Snorkeling Trips Tips

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Jellyfish Island, Palau

Snorkelers visiting Micronesia will want to make a stop at Jellyfish Lake in Palau for an out-of-this-world experience. Jellyfish Lake, or Ongeim’l Tketau to locals, is located on the island of Eil Malk in Palau. The 12-acre lake is one of 70 marine lakes in Palau, and is home to millions of sting-free jellyfish of all sizes.

The popular myth is that the jellyfish were stranded in the lake millions of years ago, and because there were isolated from predators, they lost their ability to sting. Marine biologists explain that the jellyfish actually have stingers that they use to prey on zooplankton, but are too small to cause more than a slight tingle to human skin.

Tour operators and dive companies from Koror bring tourists by boat to the island where they must complete a short, but steep, hike to reach the lake. Scuba diving is not allowed in the lake, however snorkeling without the use of fins is permitted. Tourists with jellyfish allergies are encouraged to wear protective suits while snorkeling in the lake.


Packing for a Snorkel Trip

Packing all the right equipment for a snorkel trip is the best way to be prepared for a fun day in the water. Here are the basics necessary for any snorkel trip.




Dive Booties

Dive Gloves

Dive Knife

Exposure suit

Mesh bag to carry wet items after snorkeling

Sun Screen

Lip Balm

Mask Defogger (if you don't want to use spit)


First aid kit


Waterproof camera or underwater camera



Getting out of a Seaweed Entanglement

Snorkelers exploring kelp forests, or who swim into a patch of thick seaweed can accidentally become entangled. This can be a dangerous situation, but if handled correctly, will only be a minor inconvenience.

If you find yourself entangled, try to remain calm. Panicking and thrashing around will only make the entanglement worse. Relax and try to locate where you are entangled. If possible, carefully untangle the seaweed with your hands. If it is not possible to manually untangle yourself, use a dive knife to cut through the seaweed. Once you have freed yourself from the entanglement, look for the least dense way out of the seaweed and head that way. It may be necessary to slowly propel yourself backwards to escape the seaweed.

Always pay attention to your surroundings so that you don't get caught in dense seaweed where entanglements are more likely to occur.


Entering the Water from the Shore

Find an entry point that is smooth and clear of rocks and other debris. Avoid entering the water where there is coral or other forms of wildlife that could be damaged by your entry.

There are two options for entering the water from the shore. The first is to put on all snorkel gear, including fins, and then walk backwards into the water. While some find this method the easiest, it goes against the rule of never turning your back to the sea.

The second option is to wade into the water until it is about thigh high, then put the fins on while facing the sea. This method can be much easier than walking backwards into the water, however it can be very difficult if the water is choppy or there is a current.


Entering the Water from a Boat

There are a few ways to enter the water from a boat.

The giant stride entry works well on boats with swimming platforms. Prepare for the entry by checking the water to make sure it is deep enough and there are no obstructions. When ready, put on snorkel gear and stand at the edge of the swim platform. Hold mask and snorkel to your face with one hand, and take a giant step off the platform and into the water. Scissor kick your legs together when you hit the water to push yourself to the surface faster.

Another option for boats with a swimming platform is the slide in entry. Once gear is on, seat yourself at the edge of the platform. Turn body so both hands are on one side of you holding on to the platform, then slowly turn and lower your body into the water, supporting yourself with your hands until you are comfortably situated in the water.

The back roll is the preferred entry method on boats without platforms, such as inflatable boats. Put snorkel gear on and sit on the edge of the boat with back towards the water. Hold mask and snorkel to face, lean backwards, and roll into the water.


Interacting with Marine Life

Snorkeling gives us a chance to swim over coral reefs, explore kelp forests, and come face to face with creatures of the sea. Observing marine life in its natural environment can be an adventure of a lifetime. Some fish may seem friendly and come right up to you, but remember marine life can be unpredictable and even dangerous. Following a few rules can make it a safe and enjoyable experience for both man and fish.

* The number one rule to interacting with marine life is Do Not Touch. Some animals may bite or sting when touched.
* Coral is alive, and very fragile. Just touching coral can kill it, so do not touch coral, stand on it, or break a piece off for a souvenir.
* Be respectful. Don’t chase or try to ride any of the marine life.
* Do not feed the fish.
* Keep an eye on your surrounding so you know if any sea creatures are in your vicinity. Accidentally touching them could result in a bite or sting.
* Don’t take anything out of the water, besides trash you may find.

* To see the most marine life, snorkel close to reefs.


Snorkeling Safety Tips

Always snorkel with a buddy.

Do not touch marine life.

Check local conditions before entering the water.

Don't snorkel if the water is too choppy, there are big waves, approaching storms, high winds, jellyfish, strong currents, or low visibility.

Pay attention to your surroundings.

Do not snorkel in high traffic areas.

Know your limits.

Never turn your back to the sea.

Avoid alcohol and other substances before snorkeling.

Bring a first aid kit and emergency numbers.


Flooded Snorkel and Mask

From time to time, water may leak into your mask or into your snorkel. This can be a little unsettling the first time it happens, but it is easily fixed.

Wearing a mask that fits well should keep most water out, but small amounts of water could still seep in. If this happens, don't panic. Simply lift up your head and push on the top of the mask, or gently pull the bottom of the mask away from your face, so the water runs out.

Unless you are snorkeling in a perfectly still environment, water will undoubtedly get into your snorkel. When this happens, blow forcefully through the snorkel to remove the water. Proceed to inhale carefully, in case there is any water remaining inside the snorkel.


Preventing Snorkel Mask from Fogging

Viewing marine life and underwater scenery can be difficult if your snorkel mask fogs up. Fortunately, there are a couple of easy tricks to avoid this problem.

