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Is Snorkeling Dangerous?

   January 9th, 2020   Posted In: Articles  

Is Snorkeling Dangerous?

Snorkeling is the act of swimming using a snorkel or breathing tube while underwater. A snorkel is often paired with a diving mask, wetsuit, and other accessories depending on water conditions and snorkeling goals. While snorkeling may be safer than SCUBA diving there are still risks like underwater currents, cramps, and more.

 What Is Snorkeling?

Snorkeling is a water activity where a swimmer can look underwater while breathing through a tube that reaches above the surface of the water. Much of the ocean’s vibrant sea life and underwater beauty can be seen by snorkelers floating near the surface. Unlike SCUBA diving, you do not need nearly as much equipment as air tanks or buoyancy control devices. You also do not need to be as worried about decompression sickness from diving deep underwater using compressed air. When using a snorkel to breathe a swimmer can become more hydrodynamic and float easier while expending less energy.

Depending on where you go snorkeling you can also effortlessly enjoy views of underwater sea life like coral, many varieties of fish, lobsters, sea turtles, and more. Resorts located along expansive bodies of water have areas marked for snorkelers to safely enjoy amazing underwater scenes. For example, around Hawaii, the Bahamas, and other tropical areas you may have crystal clear water, a plethora of fish, sea turtles, kelp forests, amazing coral formations, and many more exciting finds.

SCUBA divers often equip a snorkel in order to conserve their energy and air tanks while maneuvering to their dive location. This is especially useful when launching your dive from the shore. While snorkeling can be full of fun and excitement, there are some dangers and snorkeling risks to keep in mind.

Dangers of Snorkeling

is snorkeling dangerous

Going with a group is a safe way to enjoy snorkeling!

Is snorkeling dangerous? Snorkeling can be dangerous for the unprepared or for those with health issues. Ocean currents, as well as underwater hazards, are a source of concern in some snorkeling areas. Those who have health concerns such as heart or lung issues, seizures, or panic attacks should consult with their doctor or health professional prior to engaging in water activities. While in the water, even professionals can fall victim to ailments such as cramps, exhaustion, heatstroke, dehydration, hypothermia and more.

One of the best ways to mitigate the dangers of snorkeling is to go with others. Having at least one other person with you can make all the difference in an emergency situation. Having the right gear is also essential. Wetsuits come in a variety of styles and options for all climates. Wetsuits help conserve body heat and can also provide buoyancy to help you float near the surface easier. In addition to a wetsuit, you may also want to invest in quality gloves, boots, and fins. Some shorelines have sharp rocks and coral that a snorkeler must traverse before being able to slip on their fins and start swimming.

Snorkeling Risks and Hazards

There are hazards underwater that a snorkeler may run afoul of like coral, floating debris, cables, wires, nets, fishing lines, rocks, and even boats or buoys. Snorkelers can swim with a dive flag to alert others where they are. You can also stay within snorkeling designated areas if available. Bad weather and storms like hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones can whip up waves and currents and also lower visibility underwater. In cases like these, it would be best to avoid going snorkeling until safer. Large or strong waves can splash water into a snorkel unless you invest in special snorkels with valves to keep the water out or to help expel the water easier.

The sun also poses a snorkeling risk, especially to those who swim without sun protection like waterproof sunscreen, UV shirts, or a wetsuit. Overheating, heatstroke, and dehydration are also possible. The opposite is true in colder climes where the ocean will leach your body heat quickly unless you are wearing a wet or drysuit. To top off these risks, there is also the possibility of running into dangerous sea life while snorkeling. Generally speaking, if you respect underwater sea life and keep your distance you will avoid many problems. Sharks, snakes, jellyfish, lion or scorpionfish, blowfish, cone snails, octopi, and many more creatures pose a hazard to humans underwater if engaged.

How to Reduce Snorkeling Risks

Snorkeling can be dangerous if you do not take into account some basic safety measures and plan ahead. Many of the dangers of snorkeling can be avoided with practice, training, and the right gear. You can practice in safer environments such as a pool or training center under professional guidance to learn the skills necessary to reduce snorkeling risks. Taking classes to practice those skills is also a great idea. Classes like rescue diver courses will also prepare you to help others in need.

Those with certain health conditions should consult with a doctor before snorkeling. And it is a good idea to stretch before and after snorkeling as well as to stay hydrated. Also, check the weather forecasts. For these reasons and more it is a good idea to plan your trip ahead of time and always go with someone and let others know where you will be and when to expect you back. Before snorkeling it is vital to inspect your equipment. Better to find a problem on the shore rather than in the ocean. Finally, after snorkeling, take some time to clean your equipment such as washing off corrosive ocean saltwater. With these basics under your belt, you can start enjoying the benefits of snorkeling today!

Sam has served as a U.S. Marine and loves to travel and experience new places. He started Scuba diving in 2004 while working on a dive boat and made hundreds of dives around the Pacific Ocean. Sam completed his MBA in 2017 and stared freelance writing full time. You can often find Sam writing, practicing with his local fencing team, or out exploring.

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