The great and wonderful thing about snorkelling is that almost anyone can take part in the leisurely activity. You can go as hard or as easy as you like, swimming out to explore faraway reefs or just hanging by the shore gazing at the sea life drifting by. You don’t need a license or fancy certification to hit the seas, but that doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone can jump into the ocean with a snorkel mask on and expect everything to go smoothly!
As much as we’d love snorkelling to be a completely risk-free sport that can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone, there are some limitations that mean certain people shouldn’t go snorkelling at certain times. If you’re wondering exactly who can snorkel and who shouldn’t go out snorkelling, we’ve got it all here. From important limitations and precautions to certain situations when you should stay on shore and avoid snorkelling, this is your guide to snorkelling safely.
Who can snorkel safely
Most healthy people can snorkel safely without being at risk of injury or accident. You don’t even have to know how to swim to be able to snorkel, you just need to know how to float! And luckily there are plenty of flotation devices out there to help you.
If you’re not too old and not too young, reasonably fit, with no serious medical or health conditions, and feel confident being in and around the water – go for it! Snorkelling is made for people like you. And if you don’t fit into that box, don’t feel bad. You can still go snorkelling, buddy! Just with a bit of awareness. Keep reading this article for tips and advice.
Who is at risk when snorkelling
If we’re honest, it’s very rare to find a person who absolutely shouldn’t go snorkelling, unless there are any major health concerns or injuries. That said, there are groups of people who may be at risk when snorkelling, and these groups should be sure to take some extra safety measures when snorkelling so that they avoid issues.
If you spot yourself on the list below, you may be at risk when snorkelling and require a bit of extra guidance, safety, or support – now, be honest with yourself here!
1. People with serious medical conditions
Respiratory or cardiac issues can pose a certain risk when snorkelling. If you have a history of heart disease, asthma, epilepsy, or any other serious medical issues, be aware that breathing through a snorkel tube may worsen the effects. For this reason, make sure you’re always heading out snorkelling with a buddy, and if you’re going with a tour group then be sure to let your tour operator know of your medical condition. Be aware that holding your breath while diving may put you at risk of hypoxic blackout (lack of oxygen to the brain).
2. Regular smokers
We’re not telling you to put down the ciggies, but be aware that smoking does fall under the umbrella of respiratory issues (find us a smoker with perfect lungs and we’ll retract that statement!) If you are a smoker, know that breathing through a snorkel tube may be a little more difficult than it is for non-snorkellers. Again, make sure you go with a buddy, and try not to have a ciggy for at least an hour before hitting the water. Avoid holding your breath for too long while diving underwater as you are also at risk of hypoxic blackout.
3. Nervous snorkellers
If you’re feeling nervous about snorkelling, your body is not going to feel at ease. For that reason, you’ll find it more difficult to breathe slowly and correctly, and floating along the surface of the water may be made harder. How can you tell if you’re a nervous snorkeller? If you’re feeling: jumpy, hesitant, overly excitable, edgy, fidgety, or have shaky hands, then we’ll classify you as a nervous snorkeller (even if you’re not scared of it at all!).
When you head out snorkelling, always make sure to have a buddy with you, and wear a flotation device to make it easier for your body to stay on the surface. A relaxed body is buoyant, but a tense body is heavier and tends to sink. Floaties will help prevent you from further stressing out, and make snorkelling much easier for you. Again, avoid holding your breath if you’re feeling nervous as often breathing will be shallow, putting you at risk of hypoxic blackout.
4. Obese or unfit people
Be honest with yourself here: would you consider yourself unfit? Do you huff and puff going up a flight of stairs? Does the thought of a 100-metre sprint get your heart racing (in a bad way?) Do you have more than 25-35% body fat? In this case, you are at some risk of cardiac issues while. Going off the points above regarding respiratory and heart issues, one of the most common risk factors amongst snorkellers who suffer accidents while out in the water is obesity and lack of fitness. If you believe you belong to either one of those descriptions, use a flotation device to lessen the amount of physical exertion you’ll be doing in the water, go with a buddy or a tour so that you have someone supervising you should something go wrong, and be sure to never snorkel outside of your ability or too far from other people.
How to always snorkel safely
Whether you’re at risk or not, everyone can still enjoy snorkelling – but at different speeds, intervals, and requiring different equipment and supervision. Going with a snorkelling tour is your best bet if you’ve matched with a few risk factors above. Snorkel tour operators are specifically trained in determining risk factors and minimising those risks so that everyone snorkels safely.
That said, managing snorkelling risks is quite easy so long as you’re attentive: 1.Try to use coloured markings or equipment so you’re easily spotted from shore, 2.Always go with a snorkel tour if possible, 3.Stay snorkelling near lookouts and crowded areas where help is nearby, 4.Try to go with a buddy who can hold your hand while snorkelling, 5.Use a flotation device to lessen physical exertion and make things easier, 6.Always know your ability and don’t step outside that zone, and 7.Avoid holding your breath while snorkelling (so no freediving!)
Snorkelling is easy
Despite all these risk factors and scary stuff, keep in mind that snorkelling is a super easy sport, and beginners are snorkelling for the first time ever almost everyday. The fact is that you’ll be floating around in water, and that’s where the major risks come in.
Just like any activity that you’re new to, it’s important to go into snorkelling with extra precaution for the first few times, being super aware of any dangers and gear limitations, and staying within your comfort zone. From there, you’ll gain the confidence and a better understanding of your ability and strengths.