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Snorkeling is a fun activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family. It is a fun way to get up close and personal with the ocean and its inhabitants. People who snorkel often do so as a way to relax or enjoy the aesthetical beauty that lakes and oceans have to offer. It is also a popular vacationing activity. The area that you visit depends on what you will see on your adventure. Snorkeling in Cancun or Maui, for example, gives you the chance to meet green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles, starfish, angel fish, moray eels, octopi, whale and barracuda sharks, and many other creatures. And that only scratches the surface of the reef. Before you are ready to take in the scenery and have a great time snorkeling, however, knowing what to do and the equipment you need is essential. Then, not only will you have a great experience, you will have a safe one too.
Snorkeling: Why Do It?
We have already discussed the aesthetical beauty and the great time that you experience with loved ones while snorkeling, but did you know that it has numerous physical benefits as well? Here are just some of the health benefits that you experience while snorkeling.
Physical Health Benefits
Like any outdoor sport, snorkeling is great for your overall health. It requires physical exertion, though it is a gentle exertion, as well as cardiovascular benefits. Here are some of the health benefits:
- Improved Breathing– As you snorkel, you breathe through a tube. This comes with a greater resistance than breathing freely, so the benefit lies in the increase of your maximum oxygen intake, which more fully expands the lungs.
- Burns Calories– Snorkeling for an hour offers great sights. While you are enjoying them though, you can burn up to three hundred calories.
- Increased Muscle Tone– Snorkeling exercises your quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles, hip flexors, core, and shoulders. Because this is done in the water, however, the exercise is low impact. This makes it a great sport for people of all levels of fitness.
- Improved Cardiovascular Health– Snorkeling increases heart rate and strengthens the heart muscle. Strengthening the heart muscle can decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
- Better Joint Mobility– Exercising in water reduces the impact generally associated with cardiovascular activity such as walking or jogging.
Mental Health Benefits
Few people realize the mental health benefits that go along with outdoor activities. Snorkeling offers three separate benefits.
First, snorkeling can help overcome risk factors associated with diving. When a person is afraid of diving, they may become fearful or even have a panic attack on their first attempt. Snorkeling can help you overcome this, since you do not have to go as deep to enjoy the sights. You can also stand up at any time.
Snorkeling also offers social benefits. In many areas, there are snorkeling groups where you can meet other people and enjoy the sights together. If you do not live in an area where snorkeling is popular, don’t worry! You can still enjoy with friends and family. One of the great things about snorkeling is that after purchasing the equipment for the first time, it is a low-cost way to have fun.
The third and final mental benefit is the relaxation and stress relief associated with the sport. When you are underwater taking in all the colors around you, the stress of the world seems to melt away. This is great for anyone with depression or anxiety, or someone who just needs to escape from their worries for a while.
The First Step in Snorkeling: Gathering Your Equipment
We could jump right into snorkeling, but before you get started, gathering your equipment or snorkel set is necessary. Not only will this aid you in having a good time, having the right equipment will keep you safe on your expedition.
There are numerous snorkeling masks available, even those that only cover your mouth and nose. Ideally, however, you should choose full face snorkel masks. A full face snorkel mask will let you breathe how you are most comfortable, either from your nose or mouth. Many also come with integrated features like foldable breathing tubes that allow you to keep your snorkel securely attached to your mask and unique breathing chambers that offer anti-fog capabilities.
As you make your selection, choose a mask that has silicone skirting instead of plastic. Masks made of silicone provide better sealing which will protect against mask flooding. For those that wear prescription glasses, there are also prescription masks available. These are more expensive, but they allow you to enjoy snorkeling without worrying about your glasses fogging up or breaking the seal on your mask.
Your snorkel may or may not be built into the mask that you choose. If it is not, you should know that snorkels have come with flexible tubes, as well as in single pieces. There are numerous factors that come into play while choosing a snorkel. The most important thing to remember is that the snorkel you choose needs to fit your personal preference.
- Mouth shape- If you have a full-face mask, then the mouth shape may not be relevant. If you do not have a snorkel that attaches directly to your mask, however, be sure to choose one that fits the shape and size of your mouth well. Otherwise, water may leak into your mouth when you snorkel.
- Security- Regardless of the snorkel you choose, be sure that it fits securely with your mask. You do not want the top of your snorkel flopping around while you are in the water. If it does, you may end up breathing in water instead of air.
