Top 4 Pros and Cons of Snorkeling You Need to Know

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Expert: Cameron – I have been snorkeling for over two decades and have a certification with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. During this time, I have come across amazing advantages and disadvantages of this wonderous hobby throughout many bodies of water around the world.


For a more accurate idea of what snorkeling is, snorkeling is a type of recreational diving that involves the use of a snorkel, a short tube with a mouthpiece, to breathe while the face is submerged in water.

Snorkeling allows the participant to view underwater wildlife and scenery while avoiding the risks and complexities associated with scuba diving.

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the underwater world and view the fascinating marine life.

However, there are some potential risks and drawbacks associated with snorkeling that should be taken into consideration before diving in.

For our complete guide to snorkeling for beginners, click here.

Pros of Snorkeling

Snorkeling can be a life altering experience for some people.

Being able to see a marine environment firsthand can change the way many people see the world they live in and the impact they have and can have on it.

Below we will go through and break down some benefits you will come across when enjoying the wonderous activity or hobby of snorkeling.

Snorkeling Man Sitting

1: Low Cost

One great plus to snorkeling is that it is a relatively inexpensive activity.

Even if you decide to not fully purchase a snorkel set, which can be very cheap, most places that include this activity will either have gear for you to use to rent or even for free depending on the outing you joined.

When snorkeling with wale sharks in the Philippines, they offered free masks to use and fins for rent that all added up to around $15 US when it was all said and done.

When compared to diving excursions along my travels, snorkeling was offered at every spot at fractions of the price.

Even if you are with a group that is heading to a diving excursion, you are easily able to tag along and go snorkeling instead while saving money.

What to Wear When Snorkeling.

2: Easy to Learn

Snorkeling is relatively easy to learn, as there is no complex equipment or special skills required.

The basics of snorkeling can often be learned in a matter of minutes and does not require any special training or certification.

Unlike scuba diving, snorkeling does not require any special skills or abilities to do successfully.

If you decide to go snorkeling impromptu, everywhere I have been that is offering touring’s has had someone to assist or help learn to use the gear you have and to get comfortable in the water.

While snorkeling in the Philippines, we had friends on the boat that were not planning on getting in the water at all but were convinced and shown how to use their equipment and safety gear while the tour guides assisted them the entire time.

And no, they did not know how to swim, but still got to have an unforgettable experience.

Do you need to know how to swim to snorkel? Find out here!

3: Wide Variety of Marine Life to See

Sea Turtle Philippines

Snorkeling offers the opportunity to view a wide variety of fish and other marine life up close and personal.

Snorkelers can often view a wide variety of fish including tropical fish, reef fish, and large game fish.

Coral reefs are often home to a wide variety of colorful and interesting coral species.

I have gotten many opportunities to view such an enormous range of marine life while traveling to the point that my viewpoint on the world has completely changed.

From being in completely clear and clean spots with fish, sea turtles, and whale sharks to spots that needed a cleanup I have enjoyed nearly every encounter I have had with marine life.

These experiences have even gotten me started from using a shell bag to collect empty shells to using my bag to clean up fishing line, old aluminum cans, and other trash I have found in the waters.

While in Guam picking up an old rusty can out of the water, I found a baby octopus that I was able to view up close and send on back in a slightly cleaner home.

4: Great Exercise

Snorkeling with Sardines

Snorkeling is a great way to get some exercise in the water.

According to coolconversion.com, you can expect to burn around 250 – 300 calories per hour while snorkeling.

Snorkeling can provide a great cardiovascular workout, as it requires the use of both the arms and legs.

Snorkeling can also help to build strength, as the muscles in the arms and legs are used to propel the snorkeler forward and maneuvering around marine life.

Snorkeling can also be a great way to relieve stress, as it provides the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and simply enjoy the beauty of the underwater world.

According to ‘Stress Management on the Go: Techniques for Well Being,’ Scuba diving and snorkeling are excellent stress management coping techniques that you can enjoy within your water adventure.

Cons of Snorkeling

As mentioned previously, there are some drawbacks that should be considered when snorkeling.

These drawbacks range from inconveniences to your day to potential life risks that must be considered when heading into the water.

Below we will go through these so you can well inform yourself and others on your excursion.

