Learn to Snorkel: The Essential Beginners Guide

Snorkeling is a fantastic and inexpensive way to explore coral reefs and spot some exciting marine life from above. If you want to learn to snorkel, we have put together a list of things to keep in mind before you hit the water, and some top tips to make your snorkel sessions as fun and as safe as possible.

What is needed for snorkeling?

Snorkeling is a water activity that involves floating on the surface of the water and looking down at the underwater world using a mask and snorkel to see and breathe. It is one of the best ways to enjoy the water and to spot the wild and wonderful creatures that call the sea their home.

Here is the basic equipment you need to learn to snorkel:


A mask allows you to see underwater without water getting into your eyes. It is a similar idea to swimming goggles, however, a snorkel covers your nose as well. This allows you to submerge your face without any water entering your nostrils.

Snorkeling equipment is often easy to rent when you are on vacation, but there are many different options when it comes to snorkeling masks, and it is not a "one size fits all" deal. Everyone has a different shaped face so finding a mask that suits your face can involve some trial and error. This is why it is nice to try on a few different styles before committing to taking one in the water, or even buying your own.

To test if a mask suits your face shape:

  • Hold the mask against your face (without using the strap that goes behind your head).
  • Breathe in through your nose. If the mask stays securely on your face without you having to hold it, the mask is a good fit for you.

The mask should have a good seal on the skirt that sits against your face and no air should be escaping or entering it when the mask is on your face. Once you have found a style that suits you, it can be a nice idea to purchase one of your own to travel with, so you always have a mask that works well for you. The Pure Vision snorkeling mask from Mares is popular amongst beginners and experienced snorkelers.

Open-water swimming is another fantastic activity. Find out more about what you need for wild swimming here: Jump In - 10 Pieces of Essential Kit for Wild Swimming.


A snorkel is a tube that you keep in your mouth when you are snorkeling that allows you to breathe easily without having to keep lifting your head up for air. There are a few different styles of snorkel, but when you learn to snorkel, it is a good idea to get a dry snorkel with a dry top protector that stops water from entering the snorkel from the top. The GatorDry is a great dry snorkel from Mares.

In theory, a mask and snorkel are all you need to learn to snorkel. However, there are a few extra items you can get to make your snorkeling experience better:


A wetsuit helps to keep you warm in the water and it also works as protection from the sun and stings. Depending on where you are snorkeling, there are options for all temperatures. A shorty wetsuit of 3 millimeters thickness would be enough for tropical waters. However, if you are in a colder area, you might need anything up to a 7-millimeter-thick full wetsuit.

It is good to check the water temperature so you can decide what wetsuit you need beforehand. Check out the Reef Shortywetsuit from Mares.


Fins are worn on your feet to give you extra propulsion as you kick through the water. Fins make snorkeling feel much easier and can add a level of safety in case you get caught in a current for example. The Fluida snorkel fins from Mares are durable and very reliable.

Worried about sharks while you are snorkeling? Read this: Shark Awareness Day: How to Behave in the Water with Sharks.

7 tips for a beginner snorkeler

So now you know what you need to learn to snorkel, let us talk about some ways to make your snorkeling experiences as fun and as safe as you can:

1. Get comfortable in the water

Just as you should not try to run before you can walk, it is important not to learn to snorkel before you can swim and float in water that is too deep in which to stand.

You do not need to be a champion swimmer to enjoy snorkeling, but it is important that you feel fairly confident out of your depth. If deep water makes you feel nervous, practice in a swimming pool before progressing to the sea or a lake.

2. Take a snorkeling program

Signing up for a snorkeling program like the SSI Snorkel Diverprogram can give you valuable skills to snorkel efficiently and safely. You will learn all about snorkeling techniques and perhaps even how to duck dive under the water a little!

3. Snorkel with organized tours

Instead of heading out into unknown waters on your own, it is much more enjoyable to go on an organized trip. This way you will be shown the best snorkel spots by an experienced professional who can keep you safe and point out exciting things along the way.

You will meet other like-minded snorkel lovers on the trip, too. Ask at an SSI Training Center for any snorkel trips they have scheduled.

Improving your swimming technique can make swimming and snorkeling feel much easier. Here are Top Tips for Improving Your Swimming Technique.

4. Never snorkel alone and beware of hazards

It is never a good idea to engage in any water sports in open water alone. Although snorkeling is a very safe activity, there are external hazards that can put you in danger if you are alone.

Things like currents, rocks, and boats are all things to be aware of in the water. It is a good idea to wear a brightly colored life jacket, vest, or swim cap in the water so that you can be spotted easily.

5. Check the conditions and research the area

If you are snorkeling at a spot that you have not been to before, ask around or research whether it is a good place to snorkel. You should ask questions like: "Is the area prone to strong currents?", "Is it a popular place for snorkeling?" and "Is there much boat traffic?".

It is also good to check tide times and the level of current that is best to go snorkeling at this particular spot. Check the weather and avoid snorkeling in storms and big waves. If you are unsure whether a snorkel spot is safe, avoid entering the water - it is never worth risking your life.

6. Tell others where you are going

If you are with a small group of snorkelers, make sure to tell someone staying dry where you are heading and for roughly how long.

7. Have fun!

Snorkeling is a fun activity that allows you to see the beauty of the underwater world firsthand. Stay safe but have fun! These are memories that you will hold forever.

Are you ready to start your underwater adventures? Then check out SSI’s Snorkel Diver program and learn to snorkel today!