You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve heard the descriptions: Amazing. Spectacular. Unbelievable. These and other superlatives are applied to the underwater, otherworldly domain that lies just beneath the waves of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. And while relaxing on a beach and sipping on a Mai Tai has its merits, you’d like to explore the other half of what the Caribbean has to offer – an amazing, spectacular (yes, we think so too!), fascinating world that is simply bursting with energy, color, and life.
If you’ve never snorkeled before, you may have some trepidation about giving it a try. But no need to worry. With just a few simple tips, you’ll soon be gliding among coral, turtles, tangs, angelfish, damsels, crustaceans, and maybe even octopuses and rays.
Get the Right Equipment
Since you may already be a bit uncomfortable in the water, it’s important that you feel as comfortable as possible with your equipment. Masks come in different shapes and sizes, so find one that fits properly so it won’t leak. Place it over your face – simply hold it, without putting the strap around your head – and inhale through your nose. If it doesn’t leak air, it won’t leak water.
If you choose to wear flippers (they are optional), try them on to make sure they are not too tight that your feet hurt, or too loose that you’ll lose them in the water.
Snorkels are fairly generic; if you’re using rental equipment, make sure it’s dry with no water inside. If it makes you squeamish thinking about putting something in your mouth that has been in hundreds of other mouths, you might prefer to buy your own. A simple mask and snorkel can be purchased for about $20.
Crawl Before You Walk
You definitely shouldn’t be in the open sea the very first time you try snorkeling. Practice first in a pool or shallow water. Your mind tells you that you shouldn’t be breathing with your face in the water and you have to get used to this. Get comfortable with the mask and snorkel. Put your face in the water, breathe a few times, and take it out. When you’re comfortable with this, try swimming while doing it. Some water will inevitably get into the snorkel while you’re swimming, so learn how to purge the snorkel by blowing hard to get the water out.
You should do this both physically and mentally. Don’t go snorkeling on a full or empty stomach. Also, avoid alcohol before snorkeling; it will not enhance your experience and may make it more difficult. Your body can react differently to alcohol when in the water. Go with an open mind and a sense of adventure and anticipation too. If you’ve done your preparation and take it slowly, very little can go wrong. Focus on the new world that awaits you.
Once You’re in the Water
Choose a calm spot with minimal waves. Relax. Breathe slowly. Float. The Caribbean is a salt body of water, so you’ll do this without even trying. But if you feel uncomfortable in deep water, use a floatation device. And always go with someone else, preferably an experienced snorkeler. This is true even for veterans. It makes the experience more enjoyable, but most of all, it’s much safer. Relax, float, and enjoy the enchanting world beneath the waves!