Snorkeling is an activity that introduces many people to the wonders of what lies beneath the ocean surface. Unlike Scuba diving, you need no formal training to get started and you need very little in the way of equipment either so it is a very popular low-cost way of getting acquainted with the fascinating landscapes, plants, and animals beneath the waves.
While many people take up snorkeling on vacation and rent the necessary equipment from a diving store while there, avoiding having anything extra to carry in their baggage, many prefer to own their gear right from the start, so here is a brief list of the must-have basics.
A Well Fitting Mask
While one might think that the most important part of the equipment for snorkeling would be the snorkel itself, if you do not get a correctly fitting mask, you will not enjoy the experience very much!
When buying a snorkel mask, check it for fit. First, find one that covers your eyes and nose comfortably. Then hold the mask against your face (without putting it on and doing up the strap), breathe in through your nose, creating a vacuum that will pull the seal of the mask against your face. Hold your breath and let go of the mask. If it stays in place, it has formed a good seal and will keep water out; if not, try another mask!
FYI – If you normally have to wear eyeglasses or contacts to correct your vision, the magnification underwater will not make your vision clearer – it will just make the blurry things bigger!
For the greater enjoyment of the underwater world, if you wear contacts, you can wear these under your mask although you may find that you need to blink more often than normal. It is also a good idea to take a spare set of lenses in case one comes out while you are in the water.
If you wear eyeglasses, you can get prescription lenses bonded to the inside of the glass of your mask. For diving and snorkeling, most lenses are glass rather than plastic because it cuts down on the fogging and scratching that can be a problem with plastics and causes minimal distortion. For most snorkelers, correction of distance vision only is adequate while for divers correction of close vision to enable gauges, etc. to be read is important.
Choosing Your Snorkel
Generally, the snorkel attaches to the side of the mask. Important things to check are the fit and feel of the mouthpiece in your mouth. You might also want to consider a dry snorkel; this has a safety valve so that when you submerge or a wave crashes over your head, the airway seals to prevent water from entering the breathing tube.
Although most people have no problems learning how to use a snorkel, it is worth practicing in shallow water so you can quickly stand up if things go wrong and take someone with you before you attempt snorkeling in deeper water on your own.
Choosing Your Fins
Fins come in two basic types:
- The strap on type which fits over snorkeling booties; these will give protection from sharp objects on the ocean floor such as pieces of coral and sea urchins.
- The shoe type which is a full foot fin and which is ideal if you are going snorkeling from a boat and do not need booties to protect your feet. Split snorkeling fins are very popular because they are so light and flexible
The three essentials of mask, snorkel, and fins are all you need to enjoy snorkeling although there are a few things you could add if you wish –
- In cooler waters, many people wear wetsuits. Lightweight rash guards are worn by snorkelers in warmer climates; instead of for their original design purpose of preventing chafing under a wetsuit, they are worn alone to protect against sunburn and injury from sharp rocks and corals.
- An underwater camera is a great addition to the basic kit. Video and stills cameras are available. Many of these can be mounted onto the mask for hands-free filming underwater.
As you can see, snorkeling is a pursuit that requires very little money to get started. It could prove a stepping stone to Scuba diver training to discover more of the underwater world.