First time snorkeling experience can go either way. It all depends how well-equipped you are, and whether you have read and gained enough knowledge and information about the equipment, fitting and the activity in general.
The fact of the matter is that snorkeling is a thoroughly enjoyable and easy water sport that can live up to its expectation if you are well prepared for what is to come, and at the same time being aware of the potential hazards and safety related concerns.
Some of the common experiences that first time snorkelers report are:
- Anxiety and fear of water
- Seepage in face mask
- Snorkel tube malfunction
Let us look at some of the common pitfalls and solutions to ensure that you can avoid miserable and bad experiences, and make it a memorable one that you would want to enjoy repeatedly.
Hard or Easy to Learn the Basics?
If you are a reasonably good swimmer, then snorkeling can come naturally to you, and even if you aren’t, you can still learn the tricks of trade in no time.
Using a life jacket for first timers is definitely recommended so they can get some practice in calmer waters (ocean swimming or snorkeling much easier than other options), and gain the requisite confidence with time.
One of the biggest suggestions to those learning the basics is that you should try to stay calm and composed by practicing normal breathing as much as possible, and ‘sitting up’ occasionally whenever you feel uncomfortable or scared.
Tips For First-Timers
Tip #1: Don’t Rent the Cheapest Equipment
When you are going under water (and that too as a novice) then you need to ensure you have the right gear that is the best quality you could find. This is the last thing you want to compromise on, as this is meant to keep you safe under water and also provide you with the best possible experience when observing the aquatic life.
The gear should be a perfect fit and you do not need to get bogged down with the aesthetics of it. That is secondary, you safety and comfort are of prime importance.
Tip #2: Practice With Your Gear First
You should purchase the equipment well ahead of your planned snorkeling tip. This will give you sufficient time to get used to the fit, comfort and style of it. You will also learn something new about its usage as you practice it before the big day. You may also be able to rent it and practice in a pool or shallow beach waters to give you the best chance of practicing.
Practice doesn’t only mean snorkeling practice; it also entails practicing wearing the mask, snorkel and fins. You need to learn and be comfortable with the adjustment of straps on your mask and breathing techniques. Kicking in water and trying to float around with your fins is also one of the most important practices that you can do.
Try using a floatation device, or an inflatable snorkeling vest, if you aren’t a good swimmer
Tip #3: Learn Basic Snorkeling Skills & Hazards
The trick in learning the snorkeling basics quickly and correctly involves a lot around relaxing and not trying to get ahead of things. Do not get exhausted. You can learn to simply float without much effort.
Always read on the conditions of water and how the ocean moves before going deep.
Tip #4: Choose Your First Location Carefully
Do not try to dive from a boat when you are learning the basics. Start slowly by taking baby steps and moving around in shallow waters of the beach or in a pool.
Also opt for a beach space that is lively and has some under water life. If you are getting to observe corals and some colored fish during your initial attempts, that is all you need. On the contrary, if the spot is boring and dead, you will be put off instantly.
There needs to be a fine balance between a lively and over-crowded spot. Mornings are meant to be the best as there is little traffic or people around you and you can focus on yourself and your practice in calm waters. Avoid waves initially as that may be difficult and dangerous and may even make you seasick. Waves can also reduce your under water vision and that is no fun.
A prudent option is to choose a beach that has life guard present so you have some peace of mind that you are being observed in case of any emergency.
Tip #5: Come at It With Appreciation
A lot depends on what you expect to extract from your snorkeling experience. A vast majority would do it for fun and relaxation and to experience the underwater life that is unique and uplifting experience. If you do not enjoy the aquatic life, then probably you shouldn’t be snorkeling in the first place. You need to appreciate the sport and the relaxing, sporting and meditative aspects of it as well.
Tip #6: Be a Steward
You also need to give back to the ocean by caring for it. You do that by being respectful towards it. You shouldn’t touch any corals or underwater life. Sand and rocks can be exceptions.
Avoid using harmful sunscreen that can cause damage to the reef, and opt for biodegradable options to protect sea life.
Learn the Basics
There is a delicate life under water and you do not want to disrupt, scare or damage it. The coral reefs are becoming scarce with the passage of time due to increased human interactions and interference. Avoid touching anything and generally enjoy the beauty of nature by observing or taking photos.
Paid Guide ~ join a boat snorkeling excursion
It is always a prudent and safe idea to accompany someone when venturing into the waters, particularly under water. Getting a buddy or a guide to accompany you are your best bets when navigating unfamiliar waters, in case you swim far away due to a current or just find yourself in a difficult situation.
If you join an excursion boat snorkeling tour then you are basically getting the services of a paid guide under water. They provide you with three important advantages: experience, equipment and exposure to select environment.
If you dive with experienced trainers (who have had extensive training and have ample knowledge on the sport) then you take away the anxiety and the fear of unknown. You have a fall back plan that will always be looking out for you. This is the best safety you can get for yourself. They will equip you with the basics of the sports and enable you to stay calm and relaxed.
Their gear would be safe and well-maintained so you can use them with the peace of mind that it will be the best that you can get, and you do not even need to buy it.
There are certain coasts that can only be accessed by special permit holders or expert snorkelers. Dolphin and whale watching or archeological sites for example some of the activities that you can only enjoy with a guide.
Once you have good fitted and complete gear in place, you can practice using it in the water. It is important to breathe from a snorkel in real conditions. You can even practice swimming with it in the pool or shallow waters at the beach. Try and get a feel of it by keeping the top of snorkel afloat and out of water.
Good Location – Safe Area
Avoid places that have strong currents, particularly if you are a new snorkeler. Try opting for calmer waters as waves do not make up for a great snorkeling experience anyway and will tire you out from one point to the other. You can save the boat jumping for later once you have had enough practice at a beach or a pool.
If you are uncomfortable under water for any reasons, immediately raise your head up and start floating on your back. That is the best way to relax and calm yourself down, before going back in again.