1: Poor Visibility

Sea Turtle Murky Water

One of the biggest drawbacks of snorkeling is that visibility can often be poor.

I have been to Oahu, or Honolulu Hawaii, several times (although only in a singular season); and each visit no matter which side of the island I was on we had moderate to poor visibility all day.

This did not stop me from being able to get some amazing shots of local marine life to include sea turtles, but it was a dampener if you are used to waters that you can see over 10 meters in.

In areas with murky water, it can be difficult to see the underwater life and scenery.

In deeper waters, the lack of light can make it difficult to see the underwater world.

This can rain true in almost every environment when considering depth, but if the sun is not out then this becomes even more so.

2: Risk of Injury

Snorkeling can also put the participant at risk of injury.

Cuts, Scrapes, and Infections

Snorkelers should be aware of sharp coral and other sharp objects that could cause injury.

There are also other environments that being cut on these materials can cause very serious bacterial infections from the specific algae or bacteria that is growing on these rocks and corol.

While snorkeling in Oahu a friend and I ventured out into a rocky area at low tide to get a good view of the scenery, fortunately no one fell.

Upon walking back, we were told by a local to never go onto the rocks because if we fell and were cut, we would get an infection that would have hospitalized us.

This bacterium was also all around on the rocks in the waters we were in.

Freediving Decompression

Freediving Snorkeler

According to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), freediving is diving into deep waters on one breath and without any breathing apparatus i.e., scuba tank.

Incorrect diving techniques can also lead to injuries such as decompression sickness.

Sometimes you just want so badly to get down to the marine life’s level that you dive down to get up close and personal.

Doing this continuously can lead to headaches and nausea at times.

3: Potential for Drowning

Snorkeling can also put the participant at risk of drowning.

Snorkelers should always practice good breath control to avoid hyperventilation and drowning.

Snorkelers should also be aware of the distance they are from shore and take appropriate precautions.

Safety First

In waters with any kind of current, always wear your fins to easily maneuver back to shore if needed.

Never snorkel alone, always bring a friend either with you in the water or someone to keep an eye on the shoreline.

When not on a guided tour, choose your snorkeling location that has a lifeguard.

4: Risk of Contact with Dangerous Marine Life

Snorkelers should also be aware that they may encounter dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, sharks, and stingrays.

Jellyfish

Stings from jellyfish can be painful and potentially dangerous.

I have encountered many jellyfish while snorkeling, but none more so than in the Philippines.

During a snorkeling excursion, there was a spot we stopped at that you could not go more than 20 seconds without being stung by these jellyfish.

While they did not give life threatening stings, they were more than annoying, and we moved on from that spot very quickly!

Sharks

Sharks can be dangerous, and snorkelers should be aware of their presence and take appropriate precautions.

There can be spots where on a tour you can be safely guided with sharks, but when encountering unwanted sharks immediately leave the water.

This is a very important reason to always wear your fins to be able to exit the water quickly.

Stingrays

Stingrays can also cause painful stings, and snorkelers should take care to avoid them.

They can often hide under the sand and be unseen by many.

While their barbs are not poisonous, they are venomous and therefore pose real harm to humans.

If encountering a stingray in the wild, simply keep your distance and be sure to exit the water if they make a habit of moving towards you.

Summary

Snorkeling can be a great way to explore the underwater world, but there are some risks and drawbacks associated with it.

If you are looking for a stress relieving, low cost activity that is easy to learn and can provide the opportunity to view a whole new world in a marine environment then this is absolutely the activity for you.

Keep in mind however, the potential dangers of injury and harmful marine life that you need to avoid on your adventure.

With proper training, equipment, and precautions, snorkelers can enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience.


[Sources and References]

“Calorie Calculator: Snorkeling.” Calorie Calculator | Snorkeling, coolconversion.com/calories-burned/Calorie-Calculator-%7C-_snorkeling_. Accessed 22 May 2023.

Larraz, Andres L-M. Stress Management on the Go: Techniques for Well Being. Trafford Pub., 2011.

McConnell, Brooke. “‘what Is Freediving?’ and Other Frequently Asked Questions.” “What Is Freediving?” and Other Frequently Asked Questions, 16 Feb. 2023, blog.padi.com/what-is-freediving-and-other-frequently-asked-questions/.