Beginners Guide To Snorkeling
WHAT IS SNORKELING?
Snorkeling involves swimming, usually in the ocean, whilst wearing a mask and using a breathing tube called a snorkel to explore and view the underwater environment.
WHY GO SNORKELING?
Snorkeling is a great way to watch marine life from the surface of the ocean and is ideal for people who want to explore the ocean without needing to go scuba diving. It usually takes place in shallow water above interesting landscapes such as coral reefs and there is plenty of light in the shallows, allowing snorkelers to enjoy vivid colours at coral reefs and the diversity of life found there.
It is a great way to explore different destinations in a whole new way and snorkel with some of the most impressive creatures in the ocean such as whale sharks, orcas, great white sharks, sea lions, whales, dolphins, turtles and more.
WHERE IS THE BEST SNORKELING IN THE WORLD?
There are great snorkeling destinations all around the world, offering something for everybody to enjoy throughout the year. Some of the best snorkeling in the world can be found at these destinations:
BEST SNORKELING IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
The Galapagos Islands are a naturalist’s dream and a snorkeling experience there is unique, as many of the species at the Galapagos Islands are found nowhere else on Earth. Snorkelers can swim with Galapagos penguins, Galapagos sharks, marine iguanas, playful sea lions, rays, turtles and more. No tour is complete without snorkeling the submerged volcano Devilís Crown. This ancient volcano is now a tropical coral reef full of reef fish and visited by turtles, eagle rays, mantas and whitetip reef sharks.
The Beluga offers snorkeling cruises in the Galapagos.
BEST SNORKELING IN AUSTRALIA
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the world and has a vast array of snorkeling sites to experience. The reef has colourful corals and is home to sharks, turtles, sea snakes, and manta rays. It is the only destination in the world where people can snorkel with dwarf minke whales.
The Spoilsport and Ocean Quest offer dwarf minke whale safaris at the Great Barrier Reef and there are a variety of other Great Barrier Reef snorkeling liveaboards to choose from that are snorkeler friendly.
Western Australia is known for whale shark encounters, manta rays, dugong sightings and sailfish. Snorkelers can visit Ningaloo Reef to explore the 300 or so coral species found at this long fringing reef or visit Australia’s best kept secret; Rowley Shoals. The Rowley Shoals Marine Park has around 688 species of fish, numerous corals, Napoleon wrasse over 6 feet long, and shipwrecks to visit.
The Shore Thing catamaran offers snorkeling cruises in Western Australia.
BEST SNORKELING IN THAILAND
Thailand is well-known for its white-sand beaches and miles of coastline with plentiful snorkeling sites. The marine life is abundant and varied and there are coral gardens with huge fan and table corals teeming with reef fish. Snorkelers can see anemonefish, snappers, barracuda and enjoy majestic manta rays and whale sharks.
There are numerous Thailand snorkeling liveaboards to choose from, including beautiful sailing yachts.
BEST SNORKELING IN MEXICO
Snorkeling in Mexico offers encounters with some of the largest creatures in the ocean. It is a destination to visit to swim with friendly giant manta rays, baby sea lions and whale sharks with their young. Visitors can also enjoy seeing humpback whales, grey whales, blue whales and jumping mobula rays.
The Valentina liveaboard offers snorkeler friendly cruises in Mexico.
BEST SNORKELING IN INDONESIA
Snorkeling in Indonesia offers the chance to see some of the 2000 fish species found at this tropical paradise whilst exploring pristine coral reefs. The remote region of Raja Ampat is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is full of invertebrate and fish life. Komodo National Park offers the chance to see Komodo dragons, whilst snorkelers visiting Cenderawasih Bay can enjoy whale sharks circling underneath the local fishermen, who feed them for good luck.
There are a variety of Indonesia snorkeling liveaboards to choose from.
BEST SNORKELING IN FIJI
Fiji has over 4000 miles of coral reef surrounding 333 islands and atolls and is known for plentiful soft corals, shark encounters and manta rays. The Namema Marine Reserve is not to be missed and is an important area for migrating bottlenose and spinner dolphins, minke, pilot, sperm and humpback whales. Snorkelers can explore Makongi Island to see nurse sharks and turtles or visit the Somosomo Strait for some of the most colourful reefs in the world.
