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Top 10 Tips for a Better Snorkeling Experience

By Slickrock Adventures on December 17, 2019

Top 10 Tips for a Better Snorkeling Experience

Whether you’ve never snorkeled, haven’t been in decades, or are just getting back from your latest snorkeling adventure, we’ve gathered some tips and ideas we think you’ll find useful.

1. Make sure your mask fits correctly

Try on your mask. It should be able to create a suction seal around your eyes and nose without the aid of the strap. When putting the strap on, keep it around the round part of your head—not too low where it will scrunch onto your ears, and not too high where it will slip off your head.

2. Chose the best fins for you and your situation

Fins come in a variety of designs, from how they attach to your feet to the size of the flipper to the flexibility of the fin itself. We recommend fins that can be worn with neoprene booties, allowing you to safely walk in and out of the water to put your fins on. Fins with a more flexible flipper are easier to maneuver and put less strain on ankle, knee, and hip joints, which is another important consideration.

3. Defog your mask

Our recommended method for having a fog-free mask involves burning away the inside lens film and a regular application of baby shampoo. New masks typically have a silicone film from the manufacturing process left on the inside of the lens. This film will cause your mask to fog regardless of the amount and variety of “de-fog” solutions applied. To remove it, our guides use a lighter to burn away this silicone film. This process is extremely effective on new masks, and even older masks that have not been burned and may still have this residual film. It is important to note that this process cannot be used on prescription masks or masks with glued in bifocals.

Secondary to burning the mask, we swear by a consistent application of baby shampoo. Every time we go out for a snorkel, we put a dime-size amount of baby shampoo on the inside of each DRY lens. We then rub this around to completely coat the inside surface, and let it sit. The soap remains on the lens until we are in the water and ready to put the mask on. Make sure you rinse ALL the soap out thoroughly. Strap your mask on and enjoy a clear view!

4. Get a snorkel with a purge valve

Most newer snorkels are equipped with a purge valve near the mouthpiece. This valve only allows water to exit the snorkel and can be used by exhaling a puff of air while keeping your face in the water. This is an easier and less disruptive method of clearing your snorkel, as snorkels without purge valves require a more aggressive exhalation and tossing your head back to get the water out. A purge valve allows you to stay relaxed and makes for a more enjoyable snorkel.

5. Practice your breathing

The concept of breathing in and out of a small tube while swimming through the ocean can make even the most eager adventurer forget to relax. Simplicity is part of what makes snorkeling so great; try not to overthink it. The simple technology of a tube to breathe through allows us as land mammals to temporarily become visitors to a marine environment. Before embarking on your first snorkel, or even if it has been a few years since your last snorkel, practice breathing through your snorkel with your face in the water before you start swimming. This will allow you to get comfortable with the feel of the mouthpiece, the fit of your mask, and the overall feeling of breathing underwater. We snorkel to observe and experience this unfamiliar underwater landscape, and this is best done with calm, deep breaths. Inhaling and exhaling slowly allows for a full exchange of air through the snorkel. Though this could be considered a restriction to our lung capacity, it is also a reminder to slow down and observe.

6. Lay flat in the water, let yourself float

It is important to keep your body relaxed as well as your breathing. Let the buoyancy of the saltwater help you float and think about keeping your body parallel to the surface of the water. By lying flat on the water and letting yourself float, you will use less energy and move more efficiently across the water. You will also be less disruptive to the sea creatures that might be startled by you. In this body position, you are also perfectly set up to take a free dive beneath the surface to get a closer look.

7. Go slow

Snorkeling is a relaxing activity! We go out to look at marine life and explore patch reefs and to observe an ecosystem entirely different from our own. There is incredible diversity and detail in every square foot of patch reef we see, and it is so easy to float right by and not see the nose of an eel peeking from a shadow or the undulating fin of a reef squid. The snorkels we see the most on are when we relax, move slowly, and give ourselves time to observe.

8. Use only your legs

A big part of staying relaxed and going slow is how you propel yourself through the water. As human swimmers, we typically use all our limbs to move more efficiently. With the aid of the big fins on our feet, we no longer need the extra push of our arms to get us where we need to go. In fact, using your arms takes unnecessary energy and propels you faster than you need while out snorkeling, and creates added disturbance in the water in front of you. Keep your body streamlined and arms relaxed by your sides, and let your legs do the work for you.

9. Know your limits

Snorkeling should be an enjoyable experience. If you’re new to the sport or feeling hesitant, keep your outings short. This will allow you to enjoy snorkeling without feeling stressed about how far you still have to swim or becoming distracted if you are getting cold. It can be challenging to tell yourself to “relax” in this new environment; a popular aid to this is wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) that will keep you afloat and allow your focus to be on seeing amazing fish.

10. Observe the life closely

This is what it’s all about! These snorkeling tips are all working towards the common goal of having the best time observing the incredible marine life. There is so much to see, even our most frequently visited “practice reef” always has something new to offer every time we visit. Stop and watch for more than just a brief moment. Observe a specific fish, watch its behavior, how it interacts with its own species vs other species. Is it displaying defensive or protective behavior? What color variations can you see on its body? Which species appear to be active and feeding, and which are less active? The underwater ecosystems are constantly in action, and it’s an incredible experience to see it unfold in front of you.