The experience of snorkeling while surrounded by the magical underwater world is second to none. However, despite its reputation as a thrilling activity for travelers, it involves much more than just diving in the water with goggles or a snorkel.
For those who are not 100% sure about swimming around the open ocean, snorkeling may also seem overwhelming and intimidating. But, with a few expert tips, your underwater excursion will surely turn into a safe, comfortable, and memorable experience.
With numerous snorkeling guides on selecting the right equipment and understanding basic snorkeling techniques, it can be daunting to know which to follow. To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled here everything you need to know before setting out on your marine adventure:
Two Types of Snorkeling
Snorkeling is a popular water activity that allows you to explore underwater by swimming on the surface while wearing a snorkel and mask. It is a great way to observe marine life and admire the beauty of the ocean without the need for scuba diving gear. There are two main types of snorkeling:
1. Surface Snorkeling
For many snorkelers, staying on the surface of the water is the most comfortable and safe option, especially if they lack experience as a swimmer or diver. Surface snorkeling is also a great choice for families with young children.
When snorkeling, we suggest wearing a full-face snorkel mask as they provide excellent visibility and are easy to use.
2. Skin Diving
Deep-water snorkeling, also known as skin diving, is a more advanced technique that requires extensive skills and experience. Having diving experience and being familiar with entering the water at various depths is crucial, as the environment can change dramatically in deeper waters. Fading sunlight and the deep, dark ocean can potentially be intimidating for inexperienced snorkelers.
How To Snorkel
While snorkeling is a fun and thrilling way to explore underwater trails, it can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time snorkeling. But with the right tips and techniques, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Let’s get started!
1. Preparation Before Diving
Before embarking on your snorkeling journey, you must familiarize yourself with the proper gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here’s a newbie’s guide on all the requisites you need before setting out:
- Diving Mask or Goggles – Crucial snorkeling equipment that keeps water out of your eyes and allows you to see underwater.
- Swim Fins – This swimming gear helps you swim faster while conserving energy. They also come in handy when swimming against a current.
- Wet Suit or Dive Skin – Ideal for protecting your body against colder waters. They come in various sizes, from short to full-length suits.
- Flotation Device – An inflatable snorkeling vest that provides added safety when diving. This should be easily inflated and deflated.
- Snorkel Keeper – Secures the diving mask to the snorkel and keeps them safely connected.
- Snorkel – A shaped breathing tube that allows you to stay underwater and take in the views for an extended period.
- Dry Snorkel – A specialized breathing tube that prevents water from entering your nose but is not meant to allow you to breathe underwater like a scuba tank.
- Purge Valve – Drains the water that enters the snorkel.
2. Improving Your Swimming Skills
Even if you’re already a good swimmer, swimming lessons can help you fine-tune your snorkeling techniques and build strength and endurance when moving underwater. Practicing freestyle techniques is especially beneficial as the kicking motion can help you conserve energy while swimming.
Improving your swimming endurance and strength will not only make your snorkeling experience more enjoyable but also safer. Additionally, you may also feel comfortable enough not to use your snorkeling vest, which sometimes restricts your movements and hinders your ability to dive deeper and fully appreciate the world underwater.
3. Holding Breath Underwater
Taking slow and deep breaths is essential when snorkeling, especially when using a full-face snorkel mask. This helps to maintain a low heart rate, allowing you to relax and conserve energy while exploring underwater.
If you want to take short dives, start by relaxing on the water’s surface and taking a few moments to get your breathing under control. Breathe deeply to reduce the risk of hyperventilation. When ready for your descent, immerse yourself at a 90-degree angle, allowing your torso to be vertical and submerged in the water.
Gradually increase the amount of time you spend underwater with each dive. Over time, you’ll develop an understanding of how long you can safely stay underwater, which will likely be much longer than your initial dives.
4. Surfacing After Snorkel Diving
As you conclude your underwater excursion and prepare to resurface, make sure to ascend slowly and rotate your body to get a full view of your surroundings. Extend one arm straight in front of you to ensure a safe ascent. Before reaching the surface, tilt your head slightly downward and forcefully exhale to clear your snorkel.
