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Tips For First Time Snorkelers

If you’re planning a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands and spending time on tropical beaches, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up snorkeling at least once. Snorkeling is a great way to get up close to sea life that you would only catch glimpses of on a sailboat or catamaran. But if you are new to swimming in open waters and aren’t familiar with snorkeling equipment, or maybe if you’re a little nervous about the experience, the whole thing can feel quite intimidating and scary.

The good thing about snorkeling is that there is minimal equipment and it only takes a few minutes to get accustomed to how it all works. Unlike scuba diving, where it’s highly recommended you take a class or two before jumping in the water, you don’t need any official lessons before donning your snorkeling gear. But it does help to get a few tips.

How to Snorkel Like a Pro

Get to Know Your Equipment

  • Diving Mask: The diving mask, or goggles, will ensure that you can see what’s in the water clearly. The mask should fit very snug around your face, including over your nose, so that water doesn’t get inside.

  • Snorkel: The snorkel is a long tube that attaches to the goggles and has a mouthpiece that you breathe through.

  • Swim Fins: These are worn on your feet; they help you swim easier and help conserve energy. They aren’t always necessary, but can be helpful if there is a current or if you’re swimming for longer distances.

  • Wet Suit: A wet suit isn’t entirely necessary either, you could simply swim in a swimsuit or swim trunks, but if the water is cold, it can provide warmth and protection.

  • Flotation Device: Whether you’re a good swimmer or not, a flotation device or life jacket is a must! The added support in the water makes it much more comfortable to swim, allowing you to focus on the sea life instead of just trying to stay afloat.

Breathe Through Your Mouth

So you have your face in the water and you’re being told to breathe through your mouth – it is completely understandable that this concept might cause some anxiety. Understand that it may take a few tries until you feel comfortable. If there is a secure and snug fit on your diving mask and snorkel, there won’t be any worry of breathing in water. Just stay calm and try to breathe as usual. If you are brand new to snorkeling, it may be a good idea to try it out when you’re on the beach and can stand in one place with your face in the water. This way you can focus on just learning how to breathe instead of swimming and watching out for sea creatures at the same time.

Don’t Put Your Head Too Far Into the Water

Snorkeling works because the tube is extended above the surface of the water. This allows you to breathe in air instead of water – seem simple enough, right? But when you see a creature on the bottom of the ocean floor and you want to get closer, you can’t. If you dive deeper into the water and the snorkel gets submerged, then you’ll be breathing in water through the snorkel. And this is exactly what you want to avoid. As a general rule, you want to keep the back of your head out of the water.

Don’t Touch the Sea Life

While there are some sea creatures that you can touch at your local zoo, when you’re in the U.S. Virgin Islands on your sailboat charter, it’s important to not touch the wildlife. Marine creatures can be startled easily, and others may be dangerous. You may also see some coral in the water, and it’s incredibly important to not touch the coral. Interfering with coral could damage or kill them.

Be Aware of What’s Around You

When you get used to breathing through your snorkel, it can be easy to get so focused on trying to spot sea life that you stop paying attention to other things. If you’re snorkeling with a group, be aware of your personal space, allowing the people around you plenty of room to swim around without bumping into you. Also, be aware of where your boat is or where the beach is located. When there is even a slight current, it can be easy to be pushed away from your home base, so pay attention to how far away you’re getting from somewhere safe.

Never Snorkel Alone

Snorkeling is a lot of fun, but it’s definitely more fun and a lot safer when you do it with other people. Sure, if you spot a big turtle around the bend, you may want to see if you can get closer, but swimming can be exhausting and straying away from your boat or the shore can be dangerous. If you do want to swim a little further away, make sure someone at least goes with you; but ideally, you would have the boat take you where you want to go.

Wear Sunscreen

Just like you can still get sunburned on a cloudy day, the sun’s rays can still reach you when you’re underwater. Make sure you lather on a water-resistant sunscreen that is at least SPF-30, if not stronger. And if you plan on being out in the water for a long time, be aware of how long it’s been since you last applied sunscreen. For adequate protection, you should reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Everyone likes a tan, but your skin will thank you for wearing sunscreen in the long run.

Know Your Limits

Time flies when you’re having fun, and when you’re seeing new and beautiful sea creatures for the first time, it’s hard to know when it’s time to stop and take a break. Be aware of how your body is feeling, including your legs, arms, lungs, and eyes. If you start feeling tired, if your eyes are sore or tired, or if breathing deeply through your snorkel has taken its toll, then take a break. It’s much better to take frequent breaks than to get overwhelmed and overtired in the water.

Snorkel With Someone Who Knows the U.S. Virgin Islands Area

There are several great places to snorkel in St. Thomas and St. John, so go with someone who knows the best spots!

Sail With Liberty & Justice Charters offers catamaran and sailboat charters in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Our boats include Liberty, a 44-foot ketch sailboat and Justice, a Voyage 430 catamaran. We offer full day, half day, sunset cruises, and customizable charter trips so you can explore the beautiful bays of St. Thomas and St. John to your heart’s content. Whichever package you choose, it includes lunch, snacks, drinks, and beautiful snorkeling opportunities. Meet your sailing charter crew here, and get in touch with Sail With Liberty & Justice today to schedule your trip!