Is Snorkelling Dangerous? How To Stay Safe In the Ocean
I have been snorkelling since I was very young, and I have chosen to introduce my kids to snorkelling at a very young age. I love this activity so much that when we are choosing our next big trip, we always make sure we are close to a good reef to snorkel on. The big question is is snorkelling dangerous? We will tell you how to stay safe in the ocean.
We have snorkelled all over the world including in Australia, Fiji, All over south east Asia including the Philippines, the Caribbean, Mexico and many other epic locations. It is literally my favourite water sport, and the best part it is free!
Why do I love snorkelling?
When I am snorkelling it puts me in a world of unknowns. It is a serene feeling when you first enter the brisk water, you are full of excitement and a little bit of fear. Will you see something really cool down there? Will it bite?
These are some of the feeling that go through your head when you first step in the water. These feelings of fear will subside as soon as you put your head in the water. I choose to do this very early on the beach so that I don’t step on anything sharp. We like to see where we are going.
I love snorkelling because it gives me the curiosity I had when I was a young child. It makes you feel like you are in one of the adventure books you read when you were a child. And it allows you to explore a different world without having to leave our planet. I love snorkelling because it is within reach, unlike space exploration. And anyone can do it!
Is Snorkelling good for families?
My family loves to snorkel, we all do this together. If you follow us, you will know that we are huge into snorkelling and almost anything water related. I started my kids out snorkelling as soon as they would let me put the goggles on.
This is a free activity you can do anywhere in the ocean. Whether we are at an all inclusive, a cruise or beach vacation, we are always snorkelling. But You must know there are some things to watch out for in order to stay safe.
Is Snorkelling Dangerous?
Yes snorkelling can be dangerous if you are not following the precautions we set out for you. Many people have drowned doing this activity, because they did not follow the rules. The ocean is not man made, and it will not bend to your will. The ocean is unforgiving and hard. Yet it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Although I know this activity can be dangerous, I have my entire family doing it. We just make sure we are following the rules of the water. The love of snorkelling outweighs the dangers of snorkelling for us.
7 Things you need if you are going snorkelling for the first time
1. A snorkel mask
You will absolutely need a mask to go snorkelling, I personally prefer the free standing masks more than the full face masks. The full face masks spoil a person into thinking they are safer than they are. This type of mask does not teach you anything on how to stay safe while snorkelling.
2. Something to cover your feet
Most people choose to use fins when they snorkel, this will allow you to glide nicely through the water. I choose to snorkel without fins because I like to free dive down and I like freedom in the water. I use water shoes.
Either water shoes or fins and an essential when you are snorkelling. On many beaches, it can be rocky when you enter the water. Those rocks will often have sharp coral on it or it may have sharp sea urchins. Wearing the water shoes or the fins will keep your feet safe! I never snorkel without this.
I have been caught in situations where the water has pushed me in a direction where I had to stand up. If I was not wearing water shoes, these situations could have been disasters. You never know what is going to happen in the water and you need to make yourself as prepared as you can for good and bad things to happen.
Water shoes and fins are also natural deterrents to sharks as they do not look like something that is on their menu. Although I am not scared of these animals, any deterrent is good in my eyes.
3. A water shirt
I always wear a water shirt when I snorkel. The one I am using now is called shark skin. I use this for a few reasons. The first being, I like to stay warm in the water. Wearing the water shirt lets me stay out snorkelling longer. The second is buoyancy, the water shirt makes me float more. Again this allows me to have more energy to stay out snorkelling longer. And the third is burning. If you have no shirt on and you are snorkelling in a hot country, your neck and back could burn.
4. A life vest
If you don’t know how to swim, I really hope you are going out on the ocean with a life vest. Even if you can swim just a little bit, it is better to have a life vest when you snorkel. I find that this is true for a few reasons. The first is that wearing the life vest will allow you to relax more in the water, more animals will come close to you because you are not thrashing around. The second reason is that you are easy to see with the bright life vest sticking out of the water. And the third is that it will allow you to snorkel for a longer period of time, because you are not expelling energy of your buoyancy.
5. Water gloves
Water gloves are a lifesaver for me. Remember I mentioned that I had been taken by waves in the past. Having the water gloves on allowed me to touch the rock and coral so that I would not fall over. When the wave took me I fell a few times and had I not worn gloves, my hands would have been very cut up.. Wearing water gloves also lets me stay in the water longer, because my hands are warmer.
6. A whistle
Many snorkels come with whistle on them. They are a safety feature of the snorkel. If something is wrong you can blow your whistle. It is usually located on the mouthpiece of the snorkel.
The snorkel itself is the long piece that goes into your mouth, this allows you to breath underwater.
What do I need for snorkelling?
You will need water, a snorkel set, a sense of adventure, some energy and an open mind.
Is snorkelling dangerous for kids?
I let my kids snorkel and actually encourage it. Snorkelling can be more dangerous for kids in that their immune systems are not as strong as adult immune systems. There was a time that I took my son out, he ended up touching a anemone by accident and his body had a bad reaction to hit. His leg started getting small hive son it and he complained that it was stinging.
So I told him to man up……lol I did not. I rushed him over to my wife and the tour guides. I thought she was going to kill me, but she just wanted this to get dealt with. He ended up being fine in the end, but it was scary.
The other thing that you should take into consideration when you are taking a child snorkelling is that their body temperatures are lower than yours. I remember the last time I went snorkelling with my son, we had gone out a ways and he started to get cold. I was not close to getting cold, but he was. Keep this in mind when you are taking your kids out snorkelling.
What will I see when I go snorkelling?
