two snorkelers in clear water with fish

Holiday Snorkeling – Is Previous Practice Required?

When looking at all the myriad of options for a holiday many will take a look at crystal clear waters along with the stunning scenery as evidence for their decision.

If you are going on a trip, and think that some snorkeling might be a good idea, then it starts to cross your mind that you don’t have any experience. Will you be able to enjoy the aquatic nature of your chosen destination?

You may even consider getting some lessons prior, but are they necessary. What is the truth, and do you need to practice snorkeling before you go on holiday?

If you are going on a snorkeling holiday you shouldn’t need to practice if you are confident in the water. Most tours are simple shallow reefs and pools. If you aren’t confident, and the snorkeling is likely to be more advanced, with deep water, boats exits, and snorkeling is likely a large part of the holiday, then an introductory lesson might be more advisable.

It’s probably a judgement call. Only you can answer the balance needed between how confident you are in the water, the importance of snorkeling on the holiday, and the level of skill that you may anticipate for the trip.

In general, the stronger a swimmer you are, and the more confident you are in water the less you might want to consider a snorkeling introduction lesson before you go.

If you have some gear, or have bought a mask at a shop then all well and good, as that’s an important part of enjoying any snorkeling trip, … the mask working.

A lesson will familiarize you with best practices, and at least make you aware of what you might expect, but as you’ll see you may or may not need to.

No matter which option you take, it’s important that you listen to what an instructor tells you and stick to the rules. Those rules are there for your protection. Lest you think I am being hyperbolic, I’ll mention a story in the conclusion as to why it’s important.

Obviously there are a few factors that might swing you one way or another, so let’s run through a few so you can make up your mind.

Holiday Snorkeling – When You Won’t Need Prior Skills

So, this section I will discuss a few considerations that may make you decide to wait until you get out there to get the snorkeling practice in. Having done it before, notwithstanding.

Strong swimmer – If you consider yourself pretty confident in water and have no issues with being in the water and doing a trial and error type of learning, then you probably can do a reasonable snorkeling trip in situ, even if you’ve never done it before.

There is always someone at hand, even when renting from a dive shop, who will help you select what you need, and give advice.

Spontaneous trip – If snorkeling isn’t likely to be the main part of your trip then the less likely it is you will need a lesson or any practice. 

If you are going to a part of the world where there might be the chance for some snorkeling, then you can always rely on a lesson if you feel you need it at the destination in question. Most tour operators will tell you whether the trip will require skills, or have personnel to assist in any case.

Boards on travel agents – In any area of the globe, whether it’s the Caribbean or South East Asia a travel agent is very used to the snorkeling scene and can advise you when you get there.

If it’s not that dangerous, then they will tell you, and you can just have a play while you’re there. If it is more advanced they will inform you whether prior skills are needed, although most will instruct you on the trip if necessary.

Boat tours – In most areas where there are just too many islands and lagoons, there are boat tours where they island hop for a day’s experience. These boats have snorkeling gear in the lockers, and you will be given a set. 

Normally they will leave you in a destination where there’s little chance of a problem, and even if you aren’t confident it will be OK.

Simple dive areas – If you have an area you know you want to go snorkeling, and after a few YouTube videos it seems secluded and shallow water, then you know that the trial and error method while you’re there might be fine.

Shallow reefs – It’s the same for shallow reefs really, if the area isn’t going to be an issue for you, then lessons might not be necessary.

Inland pools – Inland pools, at least most, aren’t that dangerous. There are large areas where it isn’t that deep, and the pool itself may have other snorkelers there. With any trouble, you’d just stand up and have your head above water. 

There are no tides to worry about so this sort of area is about as easy as it’s going to get.

Holiday Snorkeling – When You Might Need Prior Skills

So, in this section it’s more about when you might want to consider a lesson, or at least a trial and error on your own before you go on the holiday.

Less confident swimmer – This pretty much goes without saying, but if you aren’t confident in the water, then getting some practice in would be a welcome idea.

Normally, some sort of flotation devices are available for those that need them, especially on a boat trip.

Deeper water – If you know the area where you want to go has deeper water, then to get the best experience on your holiday, it becomes more tempting to get the practice and skills in before you go. 

It’s beautiful down on the seabed but it might be 15 feet down. Again, if you’re a strong swimmer then it’s not an issue to try it and till you get comfortable, but if you aren’t then some practice might be an idea, so you can experience the splendor without any issues.

The deeper it is, the more you might want to practice the breath control necessary.

Snorkelling boat tours – If the snorkeling tour is going to be done from a boat, then boat entry and exit might need to be practised, and an ‘introduction to snorkeling’ lesson might be advisable.

Just to stop you diving off the boat with a non secure mask for example.

Tidal areas – Holiday snorkeling doesn’t tend to involve tides in many areas, and you probably won’t be taken on a tour there any way.

If it does, most likely you will be well supervised.

You plan lots of snorkeling – The more snorkeling you plan to do on the trip, the more it seems prudent to get the basics before you go. If you just want to try it on an island hopping tour a few times, then maybe not.

However, if it’s going to be a major part of the holiday, then prior practice and getting a decent mask before you go would be an extremely good idea.

Night snorkeling – This is unlikely, but if you plan to do it spontaneously after a few days’ gear hire and you’re by the beach and want to give it a go, I’d certainly recommend a lesson.

Final Thoughts

It’s now a judgement call for you. If you are a strong swimmer then you’ll probably be OK, unless you don’t follow the guidelines, no matter what you decide.

If you aren’t then shallow pools, and safe areas seem a better bet. They are certainly common enough around the world.

A lot of people try snorkeling for the very first time on holiday, so it’s not worth stressing over. The most important thing from a lesson might be finding a mask that fits well enough so you can enjoy a holiday more.

As alluded to earlier, whether you are a strong swimmer or not it’s highly advisable that you listen to any instruction given to you, and snorkel only within the designated areas.

Normally, these are marked by easily seen floating guide lanes.

The reason for this is there may be dangers in the area you don’t know about. The most common is tides. I once watched a group of lads on a boat tour venture out the area and around a rocky outcrop outside of the area.

It was about 10 minutes before one was trying to raise the attention of the tour guides. His friend had got caught by a tide and was being swept away.

Luckily, the speedboat was available to rescue him, but it does illustrate the need to stay within the designated areas. I’ve no doubt this lad was a strong swimmer, but it didn’t help him.

Whatever you eventually decide, enjoy your trip, and stay safe.

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