Everything you need to know
Land covers a mere 30% of the surface of the Earth; making this – truly – a water planet. The life which exists under the waves is so different from what we are used to that it is hard to believe and impossible to imagine! Snorkelling and diving are the only sports which allow you to experience this world for yourself.
Naturally, SCUBA diving allows you an opportunity to immerse yourself in this world. To be able to swim around under the water with incredible marine life all around you is an unforgettable experience. Not everybody can dive, however. Of those who can, not everybody wants to. What better place to start than with snorkelling?
The whole family can do it!
One great aspect of snorkelling is that there is very little which you need to know before you start. There is no training necessary, nothing to learn and no tests! The only requirement is a basic ability to swim. This means that snorkelling is a fantastic activity for the whole family to enjoy together.
What better way is there to get the kids away from their devices than to take them snorkelling? Exercise in the open air with the chance to encounter wild animals in their natural habitat… What’s more, kids absolutely love it!
Grandparents can get involved as well! Yes, this is a physical activity, but mostly it can be enjoyed with very little effort or strength required. This means that there is no excuse for grandma and granddad not to jump in!
What is snorkelling?
If you are curious about what lies beneath the waves, but the ides of breathing underwater seems a little daunting then snorkelling is a great place to begin.
Snorkelling involves swimming on the surface of a body of water, whilst observing the marine life below. This is made possible by a mask and snorkel. The mask we use when snorkelling is similar to a pair of swimming goggles except for a few small differences:
- The lenses are bigger and of better quality material which allows you to see much more.
- The mask also covers your nose. When snorkelling, this is mostly beneficial for avoiding having water go up your nose.
Attached to the strap of the mask you will also carry your snorkel. There are, naturally, a few designs out on the market and each has its own unique features. Essentially they are all the same, however. A snorkel is a tube which extends from your mouth, up around your head so that it is above the waves while your face is submerged.
Beyond this there are only a few other items you may want with you. Depending on the conditions where you will be snorkelling you may want to use all or none of these.
- A pair of fins.
- A wetsuit/exposure suit
- A buoyancy aid and surface signalling device
Water is much, much denser than air. This means that to propel ourselves through water requires much more effort that when moving around on land. We are used to swimming using a combination of our arms and legs, but another method is to take some inspiration from marine life and swim using fins.
The fins (or flippers?) used by divers and snorkellers are simply a large, flat extension of our feet. The large surface area allows us to move efficiently using a small amount of effort from our powerful leg muscles. Essentially there are two types of fins: ‘full-foot’ fins and ‘open-heel’ fins.
Full foot fins are just one piece which includes a foot pocket attached to the fin ‘blade’. These are best for snorkelling as they are not particularly buoyant. When snorkelling it is beneficial to use fins which are not excessively buoyant. This is because when we kick our legs a buoyant fin might break the surface. In this case before it can be used again we have to bring it back underwater. Pushing the blade back under the water takes quite a bit of effort so it is desirable that our feet stay submerged throughout the entire snorkel.
Full foot fins will be worn over bare feet, or perhaps over neoprene socks. This means that they can only be used in fairly warm water where entry and exit from the water is fairly easy (and easy on your bare feet). If you need to protect your feet, either from a rocky shore line or from the cold, then you’ll need open-heel fins.
Open-heel fins are fins which slot over the top of some neoprene boots. They are more popular with divers than snorkellers as we are able to get more propulsion from them. This is desirable for divers who are carrying around a lot of bulky equipment.
Generally speaking when we are staying in the water for a prolonged amount of time then we will want to wear some form of exposure protection. Exposure protection is simply a garment which we wear which covers most if not all of our body and protects us from exposure to the sun, the cold and to stinging organisms in the sea.
In warm water we may not be concerned about becoming cold and so we only have to think about the sun and stingers. Don’t be put off by the mention of ‘stingers’ – of course this could be something like a jellyfish or it could just be some tiny piece of plankton. Some tiny organisms which exist in the sea have the capacity to give a small reaction when we come into contact with them. These are rarely dangerous but can be unpleasant which is why a thin layer between yourself and the elements can be a good idea.
Usually a protective suit which does not offer thermal protection as well is called a skin-suit. These are most often made from lycra.
If the water is a little colder then you may find you need a wetsuit instead/as well. A wetsuit is a suit made from a type of rubber called Neoprene. It should be a very snug fit as it keeps you warm by trapping water close to your body. Your body warms up that water and this in turn slows down the rate you lose body heat. If a wetsuit is too lose then you will have fresh cold water flushing through the suit all the time, which will suck away your body heat.
