First things first when going snorkeling, what do you need?
Take a look at a packing list to make sure you’ve got everything you need before taking to the waters.
Taking the time to find a mask that fits your face well is critical. If you suction the mask to your face, without using the strap, it should stay put by itself. Any air leakage means it’s not a good fit.
- Mask defogger
Goggle defogger can help prevent your mask from fogging up. Be sure to choose one that’s non-toxic, biodegradable and alcohol free, for your protection and for the safety of the reefs and their inhabitants. A simpler option is to spit into the mask and rub the saliva around before washing it out.
A critical factor in choosing the right snorkel is the mouthpiece—you want to make sure it feels comfortable. A “purge valve” is a nice feature on many snorkels that lets water out but not in. And you want to choose a snorkel that comes close to your head, which will prevent drag.
- Swim cap or bandana
Not only will a swim cap or bandana keep hair out of your snorkel, but it will also prevent your scalp from burning on a sunny day. The surgical caps that doctors wear is an ideal type of bandana because the ties prevent them from slipping off. Pick one up from a medical supply company for cheap.
- Float Vest
For the less confident swimmer, renting or purchasing a float vest is a great way to keep you buoyant and relieve any nervousness.
Besides keeping you warm in cooler water, wetsuits also help prevent sunburns, offer protection from stingy particles in the ocean and provide buoyancy. Shorty wetsuits—ones with short sleeves and leggings that stop right before the knee—are perfect for water that’s just a little cooler than you could swim in comfortably, plus they’re easier to pull on and take up less room in your suitcase.
- Rash guard
When the water is too warm for a wetsuit, a rash guard will provide the same protection from the sun and ocean stinging bits.
- Biodegradable sunscreen
Choose a reef-friendly sunscreen, which biodegrades in water. That way you won’t be damaging the reefs you’re there to see.
For snorkeling, shorter fins are often desired—you can change direction easier and they’re not as heavy, making it easier to kick. If you’d like to try free diving, go for longer fins that will help you swim deeper faster.
- Neoprene socks
Even fins that fit well can cause blisters on your feet, especially on the backs of your ankles. Neoprene socks provide comfort and can also help keep your feet warm.
Ok, you say you don’t want to get all that stuff as just don’t know if am into that much yet. Here are absolutes you need:
MASK & SNORKEL
The mask is a viewing device, which, when worn on the face allows you to view the underwater world. Without it, everything viewed under the water would be a blur. The snorkel apparatus is a tube which allows you to breathe while at the surface while their face is submerged. Since the average human head weighs around 10 pounds, the snorkel could also be described as an energy saving device as it eliminates the energy expenditure needed to lift the hear clear of the water to inhale air. They are either adult or child specific with respect to the size and the length of the barrel.
FINS & SNORKELING VEST
Fins are worn on your feet and are used for in-water locomotion. They make it easier to move through the water allowing greater distances to be achieved than would be possible without them. Snorkeling vests main purpose is to allow you a means of resting should you become overexerted while you are in the water.
Knowing the basic equipment needed as well as being able to build that information into an understanding of what is needed regarding that equipment not only helps to create a more informed consumer but will also build confidence and increase enjoyment and appreciation in this amazing sport.
THE BEST PLACES TO SNORKEL IN THE UNITES STATES (a short list)
The Crystal River
Crystal River, FL
Yes, when people think of water and Florida, they usually think of the beach (and possibly spring break); but this river in North Central Florida boasts some of the clearest inland water in the nation. It’s also the only place in the country where you can regularly swim with the endangered manatee. If you’re nice, one might even swim up and give you a nuzzle.
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla, CA
Sure, you’ll probably need a wetsuit to snorkel around this beach near San Diego, but it’s worth it to score a close-up shot of garibaldi, yellowtail, and leopard sharks. And once you get out of this tucked-away turquoise cove, you can dry off on arguably the most scenic beach in Southern California.
Papalaua Wayside Park
On Maui, your move is this shallow coral reef on the eastern end of the park. The reef’s proximity to the surface allows snorkelers to see fish they’d normally need a tank and a certification to appreciate. Biscayne National Park
Dade County, FL
Quick: what’s the only county in America with TWO national parks? It’s none other than DADE COUNTY. It is home to the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, the second of which is part of the Florida Keys Reef Tract. Here, you can snorkel over shipwrecks, living reefs, and even spy the occasional dolphin.
Palm Beach County, FL
Though many South Floridians know this inlet in PBC more for its legendary party scene, the area’s diverse marine life is far more impressive. Six man-made reefs sit in the cove, and among the boulders you’ll see parrotfish, barracuda, and bonefish, not to mention manatees if you’re snorkeling in the winter.
Crystal Cove State Park
Laguna Beach, CA
In between the surfer’s paradise that is Newport Beach and the mansions of Laguna Beach sits this state park, possibly the best dive site in Southern California. Even for the tankless, a snorkel through the underwater marine park at Pelican Point or Reef Point offers a glimpse of garibaldi, dolphins, and more.
This tiny marine preserve off Avalon Bay in Catalina is the top snorkeling spot on this famous SoCal island. After navigating your way down a treacherous pebble staircase to the water, you’ll be swimming with tons of friendly cold-water fish that will come right up to you asking for food. There’s also a thick kelp forest and rock reef to explore.
Makaha Beach Park
Makaha Beach Park on the western side of Oahu offers locals and tourists alike some of the best snorkeling on Hawaii’s most populated island. Swim out to the buoys that mark the coral reefs and get ready to hang out with some giant green sea turtles.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Key Largo, FL
Florida is home to the largest living coral barrier reef in North America, which stretches from Key Biscayne in Miami down to Key West. About halfway down, you can stop at this award-winning state park, where a quick swim out will have you hanging with sea turtles, grouper, and all the other tropical fish people travel the world to see. The diving here is also top notch, but even without your PADI card this park is worth a visit.
The great news, this is only a few of the awesome places to go snorkeling in the United States.
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