Snorkeling is an activity that provides an excellent opportunity to explore the world of the sea in the shallow waters near the coast, where wildlife is very abundant. However, the experience can be enjoyable only if you have appropriate equipment and you use it appropriately, so here are a few tips about how to take best care of your gear and how to cope a certain other aspects of snorkeling.
Essential snorkeling gear consists of a mask and the snorkel itself – a tube made of plastic and equipped with a mouthpiece that you use to breathe while under the water. The snorkel will inevitably fill with water, so, whenever you come to the surface, you will need to eliminate the water from the tube. You can do this by blowing into the tube to eliminate the water, or, if you have a snorkel fitted with a purge valve, the valve will eliminate some of the water trapped inside the tube, but you will still need to blow into the tube to get rid of all the liquid inside.
Your snorkeling mask is another essential component of your gear and also one that needs to be cleared of water every now and then. These masks are water-tight, but every snorkeler needs to master the skill of clearing the mask, so here is how to do it:
Lift your head out of the water; Press the top of the mask frame against your forehead; Keep it pressed until you eliminate all the water from inside the mask.
Snorkeling is a very pleasurable activity, so you will probably want to spend as much time doing it as possible. However, like most things in life, the more you do it, the more tired you get. If you experience fatigue or cramps, come to the surface and relax lying on your back in the water.
Find a Mask That Really Fits
The mask is an absolutely essential component of any gear used for underwater explorations. After all, you are there to see the wonderful, colorful and abundant world of the sea – if the piece of equipment that you wear to make that visual experience possible is not right, your trip can easily turn into a nightmare, so here are a few aspects you should pay attention to when choosing the mask.
Snorkeling and diving masks come in all shapes, colors and designs. Most of them have lenses that are made from high-quality tempered glass or special composite material, a rim called skirt that attaches to your skin and prevents the water from penetrating under the mask, an enclosed nose, and an adjustable strap to fasten the mask. While it is very important to get a mask that comes with all the above components made of the best and most lightweight materials, there is one component that you should pay special attention to and that is the skirt. If it does not fit snuggly enough on your face or if, on the contrary, it is too tight and causes discomfort or pain, it means that the mask is not right. Check the skirt’s edge: the wider it is, the greater the chances it will make a good seal. It is also very important to choose a mask equipped with a silicone skirt – rubber skirts deteriorate and harden over time, but silicone skirts are extremely durable.
You will probably want to see as much as possible while underwater, so make sure you choose a mask that offers you maximum peripheral visibility. Some masks feature a single lens, others come with twin lenses and there are masks that are fitted with multiple lenses, with small, window-like panes on the sides as well. Test the field of vision offered by the mask – put on the mask, then roll your eyes around and check whether the side of the mask blocks your vision. If it does, keep on looking for the right piece.
The underwater world is full of bright and beautiful colors. Just like a pair of good quality sunglasses are able to enhance your viewing experience by blocking some light wavelengths and intensifying others, there are snorkeling and diving masks that are equipped with vision enhancing coatings. The masks that come with lenses tinted blue are popular among divers because they are not only more comfortable for the eye, but they also sharpen your eyesight while underwater, allowing you to see brighter colors and to distinguish edges more accurately.
When you look at the technical specifications that come with masks, you will see the spec called “volume”. This parameter refers to the volume of air trapped inside the mask while submerged. High-volume masks offer a more extended lateral vision, but they are more difficult to clear if water gets inside. Low-volume masks are easier to clear because the lenses are closer to your face and they also offer better vision, because there is less air between your eyes and the world outside your mask.
How to Keep Your Mask from Fogging
A mask that keeps fogging all the time makes it impossible to enjoy the snorkeling trip and it is also dangerous because it prevents you from seeing the objects around you clearly, thus increasing the risk of suffering injuries. Fortunately, there are a number of easy ways to keep your mask from fogging – here are some of them.
The easiest way to prevent water from getting under your mask and fogging your vision is by choosing a mask that fits your face perfectly. Choose a mask that comes with as wide a skirt that you still feel comfortable with – the better the fit, the less likely it is to get fog inside your mask.
You should keep your mask on for as long as possible during the trip. Whenever you take it off, moist air gets inside the mask. When you put the mask back on again, the moist air condenses and fogs the interior surface of the mask. The same happens if you breathe out too vehemently through your nose while your head is underwater, so you should try to reduce nasal exhalation to the minimum.
You can also choose to apply a mask defog cream, liquid, spray or foam on the interior of the mask lens. Apply a thin layer of defogger on the inside, keep it on the lens, then rinse the mask in fresh water without rubbing, in order to avoid scrubbing off the defogging film. Some products work better if they are kept on overnight – you can apply your defogger in the evening and rinse the mask the following morning.
