Snorkeling seems like a self-explanatory, novice friendly activity. While it is much more geared towards beginners than something like diving, many snorkelers get themselves in trouble because they don’t use common sense before getting in the ocean. If you’re planning on going on a snorkeling trip any time in the near future, read over this snorkeling safety guide and share them with your friends. It’s always better to know before you go!
Know How to Swim!
I know this should go without saying, but you should be a confident in your ability to swim out and back in the ocean currents. There are people who go out on snorkeling excursions who either overestimate their ability or don’t go out prepared. If you’re not comfortable, don’t go!
Every snorkeling website suggests not venturing out into the water alone. You’re at a much greater risk of getting in an accident or drowning if you snorkel solo. Choose a buddy who you are comfortable with and stay within 20 feet or one another. Make sure you know what their snorkel mask and fins look like so you can spot each other in and out of the water.
Before you head out, look for posted warnings and obey them, listen to advice that lifeguards may be giving about conditions, find out where the currents are and what the surf conditions are like. If you want a positive experience, find snorkelers who are getting out of the water and ask them where to see the good stuff and what to watch out for. You’ll have a much more positive experience if you do your research first.
In general, you’ll want to avoid snorkeling on really windy days—the conditions just aren’t safe.
Have A Plan!
Establish your points of entry and exit before you go off with your buddy—try to pick sandy areas with little to no surf so you can get out to your spot and back without getting tired from having to battle waves. If you do have to go through some waves, don’t try to jump over them. Instead, dive under them like the local kids will most likely be doing on their boogie boards. Make an effort to come back out where you went in, especially in case you and your snorkeling partner get separated.
Keep Your Eyes on the Shore!
Many beginning snorkelers misjudge their own endurance and either get too far away from the shore or get swept away by deceiving currents. Stay close to the shore and reserve energy if you find yourself getting tired, like I learned when I learned these snorkeling basics.
Make sure you remain aware if your surroundings. I know it can be easy to get distracted by all the cool sea life you’re seeing but don’t get pushed too far into rocky shores where there is pounding surf because you will very quickly get in a bad situation. Watch the tides from the shore before you go out and be careful to not get pulled or dragged by the tides. Again, make sure you ask what areas to avoid before venturing out.
Keep an eye out for surrounding recreational vehicles like boats and jet skis. If you’re in an area that they’re not used to seeing snorkelers, they won’t be looking for you. Carry a diving flag with you if you’re picking a spot that’s in an inconspicuous location.
Don’t be afraid of looking silly by using some kind of flotation device like waist belts or snorkeling vests that are made especially for this kind of activity. The only think that will make you look silly is if you are screaming from the water because you’re losing energy and can’t make it back to shore.
If you’re snorkeling in cold water, make sure you wear a wetsuit or other protective suiting to keep you warm. Cold water is very draining and you will find yourself tired and possibly unable to return to shore. The same can be said of the heat; make sure you’re wearing sunscreen and a rash guard to protect yourself from the sun. Make sure you drink plenty of water before leaving the beach; you don’t want to deal with the irony of being dehydrated while floating in the midst of a gigantic body of water.
To be on the safe side, don’t touch anything while you’re snorkeling, especially if you’re not familiar with what stings and what doesn’t. Most fish and creatures will stay away from you and they’re much more likely to come up and investigate you if you’re relaxed and they don’t feel threatened. If you’re making sudden movements, you’re much more likely to subject yourself harm. You can’t chase creatures of the ocean down so don’t even try. You’ll waist energy and you won’t end up seeing more than you otherwise would. In addition, avoid making contact with the reef—it’ll just harm you and you’ll damage it.
Carry a first aid kit in your snorkel bag for cuts and scrapes you might sustain in the water. It’s also a good idea to get CPR certified in case your partner inhales water or in case of other emergencies. Try practicing CPR both in and out of the water in case you don’t have time to make it back to shore.
Got it? Good. Snorkeling can be such an amazing experience and it’s never worth putting yourself at risk. If you follow these simple snorkeling safety guidelines, you’re sure to come back with some great stories. Be safe and happy snorkeling!