Scuba Diving Snorkel FAQ

1. What is snorkelling?

Snorkelling is a type of freediving.  By using a snorkel and mask set you can swim on the surface facing down into the water without having to worry about breathing.  This means that in areas where reefs are close to the surface you can swim and explore without having to keep turning your face up to breathe.  You can also dive down under the water still wearing the snorkel.  Snorkelling is a fun sport and does not involve so much equipment as scuba diving.

2.  What types of snorkel to do I need?

You need to think about what kind of snorkelling you will be doing when you buy a snorkel.  There are several different designs available.  If you are going to be staying close to the surface then a basic snorkel will be fine.  You can tilt your head back now and again and blow hard through the mouthpiece to clear the snorkel barrel of water.  If you want to dive down under the water a lot then a snorkel with a purge valve can be useful as this means you will not have to manually keep clearing the snorkel when you want to take a breath.  Also you might consider a dry snorkel if you are going to be underwater a lot or snorkelling in rougher conditions.

3.  How do I choose the right snorkel?

It is important to make sure the snorkel you choose is comfortable.  You will need to hold the snorkel in place by biting down on the mouthpiece and if this does not fit well then you can get soreness and jaw fatigue.  Silicone mouthpieces are more pliable than rubber ones and can be easier to hold in place.  Make sure you try the snorkel on with your mask before you go snorkelling to make sure everything fits well together and is comfortable.  You can also get snorkels with rotating mouthpieces.  Many divers find these help to prevent jaw fatigue as they are much more flexible and easy to grip.  However snorkels are very much a personal choice.

4.  What are dry snorkels used for?

Dry snorkels are used for diving down under the water when you are snorkelling.  They contain a small mechanism that prevents water from entering the barrel.  This means you will not have to blow air out of the barrel in order to take a breath on the surface.  This can be a more efficient way to snorkel.  However as dry snorkels contain a pocket of air they can move around underwater and many divers can find this distracting. 

5.  What are folding snorkels?

You may only need to use a snorkel now and again on your dive.  A folding snorkel can be a good choice as you will be able to detach it and put it away in a pocket on your BCD when it is not needed.  Folding snorkels are not so suitable if you are going to be using a snorkel a lot so you are better off with a non-folding version as this will be easier to use for longer snorkelling sessions.

6. Do I need any certification to snorkel?

Unlike scuba diving you will not need any formal certifications to take part in snorkelling.  This is because there are no air tanks and complicated equipment to worry about.  Snorkelling will not allow you to descend to any great depths (unless you are a professional freediver) so you will also not have to worry about decompression sickness.  However to get the best out of snorkelling it can be a good idea to get a few lessons as this will help you to practise the right techniques and find out more about the equipment available.

7.  Will I need fins for snorkelling?

Fins help you to move around more easily in the water so can be useful for snorkelling sessions.  Fins reduce the amount of energy you need to expend to swim and dive.  This means you will be able to spend more time in the water before you start getting tired.  It can take a while to get used to fins but once you have got the hang of it then you can move much more quickly and easily around whilst you are snorkelling

8.  Do I need to be a good swimmer to snorkel?

You do not need to be a very good swimmer in order to snorkel.  The great thing about snorkelling is it takes some of the hassle out of breathing when you are exploring the water and this can leave you free to concentrate on what you are looking at.  You will need to be comfortable in the water though and have achieved a reasonable level of swimming skills, particularly if you are going to be snorkelling in open water.  However if you are just exploring shallow calm waters then you can just splash around and enjoy snorkelling even if you are not a really good swimmer.  You can also invest in floatation devices that help support you whilst you are snorkelling and make swimming easier.

9. What equipment do you need to snorkel?

All you need to snorkel is a three items of equipment:

  • Face Mask – this will let you see underwater without your eyes or nose getting wet. You will need to choose a mask with a good fit to ensure that water does not leak inside whilst you are snorkelling. Face masks with silicone skirts can provide the best fit.
  • Fins – fins help to propel you through the water more easily.  There are various different designs available but for recreational snorkelling a standard closed heel fin is an affordable choice.
  • Snorkel - the snorkel will fit into your mouth and allow you to breathe through the barrel when you are face down in the water looking around. 

10.  How do beginners start snorkelling?

It is a good idea to introduce yourself to snorkelling slowly. It can be difficult to learn to breathe through the snorkel at first so practise in a safe, contained environment such as a swimming pool.  Just get used to wearing the mask and snorkel whilst you are floating before you try moving around.  You need to remember to breathe through your mouth and not your nose as this will fog up your mask.  Once you are comfortable with this you can put on your fins and try breathing through your mask and snorkel whilst you are moving around.