If you are snorkelling from shore, you will probably not see much in the beginning. Sometimes there will be some baby fish, if you are near a reef. When you swim out a bit, and finally get to a reef, there will be coral both possible soft and hard. Fish of all sizes and colours, small crabs and snails, sometimes you will even see eels! It is really beautiful, much more beautiful than anything you can see in a fish tank. If you are luck you may even see sea turtles, or possibly even reef sharks. But don’t worry, reef sharks won’t bite.
Just remember don’t touch the animals or coral.
Should I rent Snorkel Equipment?
Yes you can rent snorkel equipment if you like, my issue with this is that the snorkel equipment goes in your mouth and many places that rent this stuff, just don’t clean it properly. I prefer to own my equipment, it is so cheap and you will never share another persons germs.
Most places that rent the equipment, buy cheap shit product. Having a crappy snorkel will make the experience less blissful and more work.
Should I buy a snorkel set?
I would definitely buy a snorkel set if you like snorkelling, the sets they sell at costco are cheap and come with fins and sometimes even gloves.
How long should I snorkel for?
I usually spend around 45 minutes out snorkelling depending on where you are travelling. If the water is Hawaii or Mexico warm you can last longer. As I mentioned earlier, I like to snorkel for as long as I can, I bought a shark skin water shirt to keep myself warmer for longer.
For kids I would say my comfort zone would be around 20 minutes in the water. Any more than that can start cooling their core. I want my kids to be excited to go snorkelling and comfort is a part of that for them.
What is the difference between snorkelling and scuba diving?
When you scuba dive, you are totally submerged under water. They usually start you out around 10 ft down and go deeper from there. It is a totally subversive experience….litterally.
When you snorkel, you are above the water line and are breathing in air from a tube in your mouth (the snorkel). It is a safer way to start getting in the water.
When is the best time to snorkel in the Ocean?
The best time to snorkel in the Ocean is early in the morning around 6am. Or late in the evening 7-8pm. This is when the fish are feeding and are highly active. Many fish will return to the reef areas that are best for snorkelling at this time to feed. During these times, the night creatures will be getting ready to sleep for the day and you can catch a glimpse of those as well.
It is a huge difference from snorkelling during the day. When I am on vacation, I get up extra early to do this almost every day.
Do I need to know how to swim to go snorkelling?
No you do not need to know how to swim to go snorkelling. If you cannot swim you must use a life vest if you are going any deeper than waist high. Be aware that in the ocean there can be sudden drop offs, even in ver shallow water. I have walked out many times onto a beach, and all of a sudden it became very deep.
You also have to be aware of a thing called under tows. Under tows is when the ocean sucks the water back underneath the water line. Places like las Cabos in Mexico and many other places in the world are notorious for this. I have heard horror stories about how horses, and brides and grooms have been sucked out into the ocean by the undertow. If you are entering the ocean with no swimming experience you should be wearing a life jacket and heading the signs on the beach for safety.
What is the best place to go snorkelling?
The best places to go snorkelling is near rick formations in the water. These are called reefs and this is where you will see the largest abundance of fish and other marine life. Large reefs are breeding grounds for beautiful fish and coral.
Should I buy a full faced snorkel mask?
This is a slippery slope in my opinion. The full faced snorkel masks are heavily advertised online. They make it look so easy, this is a marketing scheme. Most of the full faced snorkel masks are made in china with very low quality. I actually bought one once just to try it and I quickly realized how dangerous one of these could be. If water were to get in by a wave hitting you, not only would your breathing be impaired but your vision would as well.
If you are first starting out snorkelling, the regular snorkel would be much better.If you want something easier, you can get snorkels with back water valves. These are cheap and will not get water in the breathing tube when you are diving down.
There are even snorkel masks with purge valves built in to them. If water gets in you can exhale into the mask expelling the water.
Learn the right way, and you will learn to love snorkelling for life.
What type of snorkel should I buy?
Costco sells kits made by body glove. They usually come with fins, a mask, gloves and the snorkel with the back water valve built in. I bought this for my kids and they love it. You can go higher end if you like but when you are first starting this is all you need.
The cost for one of these is around 30 bucks. Approximately the same cost as renting a set for a week in Hawaii. In my opinion you are better off buying your own.
7 Tips to Staying Safe While Snorkelling
Swim with a buddy
Swimming with a buddy can save your life. I had times that I was out snorkelling where the water was pulling me out to sea. Having a buddy with me helped me to navigate the best route and techniques to use back to safety. I feel like if I were by myself during these scary moments, I may have panicked.
2. Wear water shoes
This helps you enter and exit the water safely. If you are bare feet, you can cut your feet on coral or rocks.
3. Water gloves are a lifesaver
As per my story above, having water gloves when you snorkel can save you from getting hurt.
4. Don’t touch the animals
Do you know what animals are poisonous or will bite? If not then don’t touch. This is one of the easiest ways to stay safe while you snorkel. I have never, ever been hurt from a marine animal. They are more scared of us than anything. Keep your distance and respect the animals space and you will be safe.
5. Watch out for rock fish
Rock fish plant themselves in sand and sea weed beds. They blend right in and will look like a rock. These things are poisonous and can sting really bad. I always wear fins or water shoes when I enter the water.
6. Check the beach flags
The flags on the beach are an indicator on what the undercurrent is like and how rough the water is. Every public beach will have this, so make sure you check this before you go in the water. There will be a sign there explaining what the different flags mean
7. Make sure there is good visibility
There are many reason why you need good visibility when you snorkel. For one, the main reason animals bite is because they cannot distinguish what they are seeing because of poor visibility. The other reasons is so you can see where you are going and what you are touching.