If using a new mask, clean it out beforehand with a little toothpaste to remove any protective film. Gently rub non-gritty toothpaste on the inside of the mask and let it sit for a minute before rinsing it out thoroughly.

Before entering the water, there are two options that will help keep your snorkel mask clear. Your first option is to squirt some store bought defogger into the mask, rub it around, rinse, and you are ready to go. The second option is to use your own spit. This may sound a little unappealing, but it works just as well as the store bought defogger and it's cheaper.

If the mask starts fogging up while snorkeling, let a little water leak into your mask and rinse over the lens, this should clear it up. If that doesn't work, take off your mask and let the spit fly.


Preparing to Snorkel

A few preparations before entering the water will make your snorkeling adventure more enjoyable and less hazardous.

* Take off jewelry. Not only is there a chance that you could lose it, but there's also a possibility that a fish might mistake a shiny object for prey.

* Protect your skin from sun exposure. In most cases sunscreen should be enough, however there are some locations that ask tourists not to wear it because it can damage the reefs. In these situation, exposure suits are your best bet. Exposure suits can also protect against run-ins with marine life, and they help you float as well.

* Test all of your equipment to make sure that it fits and works properly.

* Make sure your equipment is streamlined, with nothing hanging loosely. Dangling equipment can attract fish and damage coral.

How do I judge distance underwater?

Snorkeling And Judging Distance

When snorkeling underwater, objects look 25% larger (or closer) than they really are. Before your snorkeling adventure, practice judging distances by floating in very shallow water and reaching down to touch the bottom.

This will help you learn how far an "arm's length" is underwater. This is very important because when you are snorkeling in a coral reef in Antigua, you need to judge how far you are away from corals, fish and shells so you don't bump into a giant brain coral and hurt yourself while damaging a small ecosystem!

Do I need to wear fins when snorkeling?

Snorkel Equipment - Fins

There are two types of snorkel fins, adjustable open heel and full foot, and each have advantages and disadvantages.

Open heel fins have adjustable straps on the back making them easier to put on and take off as well as fit correctly. The disadvantages to these types of fins are that they tend to be a little heavier and bulkier, and they require booties to protect the foot and heels. The advantage is that snorkelers can buy a variety of booties to wear for different temperatures, and can adjust the fins to fit around each bootie. Fins with adjustable straps can also be worn with scuba gear.

Full foot fins are not adjustable, but provide more protection for your heels. They are worn barefoot, which does not make them ideal for cold water. These fins are lighter, so they are easier to bring along when traveling.

Just like shoes, fins should be tried on before purchasing. When trying out open heel fins, do so while wearing the booties you are planning on using with them. When trying on either type of fin, move your feet around in all directions and wiggle toes to be sure that the fins fit comfortably and snugly. Fins that are too tight will rub and lead to blisters, and fins that are too loose may fall off or move too much while swimming.

What kind of snorkel should I use?

Snorkeling Equipment - Snorkel

Your snorkel should be no longer than 18" and have a large bore. The snorkel should be flexible and fit your bite.

Try to get one that has a replaceable mouthpiece because as time passes, people have a tendency to chew through them on longer snorkeling tours - not out of fear, but from excitement.

Also, there are snorkels that have one-way purge valves. Water can drain out of the bottom, eliminating blast clearing.

How do I know if my snorkeling mask fits?

Snorkeling Equipment - Mask

Your mask is probably the most important piece of equipment you will use while snorkeling. It must fit correctly or you will be constantly stopping to clear it. Before you go on your snorkeling vacation make sure your mask fits properly.

* First, take the head strap and fold it over the front of the mask.
* Next, place the mask against your face to cover your eyes and nose. While holding the mask in place, inhale through your nose.
* Now release your hold on the mask.

If the suction holds the mask in place, you have a good fit. If not, try another mask until you find one that fits.


Snorkel Accessories - Snorkel/Dive Flags

Snorkelers and SCUBA divers use safety flags to increase their visibility to passing boats and other traffic. Snorkelers can utilize snorkel flags or dive flags while in the water. Snorkel flags are lightweight flags that attach to the snorkel and come in a variety of heights. Dive flags are attached to inflatables and pulled behind snorkelers and divers with a rope. Both flags are an extra precaution and should not be used to replace regular safety practices.


Snorkel Accessories - Snorkel Keepers

Snorkel keepers are handy accessories that keep snorkels attached to masks with clips or straps. Clips simply slide over the snorkel and then clip to the side of the snorkel mask. Straps contain rings on both ends, and are easy to use. One ring goes around the snorkel, then the strap wraps around the mask strap, and the second ring goes over the snorkel again. Snorkel keepers are made from a variety of materials such as plastic, rubber, silicone, and neoprene. Neoprene is the best material to avoid catching in hair.


Relax and Have Fun

Snorkeling should be a relaxing and fun experience, so enjoy the adventure. Take your time and don’t try to rush, because you’ll tire yourself out and the excessive movement will scare away marine life. If you do become tired or out of breath from exertion, roll over onto your back and breathe through your mouth. Float until you are rested and ready to continue.


Using Snorkel Fins

Using snorkel fins correctly makes it easier for snorkelers to propel themselves through the water smoothly and at greater speed.

Propelling yourself with your arms is inefficient and will tire you out quickly. Keep arms relaxed at your sides, or with hands locked loosely under your stomach.

With legs and ankles relaxed, slowly scissor kick your legs in long kicks stemming from your hips. Keep legs straight, and try to keep both legs and fins beneath the water. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to propel yourself.

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Kelley Diekman