Ensure a safe, memorable snorkeling experience
Snorkeling can be great fun, but it’s important to remember that the underwater world can be unpredictable. Following these simple guidelines help to ensure that your dive is just as safe as it is exhilarating.
Leave sea life alone
- Resist the urge to touch the fish and sea life you encounter. Even the gentlest caress can upset the delicate mucous coating that protects them from disease.
- Do not feed fish or other animals. Sea life forms depend on their instinct to hunt and acquire food. Animals that are hand-fed soon become tame and dependent on humans for food, forgetting how to hunt. They also seem to lose their natural wariness, making them easy targets for predators.
- Do not attempt to “adopt” a tropical fish. The harvesting of tropical fish is illegal, and a punishable crime.
- Make yourself familiar with dangerous sealife you may encounter.
Do not touch the coral
- It may look like concrete, but it’s far from impervious. Many tiny, jelly-like polyps live inside the harder calcium casing, and these polyps are quite fragile. Careless swimmers can destroy hundreds of these with just one swipe of a fin or hand. Many beautiful reefs have been destroyed when tired divers have attempted to stand on them.
- Swim carefully and try to avoid kicking up sand near the reefs. The sediment in sand can actually smother the coral and block necessary sunlight.
- Wear lots of sunscreen, especially on your back and the backs of your legs. Surface snorkeling causes a thin layer of water to act like a magnifier. Because you’re underwater, and your skin is cool, you might not realize you’re burning until it’s too late. Divers who are especially sensitive to sun should wear an appropriate diving suit to cover the skin.
- Watch out for stinging fish and jellyfish, and keep an eye out for fire coral.
- Keep your hands to yourself! Reaching into holes or crevices in the reef is a very bad idea. Moray eels are known to make these places their homes.
- Leave your jewelry at home, or in a safe box at the hotel. Not only could you risk losing them forever in the water, barracudas are known for their attraction to shiny objects, and your jewelry could possibly incite an attack.
- Watch for sharks. Though rare in the shallow reefs, they do show up from time to time. Don’t panic if you see one. Most are not “man eaters” and will likely ignore you as well. If a shark becomes aggressive, calmly leave the water.
- Stay away from the shallows. Don’t walk in the shallow areas around the reef, as sea urchins tend to dwell there. Their spines can cause nasty puncture wounds to whatever part of your body they come into contact with.
- Watch out for sting rays. These creatures tend to hang out on the very bottom, and if stepped on, will sting you. Shuffling your feet along the bottom as you’re walking will alert them to your presence, and they’ll likely swim off.
- Make sure you have fitted your dive mask properly. Nothing ruins a good dive like an ill-fitting mask. If you’re having difficulty, ask the instructor or an experienced diver for assistance.
Don’t let yourself be seduced by the sea
- Though amazingly beautiful, remember that the ocean is inherently unpredictable.
- Never, ever turn your back on the ocean. Like the animals that live in it, the sea has a temperament of its own. Rip currents are known for claiming lives, even in the shallows.
- If you find yourself caught in a current, relax, think, and act. Don’t swim against the current. Swim at an angle or parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current, and then swim inland.
- Always bring a buddy. No matter how experienced a diver you are, never snorkel or dive alone.
Don’t forget the camera
- Investing in a good underwater camera is a must for regular snorkelers. Tourists can purchase inexpensive underwater disposable cameras from any discount store. Use a camera strap to keep it securely connected to you. By taking snapshots of your experience, you’ll come home with lasting mementos.