Roughly 8.3 million people go snorkeling every year. While it can be dangerous, snorkeling can be an incredible experience if you adhere to proper safety guidelines. The use of a snorkel mask enables you to observe things you otherwise would not. Our oceans are full of mysteries for you to discover. Before you strap on your snorkel mask, familiarize yourself with the dangers to alleviate risks.
Is Snorkeling Dangerous?
Short answer: yes. Yet, you can avoid many of the dangers. Millions of people snorkel every year without incident, and when done correctly, snorkeling is a safe activity. However, participating in the activity and the use of a snorkel mask involves an inherent risk of injury or death, which the participant assumes when engaging in the activity. These risks include but are not limited to:
- Drowning: Drowning is possible while snorkeling, regardless of the equipment used. Most drownings occur in less than three feet of water.
- Panic Attacks: A panic attack while in the ocean is dangerous. If you feel a panic episode coming on, remove the mask and return to your boat or the shore immediately.
- Aggravation of a Medical Condition: If you have pre-existing medical conditions, including heart, lung, or blood pressure issues, you may be at a higher risk. Speak with your doctor to ensure swimming in the ocean is suitable for you.
- Exposure to Elements: The ocean or other bodies of water contain dangerous conditions such as riptides, underwater obstacles, contact with dangerous animals, or other dangers.
- Not Suitable for Children Under 12 Years Old
- Floatation Device: The use of flotation devices can provide additional safety for users of all skill levels. However, be aware that the use of snorkel gear in association with a floatation device can create a drowning risk if the user passes out while floating face-up, thus obstructing the snorkel tube. Always snorkel with a partner and have a safety check system in place.
Are Full-Face Snorkel Masks Safe?
Full-face snorkel masks are mostly safe, but they have weaknesses. While standard snorkeling goggles force you to focus your breathing through your mouth alone, full-face snorkel masks allow you to breathe through your nose. However, a few things make full-face masks frustrating to use:
- First, they trap air inside of the mask. The air you breathe out gets breathed back in. This limits how long you can wear the mask without removing it to refresh.
- Second, wearing a full-face mask makes it hard to “equalize.” This is when you plug your nose to pop your ears to go deeper than 10 feet; this is difficult to perform when you can’t touch your nose.
- Third, you have to strap it tightly. You don’t want water to seep into the mask, so you must put it on and tightly pull the straps. If any malfunctions occur, the result is water in your mask, which makes it difficult to remove from your face.
Can You Snorkel While Pregnant?
Yes! Snorkeling during the first two trimesters of pregnancy can be a great way to exercise and relieve stress. Relax while you swim and observe the fish swimming beneath you. The typical lack of energy and dexterity in the third trimester can make swimming a little dicey. Check with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Snorkeling Safety Tips
These tips are ways that you can help prevent accidents while snorkeling:
- Make sure you understand the manufacturer's guidelines when using their masks. Improper use of a mask, or use other than for snorkeling, may result in injury or death.
- Never snorkel alone. “The more the merrier” applies here. Ensure that you and your partners have a safety check system in place.
- Know your limits and be careful. Don’t keep going because you “don’t want to be left behind.” Your safety is more important than staying out too long. Return to the boat or shore and rest if needed. If necessary, request assistance to get back safely.
- Be familiar with your gear. Test your snorkel mask out in a pool BEFORE your vacation. Get used to breathing with it, especially if you have never snorkeled or used that particular equipment before.
- Be aware of conditions. Always observe first and be aware of dangerous water conditions and adverse weather.
- Keep a light, steady pace. Control your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths. The right breathing technique is important in water activities. You must be getting enough oxygen, and to do that you must take long, steady breaths. If you feel short of breath, remove the mask to make sure you are flushing out any dirty air.
- TAKE REGULAR BREAKS. It is recommended to remove the mask and take a break at least once every 30 minutes of use. Make sure you are breathing fresh air during the break.
- Make sure you are hydrated before stepping foot in the ocean! Dehydration can make a lot of things difficult, including snorkeling.
- Watch out; they sting. Avoid touching animals, coral, and plant life. It’ll simply be better for everyone, and it will help eliminate the chances of an accident.
- Do not participate in snorkeling if you are under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
Connecting with our oceans, viewing marine life in their natural habitat, and exploring reefs are equal parts of the most rewarding experience you can have at the beach. Follow these guidelines, even if you are a strong swimmer. HAVE FUN AND BE SAFE OUT THERE!