When snorkelling you will be a bit more active then the average diver, and so you may be comfortable wearing a ‘shortie’. This is a wetsuit which only comes part way down your arms and legs. This offers less exposure protection, but the trade-off is greater freedom and flexibility.
A buoyancy aid may not be necessary – it depends on the swimming-ability of the snorkellers and the distance you intend to travel. If one of more snorkellers are not great swimmers than a buoyancy aid may help them to relax and feel more confident as they know they have hold of a flotation device. If you intend to a long way while snorkelling then a buoyancy aid will help you to rest and conserve energy throughout the trip. Lastly, if you are in an area with any boat traffic then a buoyancy aid is an especially good idea. Commonly they are large and brightly coloured making it easier for boat users to see you are present in the water.
Checking the fit: Mask
The best way to check the fit of a mask is to tilt your head backwards (face pointing up) and rest the mask over your eyes and nose. Do not secure the strap, nor inhale through your nose as this will cause the mask to ‘suck’ onto your face. Have a friend walk around you to see if the mask is touching your face all the way around. If it is then you’re good to go. If there are some gaps between the soft skirt of the mask and your face then try another one.
The mask strap should be worn at the crown of the head (the widest part). The strap should not need to be pulled excessively tightly. Once submerged, water pressure will help to hold the mask in place. If a mask fits well then it should be worn fairly lose: If it doesn’t fall off then it’s tight enough.
Once you’ve found the right mask, attach the snorkel to the left hand side. Most snorkels are designed to be worn on the left as a diver’s regulator comes over their right shoulder. the snorkel is designed to be out of the way of a diver who may be wearing one. The snorkel should be attached to the outside of the mask strap, fairly near to the frame of the mask. When worn, the snorkel should extend from the mouth past the left ear and extend beyond the wearer’s head.
If wearing full-foot fins then try on a pair which is similar to the size of your shoes. While wearing them pay attention to check they are not too tight and will be squeezing or rubbing. Next, check they aren’t so big they come off. To do this go lift your heel and go onto your tip-toes. The part of the fin which covers your heel will ride down a little bit but should not come off. If it does, try some smaller fins. If not, you’re good to go!
No matter which type of suit you’ll be wearing, the most important feature is that it fits snugly around your entire body. If it is too tight for you to breathe comfortably, or restricts your movement too much then pick a larger one. If it is too lose, and you can gather up excess material in your hands, then opt for a smaller suit – you’ll thank me for this when you’re in the water!
Where to snorkel
Now that you are kitted up, you are ready to go! Make sure you pick a spot which has good access to allow you into and out of the water easily. Once you enter the water try to notice if there are any currents. The presence of a current could make this activity hazardous if that prevents you from making it back to your exit point.
If you are going snorkelling independently (not part of an organised excursion) then make sure that someone on land knows where you’re going and when you intend to return.
In areas with boat traffic then, as well as your buoyancy aid, make sure that you maintain awareness. If you hear a boat approaching then look up to identify where it is, and ensure that you are visible to them.
The final thing is to make sure you are snorkelling in an area with something to see! Reefs (structures underwater which provide shelter to marine life) can be found anywhere, but they are not everywhere! You may need to ask around for some tips.
Water in the mask and snorkel
It is entirely possible, normal even, that some water enters the mask or snorkel, or both! There are techniques for removing this, but the easiest is simply to lift your head out of teh water and tip the offending water out. Rolling onto your back will usually make this easier.
If you get into trouble and require assistance, the best way to communicate this is by waving with one arm. Only using one arm implies that the other is required for staying afloat or perhaps assisting an injured snorkeller. Waving with your whole arm is simply the most visible gesture you can make. To communicate that you are okay and do NOT require assistance, face towards the boat or shore and bring one arm up placing your hand on your head making a large ‘O’ for Okay.
Snorkelling in Tenerife
Tenerife is an incredible place to enjoy snorkelling: the water is warm and clear and it is teaming with marine life. What’s more there are very few stingers in the water, which is very typical of more tropical areas.
Our snorkelling excusrions take you to a nearby spot, only accessible by boat. Here you’ll encounter turtles in the wild along with many, many fish and possibly some Rays as well. We will provide all of the equipment you require and we’ll provide one of our team to guide you throughout. The guide will help you in and out of the water as well as show you where to find things and help if you get into trouble. Our boat skipper also maintains constant vigilance over all guests in the water, and will be able to assist with the boat in the event that you get into trouble.
This excursion lasts approximately 2.5 hours from start to finish and is available most days. If you’d like more information you can read about it here, or send an email with your question or your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org