BEST SNORKELING IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Dominican Republic is one of the only places in the world where people can snorkel with humpback whales. The whales visit Silver Bank each year during their migration and can be seen in great numbers as they gather for mating and communicate with tail slaps and breaches.
The Turks and Caicos Aggressor II offers year-round Dominican Republic snorkeling safaris and dedicated safaris to snorkel with humpback whales during whale season.
BEST SNORKELING IN THE MALDIVES
The Maldives offers the chance to snorkel reefs voted as some of the best in the world. Snorkelers can enjoy swimming over blue lagoons and coral reefs whilst cruising different atolls and visiting remote unexplored areas. There are many marine species to see, including over 700 species of fish and two of the main Maldives highlights; whale sharks and manta rays.
BEST SNORKELING IN EGYPT
The Red Sea offers a variety of Egypt snorkeling opportunities, including at Ras Mohammed National Park. This coral reef is world-famous and contains hundreds of colourful coral and fish species. Makadi Bay at Hurghada is one of the best snorkeling spots in Egypt, with its sandy beaches and coral reefs that are easy to explore from the surface, whilst Marsa Alam is worth visiting to see large sea turtles and dugongs.
There are numerous Egypt snorkeling liveaboards to choose from.
For those seeking an adventurous snorkeling safari with large ocean predators, there are two premier destinations to visit; Guadalupe Island and Norway.
SWIM WITH GREAT WHITE SHARKS
Guadalupe Island is famous for cage diving with great white sharks and offers snorkelers the chance to see these magnificent sharks in clear blue water. There are a variety of Guadalupe liveaboards to choose from.
SWIM WITH ORCAS
A visit to Norway in the middle of the Arctic winter is well worth doing to snorkel with orcas and enjoy the Northern Lights. Swimming with orcas is suitable for snorkelers and is offered by the MS Sula liveaboard.
OTHER TOP SNORKELING DESTINATIONS
There are many more top snorkeling destinations in the world, including the following:
WHEN TO GO SNORKELING
The Galapagos waters can get quite cold from June through November. Visiting between December and May offers warmer water, calmer seas and slower currents.
The Great Barrier Reef can be snorkeled all year and minke whale safaris run during June and July each year.
Snorkeling in Western Australia is possible throughout most of the year. Whale sharks pass through Ningaloo Reef on their migratory routes between March and mid-July. The best conditions for a snorkel trip to Rowley Shoals occur between September and December.
Thailand has a great climate and snorkeling is possible all year.
Mexico snorkeling is possible all year. The winter months bring in humpback whales, grey whales, mobula rays and manta rays, whereas June to November is whale shark season. To swim with curious juvenile sea lions, visit in August and September.
Indonesia can be snorkelled all year but most visit Komodo and Raja Ampat between October and June.
Fiji snorkeling is possible all year. November to April is the best time for swimming with manta rays.
Dominican Republic snorkeling is best during whale season from January to April.
Maldives snorkeling is ideal from December to May when the seas are at their calmest, though manta season in the Maldives peaks at around August to November.
Egypt can be visited year-round for snorkeling.
Guadalupe Island snorkeling with sharks is possible from July to November, with the largest sharks arriving around September.
Norway snorkeling with orcas is possible from October to January each year.
WHAT MARINE LIFE CAN BE SEEN WHEN SNORKELING?
A variety of marine life can be seen whilst snorkeling. Each destination has different marine life highlights and there is more information on the destination guide above.
WHO CAN TRY SNORKELING?
Anyone can try snorkeling. It is great for families, for those who have not yet learnt to scuba dive, and for those who simply don’t want to dive because snorkeling is so much easier. Those who are nervous of being in the water can join in too. Snorkelers can wear a life jacket when snorkeling if preferred and can learn how to snorkel with a guide before or during their trip.
WHAT SNORKELING GEAR DO SNORKELERS NEED?
All that is needed to go snorkeling is a mask, snorkel and fins.
Posted: June 21st, 2018.
Last updated: November 1th, 2020.