers and snorkelers.

Snorkeling USAT Liberty Shipwreck – Tulamben, Bali

As well as being one of the best wrecks in the world for scuba divers, the USAT Liberty it is also a must-visit for snorkelers. The wreck starts at 5m (16 feet) and is home to many fish and an impressive selection of soft and hard corals.

Snorkeling With Manta Rays – Nusa Islands, Bali

Snorkeling with manta rays is the ultimate snorkeling experience. The Nusa islands are a manta point, meaning that your chances of snorkeling with manta rays here are pretty high!

Snorkelin Manta Ray Bali

Where to Go Snorkeling in Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is a fascinating island to explore. Famous for its natural beauty, snorkeling in Phuket is ideal for beginners and advanced snorkelers alike.

Snorkeling Phuket

Freedom Beach, Phuket

Located a short ride away from the crowded Patong Beach, Freedom Beach is a quieter alternative. With white sand and excellent marine life, snorkeling in Freedom Beach is an enjoyable experience.

Ao Sane Beach, Phuket

By far, one of the best places to go snorkeling in Phuket. Isolated from the rest of the crowded beaches, Ae Sane Beach boasts a coral reef that is accessible all-year-round.

Where to Go Snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is known for being a prime destination for scuba divers, but the snorkeling scene is pretty impressive too, with spectacular coral reefs with all the colours of the rainbow.

Snorkeling Cozumel

Dzul-Ha Reef, Cozumel

Dzul-Ha Reef is a top snorkeling site, with a healthy and vibrant coral reef with many tropical fish.

Paradise Reef, Cozumel

The name says it all. Snorkeling at Paradise Reef you can expect an underwater life that falls nothing short of spectacular. Ideal for seasoned snorkelers and nature lovers looking for paradise.

Where to Go Snorkeling in Maui, Hawaii

Maui is known for its beautiful landscape and pristine beaches, as well as incredible snorkeling options.

Snorkeling with turtles Maui

Black Rock Beach, Maui

Black Rock is the prominent rocky peninsula on the stretch of white sand of Kaanapali Beach. The epic underwater sights are topped by the Hawaiian torch lighting ceremony. Once the coastline and Black Rock are lit, the nightly ritual ends with the torch lighters cliff jumping. Don’t miss it!

Molokini Crater, Maui

This volcanic islet of Molokini is just off Maui, and a popular snorkeling and diving spot. Its perfect visibility and dramatic rock formations are second to none. Tropical fish inhabit these waters, and there have been sightings of manta rays and whale sharks.

Can Snorkeling Be Dangerous?

The truth is that snorkeling is one of the most popular and safest water activities. Although not an extreme sport, it does have its risks, make no mistake about it.

Safety tip: Make sure you’re in good physical health and a good swimmer. Avoid snorkeling in areas with strong currents and waves, and never snorkel alone – especially if you’re in the open ocean.

Can Snorkeling Cause A Sore Throat?

Some people experience some pain in the back of their throat after snorkeling. This could be down to not swallowing saliva while breathing with a snorkel, causing a dry mouth and, consequently, a sore throat sensation.

Safety tip: Make sure you start your snorkeling trip well hydrated.

Can Snorkeling Cause Vertigo?

We’ve all experienced it: a sudden movement of the head and we get the feeling that the world is spinning around us. The same can happen while snorkeling. When snorkeling, we often change direction quickly (most of the times to follow a fish), and doing so can upset the balance in our ears. Although it’s hard to contain the excitement when spotting something interesting, try to minimize your body and head movement.

Safety tip: If you experience dizzy spells while snorkeling, stop and regain your balance by focusing on a point straight ahead. If necessary, exit the water.

Can Snorkeling Be Done by Non-Swimmers?

The short answer is yes. But it is strongly recommended that you learn to swim before snorkeling.

With that being said, here are some essential snorkeling tips for non-swimmers:

  • Never snorkel alone: go with a friend, family member or with a local snorkeling guide.
  • Wear a life jacket: a flotation device will keep you safely afloat while you admire the marine life.
  • Choose a non-swimmer-friendly snorkeling location: calm and clear waters are a must.
  • Know your snorkeling gear: get familiar with the equipment (i.e. wearing a mask and breathing through a snorkel).

Snorkeling for non swimmers

Can Snorkeling Make You Seasick?

Generally, the best snorkeling spots are a boat ride away, and for some, the movement of the boat can trigger a wave of nausea. Others are more susceptible to motion sickness, and just floating on the sea is enough to make them feel queasy.

Here Are Some Tips for Combating Seasickness:

  • Go out on a calm day: you can’t control the weather, but you can pick days when the water is calmer.
  • Take medication: seasickness medication is an effective solution against seasickness. Take it before getting in the water (or boat). Remember to investigate the side effects (some are known for causing drowsiness).
  • Go ginger: if you’re not a fan of pharmaceuticals, there are natural remedies for seasickness. The best one is ginger; many people swear by ginger tea and biscuits.

Can Snorkeling Cause a Sinus Infection?

Under some circumstances, yes, snorkeling can cause a sinus infection. When snorkeling, water enters the ear and sinus cavities, and it can damage the delicate membrane inside. Also, when you go underwater, the increased pressure affects your sinus, which can cause a sinus blockage and – ultimately – a sinus infection.

Why Snorkeling is Fun!

Snorkeling is an easy, fun, safe and relaxing activity for the whole family to enjoy. With little strain on your body, snorkeling is a great way to improve your overall fitness, as well as build your confidence in the water and boost your mood. The beauty of snorkeling lies in its simplicity, as you can make of it what you want: a slow surface swim or – for the more experienced – breath-holding dives. Either way, snorkeling is a fun and rewarding activity.


Although often underrated, snorkeling is an opportunity to connect with nature and observe underwater life without the bulky equipment and training required for scuba diving. Snorkeling does not involve expansive gear, and it adds a new dimension to your holiday because as well as sightseeing or sunbathing, you have the skill to explore exciting underwater attractions.

With snorkeling, you really get the best of both worlds! :)

Photo Credit(s): Helmardine, dMap Travel Guide, Tchami, amanderson2, Steve Jurvetson, Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge


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Elena Vivaldo

One thing's for sure, I slowly drifted into becoming a PADI instructor.
I took my first breath underwater when I was 10 while on holiday in Turkey, and got my open water certification at 16, in Thailand.

Initially, diving was simply something I enjoyed doing while on holiday, but at some point, I decided to up my game and to make something out of it. I've always loved travelling, and diving gave me the freedom to travel and work at the same time. So I took my first step towards becoming a PADI pro, and I did my divemaster internship in Tenerife. I worked on the island for a few months before heading to India to further hone my diving skills.

Years later, and with many dives under my weight belt, I've had the great opportunity to introduce people to the underwater world and to explore many exciting dive destinations. There is nothing I like more than seeing new dive sites around the world (my weakness).

When not teaching, I continue to share my love for diving by writing about it. As a copywriter, I can blend my diving and writing skills to create insightful content. But more importantly, I've found a way to stay connected to the world beneath the waves even when I'm out of the water.

Diving Qualifications:
- PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor
- PADI Speciality Instructor: deep, wreck, night, enriched air, O2
- EFR Instructor
- Scubapro Level 1 Technician

Dream Diving Destinations:
- Palau
- Cenotes, Mexico
- Galapagos
- Vancouver Island, Canada
- Sardine Run, South Africa
- Mass coral spawning, Great Barrier Reef