- Style- Snorkels have come along way. Some now have splash guards on the top, which keep water out when you accidentally go too deep into the water. Another styling factor is the length of the tube, which will determine how deep you can go while snorkeling.
Like other snorkeling equipment, the fins also come in a wide array of styles. Snorkel Fins can have open or closed feet, split or solid feet, and are even available in compact traveling sizes. The fins you choose are also based on personal preference as well as how efficiently you want to move through the water.
Additional Snorkeling Accessories
Once you have the above items, you are almost ready. Here are some more accessories to consider. They are not all necessary to have a great time, but you be the judge of that.
- Water-resistant sunscreen
- Snorkel Vest
- Snorkel bag
- Waterproof bag/box
- Snorkeling belt (to carry flashlights, waterproof cameras, etc.)
- Snorkeling weight belt (to help hold you down in the water)
- Snorkeling watch
- Snorkeling camera
- Water Socks
Before you go, you may also want to purchase a marine life identification book so you know what you are looking at.
How to Snorkel
Now that you have all the equipment you need, it is time to get out there and in the water (or at least learn how to do it).
Step 1: Getting Used to the Water
The last thing you want to do is dive right into the water, especially if it is cold. Dip your toes into the water to get a feel for it. Make sure that you are properly suited when you go out. Some people prefer to wear cotton t-shirts and shorts, while others choose swimwear. If you are diving in a cold area, a wetsuit may be a better idea to prevent hypothermia.
Step 2: Fitting Your Gear
Before you get out into the water, make sure that your face mask is fitted properly. It should be securely fastened to your face and you should not have any air leaks. You will also want to properly fit your snorkel, so that it is ready for action. Then, attach any extra accessories you may have chosen for your snorkeling experience (like a weighted belt or watch).
Depending on the situation, you may want to put your fins on first. If you are on the beach or another shoreline, put the fins on even to stand in shallow water. Be prepared to struggle at first, because walking around in fins can take some getting used to. If you are in a rocky area, you should use snorkeling shoes instead of fins. Finally, if you are out on a boat, do not put your fins on to snorkel until you are inside the water. You should also remove them before climbing up the ladder to get on the boat when you are finished.
Step 3: Getting in the Water
Whenever possible, you should begin in shallow water. If your first experience is going to be on a boat and practicing in shallow waters is not an option, take time beforehand to visit a shallow area and make sure your equipment is functioning properly. To do this, lay face down in the water and breathe using your snorkel. Do not move into deeper water until you have adjusted to the breathing. Remember that it will not be as easy to breathe with the snorkel as it would be if you were breathing freely.
Something else that you should do in preparation is flood your snorkel and face mask. This doesn’t sound pleasant, and it’s not. However, it is important so that you can properly react if your mask does become flooded during your exploration. Some masks come with drain valves, while others will require you to remove the mask completely to let excess water escape. Know which your is and practice before going into deeper water.
You can also practice your kicking motion with your fins in shallow water. You do not want to kick with your joints locked. Instead, allow your ankles and knees for fluid motion. Flutter gently as you kick and avoid being overly aggressive. Not only will this create extra splashing that will disturb the marine life you are trying to visit, it is less efficient and will tire your legs more quickly.
Step 4: Exploring
Once you have practiced, you are ready to start exploring. Unless you are snorkeling off a boat, always start in the shallows first and allow yourself time to adjust to the breathing before moving forward. Continue to use fluid motions and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Do not forget to have a good time, but make sure you stay safe as well. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while taking in the beautiful sights of snorkeling.
As you snorkel, one of your top priorities should be safety. Follow these tips to stay safe.
- Have at least one other person with you while snorkeling. Group snorkeling is also advisable, since more eyes mean increased safety.
- Understand your equipment. This guide should have given you a fair understanding of your equipment. Be sure to read all manufacturer’s guidelines for your equipment.
- Wear proper sun protection. Sunscreen and proper clothing are important to prevent painful sunburn. The sun’s rays are intensified when water surrounds you because of the reflective surface. You should also stay hydrated.
- Do not touch what you see. While touching something cool can seem like a good idea, you can end up harming yourself or the ecosystem you are visiting. A good guideline is to stay at least an arm’s length away from coral and any marine life that you may encounter.
Snorkeling is a great way to explore ocean life and enjoy the aesthetics of the world around you. With this guide, you should now have a basic understanding of all you need to know to enjoy snorkeling for the first time. Once you try the basics, consider taking a class to learn about some of the more advanced techniques. You may also find yourself ready to dive and really explore the ocean depths in almost no time at all.