Top Snorkeling Tips for First-Timers
Snorkeling is an exciting activity that allows you to explore the underwater world and its diverse marine life. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, here are a few tips and tricks on how to snorkel better to enhance your experience and make the most out of your time in the water:
1. Glide and float when snorkeling.
Snorkeling is more about floating than swimming. To conserve energy, stay relaxed, fold your arms across your chest, and let your fins do the work. Keep your pace slow and steady, allowing yourself to breathe normally. If you’re tired or out of breath, take a break and float on your back. You can also consider wearing a life jacket for added buoyancy.
2. Choose a suitable location.
When snorkeling for the first time, it’s essential to choose a location with calm waters and no strong currents. Avoid waves as they can make it more difficult to swim and breathe. Gradually swim towards a depth you’re comfortable with, and choose a spot with plenty of interesting sights and marine life.
3. Relax and enjoy the adventure.
The most important part of snorkeling is enjoying the experience. The world beneath the ocean is truly breathtaking, and there are unique trails to explore. From snorkeling with whale sharks and sardines to swimming with giant manta rays, the possibilities are endless. So, embrace the adventure and experience the beauty of the ocean.
Best Places for Snorkeling
The United States Virgin Islands offers a unique blend of underwater attractions and breathtaking scenery, making them ideal for snorkelers of all levels. Whether it’s exploring the coral reefs, observing various species of marine life, or simply enjoying the solitude of a remote beach, the USVI truly offers something for everyone.
Here are the best places for snorkeling in the US Virgin Islands:
1. Cow and Calf Rocks, St. Thomas
This snorkel and scuba diving site can be reached by boat and is a 45-minute journey from Charlotte Amalie. Visitors are drawn to the spot for its elkhorn coral, lobsters, and occasional sea turtle sightings. Divers often point out the harder-to-find creatures deeper down, such as eels and stingrays.
2. Shoys Beach, St. Croix
Located on the island’s east end, just 10 minutes by car from Christiansted, Shoys Beach is loved by locals for its sea grape trees that line the shore and provide shade. Visitors enjoy easy access to reef trails that are home to spotted moray eels, lobsters, stingrays, and many other marine creatures.
3. Leinster Bay, St. John
Leinster Bay, also known as Waterlemon Cay, is a hidden cove along the north shore, about 25 minutes by car from Cruz Bay. Although taxi drivers will take you to the spot, it is often free from crowds, as only a few travelers take advantage of the diving site. Here, you may encounter angelfish, trumpet fish, barracudas, and even green sea turtles in the seagrass beds.
4. Great Lameshur Bay, St. John
For those spending at least one night on the island, Great Lameshur Bay on the south side of St. John is a must-visit. This wide flat beach opens up to a bay where you can spend the afternoon snorkeling among larger marine life, including eagle rays, nurse sharks, turtles, and various reef fish. Keep in mind that this remote spot is far from commercial centers, so bring a picnic lunch, water, and reef-safe sunblock.
5. Jumbie Bay, St. John
This hidden gem has limited parking for just six cars at a time, making it a peaceful place for underwater sightseeing. The snorkeling site features unique limestone crags and crevices 100 feet offshore. This allows divers to witness a mix of marine life, including crabs, eels, and schools of sergeant major and Creole wrasse fish.
Snorkeling, either surface or deep-water snorkeling, can be equally thrilling and overwhelming for beginners. But with proper swimming, diving, and breathing techniques, as well as consistent practice, the right gear, and a suitable snorkeling destination, anyone can ensure safe, successful, and enjoyable underwater excursions.
Relish the majestic underwater world of St. John Island.
Now that you’re done learning how to snorkel, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test! Pack your bags and take a dive into the crystal clear waters of St. John Island and be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colorful coral reefs, vibrant marine life, and breathtaking underwater landscapes. Book your trip now and make memories that will last a lifetime.