Do You Need to Be a Good Swimmer to Go Snorkeling?

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Snorkeling is a fun way to observe sea life, including coral reefs, brightly colored fish and tranquil kelp beds. It’s possible to snorkel from shore to some locations; you could also board an excursion boat that will transport you to a nearby reef for offshore snorkeling. Though you’ll need some basic swimming skills to feel comfortable and safe in the water, you don’t need to be an expert swimmer or certified diver to enjoy snorkeling.

Basic Snorkeling Safety

  • To snorkel, you’ll need swimming fins, a mask and a snorkel. Swimming fins help you float and move more easily through the water, and a mask will help you observe sea life more clearly while protecting your eyes from the saltwater. A nose piece attached to the mask will prevent you from inhaling water through your nostrils. Finally, the snorkel will attach to your mask and fit into your mouth to facilitate breathing. The top of the snorkel should remain above water, providing fresh air for you to breathe as you swim. More experienced snorkelers might also dive below the water after a big inhale, and then exhale slowly through the snorkel in order to spend more time in deeper water.

Swimming Skills Required

  • Safe snorkeling requires some basic swimming skills. You should feel comfortable in the water; anxious splashing will wear you out and scare away marine life. Swimmers should be able to float and swim with their faces in the water. You’ll use basic arm strokes and kicks to move yourself around in the water. It’s possible to remain relatively stationary, but not moving around will make your body feel cold faster. Some people choose to wear a snorkel vest while snorkeling. This might reduce your ability to move around quickly, but it could provide extra buoyancy and support to prevent yourself from overtiring. You should also feel comfortable breathing through the snorkel so that you don’t panic or accidentally inhale water.

Water Safety and Swimming

  • Lakes, oceans and rivers are natural environments and carry some element of risk for swimmers. Rip currents and crashing waves can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers. If you get caught underwater, try to remain calm and resist breathing until you’re able to swim to the surface. To escape a rip current, calmly swim parallel to shore until you’re out of the rip zone. Don’t attempt to swim directly back to shore through the rip current. Be mindful of boats and other watercraft to avoid being run over. Avoid touching, stepping on or harassing wildlife -- for their protection and yours. Animal behavior, especially in the wild, can be unpredictable.

Tips for Safer Snorkeling

  • Even if you’re a confident swimmer, choose to snorkel in areas where there are other people in the water. You can snorkel with a buddy for greater safety in case something goes wrong. On a snorkeling trip, it’s fine to ask an instructor to help you find a part of the reef with quieter waters. When you feel tired, head back to shore. Practice snorkeling in a swimming pool until you get the hang of it.

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