There are a number of other methods you can use to prevent mask fogging. Most of them work on the same principle as the application of a mask defogger and involve the use of a substance that creates a thin film on the lens:
Apply non-gel toothpaste on the lens (the simpler the paste, the better), and then rinse the mask gently after a few minutes;
Windshield cleaners provide the same efficiency and they are available everywhere;
Washing the mask with a mild soap will give you the same effects;
Saliva also has a fog preventing effect, so if you have no other solution at hand, simply spit into your mask and spread the saliva on the interior of the lenses, then rinse off the excess. It is a simple method that you can use when you are already in the water.
The truth is that, no matter how tightly your mask fits and no matter which of the above fog prevention methods you use, you will still experience at least a little bit of fogging, you cannot defeat the rules of physics. There is one more thing, though, that you can do to reduce the amount of fog you get inside your mask while out on the sea: never put your mask on your head when your head is out of the water and you are not actually using the mask. Your body is warmer than the air around you and the vapors generated by your body heat also increase mask fogging.
How to Select Snorkeling Fins
Snorkeling fins are not essential components of snorkeling gear, but they make moving around in the water easier and more efficient, especially if you are surrounded by strong currents – therefore, they are used by most snorkelers. However, you can benefit from the great advantages these additions offer only if you choose the right type and fit. Snorkeling fins come in many different types, shapes, materials and sizes, so here are a few tips for the selection.
Don’t buy snorkeling fins without trying them on first. You can use your foot size as reference, but each manufacturer works with slightly different measurements and size varies from one model to the other as well. Fins are usually made from plastic materials, which means that you must not expect them to stretch in any direction over time – the level of comfort you experience when trying on your fins on land will be pretty much the same level of comfort you can benefit from in the water.
Fins should fit on your feet snugly, but they should never be too tight. Most fins are quite difficult to put on when they are dry. This difficulty also proves that you are about to choose the right size, so try to focus more on what they feel like once they are on. Don’t forget that water makes the fins more slippery, so it will be easier to put them on when they are wet, but if you choose a pair that is too big for feet, this slipperiness will make them easier to lose in the water, so having the perfect fit is really important.
There are two basic types of fins: the type that comes with a full foot pocket for the foot and the ones that are fastened on the foot with the help of an adjustable strap. Full pocket fins are more suitable for beginner snorkelers or for people who go snorkeling only occasionally because they hold the feet more tightly and they require less effort to keep them on in the water. Strapped fins are usually worn with sock-like shoes called dive booties which are welcome editions to your gear if you are snorkeling in rocky shore areas or in colder waters.
You will also see that fins fall into two basic categories in terms of blade shape: split blades and paddle fins. Split fins come with blades that are split in the middle to allow the user to advance in the water with smaller movements and investing less energy, while paddle fins require wilder kicks, but they provide more speed.
Longer fins add more power to your leg movements, allowing you to swim faster, but they also require more strength to be able to enjoy increased speeds. To compensate for the increased energy levels required of the snorkeler, most long fins are made of materials that are more flexible than the materials used for making short fins, but they are still more suitable for experienced snorkelers.
Short fins, on the other hand, work better for beginners, they are suitable for various water conditions, for calm waters and mild currents alike, and they are easier to transport as well.
Snorkeling is much more than healthy physical activity – it is an amazing way to explore the rich and colorful world of the seas and oceans. If you already have your gear and you are just about to try it, here are a few tips that can help you make the most of the experience.
Many beginner snorkelers are concerned about their swimming skills. The good news is that snorkeling is more about floating relaxed on the surface of the water than about any other aquatic skills – if you feel comfortable in the water and you have a little practice in breathing through your mouthpiece, the movements will come naturally to you.
This is something that most beginner snorkelers fail to pay sufficient attention to. The surface of the water amplifies the strength of solar radiation, causing severe sunburn even to those who don’t have sensitive skin. As a general rule, the higher the sun protection factor (SPF) of your lotion, the better, but there are other aspects you should consider when buying your sunscreen. During snorkeling, you will be wearing your sunscreen in the water, so make sure you look for waterproof products. You will need a product that protects not only you, but the sea you snorkel in and the marine life around you as well, so try to use lotion that is not toxic for the creatures that live in the sea.
Another aspect you should pay attention to when choosing the time and the destination for your snorkeling trip is the weather conditions that dominate the area you are planning to visit. Softer substrates such as sand get easily agitated when it is windy outside the water, so if you visit a sandy area when the weather is stormy or windy, you will not be able to see much of what swims around you.
The most colorful creatures of the sea usually prefer shallow waters such as shore areas or the waters around coral reefs and islands. Most marine life congregates around a structure, be it a coral reef, a shipwreck or a lava rock, so keep this in mind when choosing your snorkeling spot.
Snorkeling is a relatively safe and easy activity, but it is best done in groups. Most of the marine creatures you can see on snorkeling spots are harmless, so the chances of encountering an aggressive animal are very thin, but you must be aware that there are some animals that can cause you distress such as jellyfish, which usually protect themselves by stinging or certain corals that also sting when you brush against them. If you snorkel alone, there is the risk of developing a cramp or drifting too far away from the shore, which can be scary if there is nobody around you. Even if you snorkel in the company of others or with at least one partner, make sure you lift your head out of the water every few minutes and check the whereabouts of the others in your group – it is incredibly easy to get absorbed by the marvelous scenery around you and drift away, so make sure you are always within a safe distance from others.
Snorkeling is considered to be one of the safest ways to explore aquatic environments, but just like in the case of any physical activity, there are certain precaution and safety measures that any snorkeler must take in order to avoid getting injured – here are the most important ones.
Always go snorkeling with a partner. Choose someone who has experience, someone you trust and feel comfortable with and make sure you never drift too far away from that person. The shallow waters used as snorkeling spots are usually populated by very tame creatures, so encountering aggressive animals is not very likely, but you can still bump into a reef and hurt yourself, you can have cramps or swallow water – scenarios that are much easier to cope with if you have someone around you to help.
Snorkeling is a shallow water activity, but the marine life you will encounter is usually so colorful and exciting that it is very easy to drift away from the shore following an interesting animal that you see in the water. Whether you snorkel with a partner or in a group, lift your head out of the water every few minutes to check how far away you are from the shore or from your company. If you feel you are too far away, rest for a little while floating on the surface to regain your energy, then swim back to the safe range.
Find out as much as you can about the spot you have chosen prior to entering the water. Are there any dangerous areas to avoid? Are there very strong currents that might sweep you away? Are there any rocky areas or areas with sharp coral formations that might be dangerous to drift into? These are all aspects you need to know about before undertaking the trip.
Proper energy management is another key factor. You need to know how much you can swim in order to avoid the unpleasant experiences caused by fatigue. If you feel tired, come to the surface and relax for a few minutes floating in the water on your back, treading the water lightly to keep yourself on the surface, enjoying the calm scenery around you; then return to the shore when you feel strong enough. You can also choose to wear a snorkeling vest if that makes you feel more at ease.
Don’t forget that the safety of the marine life around you is just as important as your own safety, so never try to touch the fish, the corals or the other creatures that you see around. Most marine animals have some sort of defense system in place – some of them bite, while others are covered in mucus that can burn your skin, so the best way to avoid trouble and to protect the beauty that you see under the surface is to observe it without getting too close and certainly without touching it.
What You Should Look For in a Snorkel
Snorkeling comes with lots of great health benefits and it is among the most enjoyable aquatic activities. There are very few things that you need if you are to make the most of your snorkeling trip, the acquisition or renting of appropriate snorkeling gear being one of them. So, here are a few tips on what to look for when choosing your snorkeling tube.
If you have ever taken a look at the snorkels available in diving shops or online, you surely know that there are very many different styles and types of snorkels. You can choose classic, rigid snorkels because they are the cheapest and the top of the tube doesn’t flop around that much when you are swimming. Or you can get flexible snorkels because they are easier to properly attach to the mask, preventing the snorkel from twisting in the mouth, which can be quite uncomfortable. It’s a matter of preference here, really.
However, no matter what you choose in terms of flexibility, make sure you get dry snorkels. Dry snorkels are among the most popular styles because they are equipped with a special mechanism, a kind of float valve that prevents water from getting into the tube, even if you dive too deep and the snorkel gets completely submerged in water.
It is a good idea to choose the tube with the largest diameter you still feel comfortable with. Though large diameter snorkels are bulkier, they let in more air, allowing you to breathe more freely while underwater. Larger diameter snorkels are usually longer, too, which will allow you to dive deeper without submerging your tube. However, you must be aware that bulkier items are heavier, too. Most snorkels are made from super-lightweight materials and everything feels lighter when you are in the water, but you should still avoid buying a snorkel that feels much too heavy when you put it on.
Comfort is another important aspect when choosing your snorkeling gear. You have seen above why you should choose the largest diameter tube that you are comfortable with, but this is not all you must pay attention to, the mask and the mouthpiece of the snorkel must also be perfectly comfortable:
Mouthpieces made of silicon usually provide a better fit;
When it comes to choosing the mask, make sure the rubber or the silicon edge of the mask (the skirt) fits your face and it is as wide as possible – once you put it on, it should stick to your face, but without causing any discomfort;
You need a mask that offers as wide a field of vision as possible:
Choose a no-fog or very low-fog lens to avoid fogging while underwater;
Some manufacturers have masks that feature lens coated with vision enhancing layers. Certain tints increase image clarity, so do consider the colors and the visibility conditions provided by the waters you are planning to visit and choose your mask accordingly.
After you have chosen the separate components of your gear, it is very important to test them together. Assemble the gear and try it on – move around in it, inhale and exhale in it. The perfect equipment is almost unnoticeable – if you are too aware of your mask after wearing it for a few minutes, it means that you should keep looking for the perfect fit.