Is Snorkeling Dangerous? What You Should Know

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Snorkeling is a unique ocean adventure bringing you up close and personal with lush marine ecosystems under the sea’s surface. From lush coral reefs, to stunning schools of fish, submerged shipwrecks, and more, there are endless environments to explore with your snorkel set in hand.

While snorkeling is a relatively safe water sport, it’s important to understand the hazards before diving in to set yourself up for ultimate success in the water. So if you’re wondering, “Is snorkeling dangerous?”, we’re here to answer all of your questions! Here you’ll find a guide to potential hazards you may run into while snorkeling, and how to prepare yourself to stay safe throughout your ocean adventure. 

Here are some potential snorkeling hazards:

Explore the Potential Dangers of Snorkeling 

Snorkeling is a relatively safe activity and by taking a few precautions, while being alert and aware of your surroundings, you can minimize the potential dangers.  With this said, it would be unwise to not educate yourself, preparing for any potential issues that could arise. The following are the general areas that could pose possible dangers for individuals while snorkeling:

  • The equipment
  • The snorkeler
  • The ocean

Problems with the snorkeling equipment pose the greatest dangers and potential for things going wrong. The most obvious example of a problem arising is a leak in your mask. . If water enters the mask the snorkeler's vision may become impaired, which could result in the individual panicking. 

Another challenge may occur  when you are attempting to clear water from the snorkel tube. When water enters the breathing tube, there is a possibility of not being able to clear all of the water, causing the individual to start choking on the water, again presenting the potential , to panic.

It is not necessarily the equipment that causes the problem but instead how the  snorkeler reacts and responds that is the cause of most snorkeling-related accidents.

Panicking while in the ocean increases the risk of drowning or injury. An individual who panics is likely to make poor decisions, like attempting to , pull off their mask, resulting in the potential for  inhaling water. The individual who has panicked also tends to lose awareness of their surroundings, exposing themselves to potentially injuring themselves on the nearby structures, such as a coral reef, boat, or other snorkelers.

The ocean also presents a few dangers. The biggest threat in the ocean is other people who are engaging in water sports or activities. Collisions with jet skis and small boats account for a large majority  of the snorkeling injuries reported annually.

Other threats in the ocean include jellyfish, sharks, and strong currents or rip tides. Even when swimming away from the shore, heavy waves can pull snorkelers further away from their dive site. Along with an increased risk of drowning, this may increase the risk of getting separated from your group.

There have been several cases where one or more snorkelers were left behind by their tour group. While this is incredibly rare, it is still a potential danger, especially when a snorkeler does not remain alert and aware of their surroundings

underwater while snorkeling

How to Stay Safe While Snorkeling 

These potential dangers are not intended and nor should they scare anyone away from this water activity.  Snorkeling is an amazing and relatively safe sport that allows you to observe and interact with marine life in a unique and special way.  The following are a few basic precautions that can be taken minimizing any potential dangers for you while snorkeling: 

  • When snorkeling in unfamiliar waters only dive with a trusted tour company or experienced individuals familiar with the area you are snorkeling
  • Check all of your gear before snorkeling
  • Understand how to use your equipment
  • Learn the basics of snorkeling and practice before heading out
  • Check the water conditions and weather forecast
  • Pay attention to your energy level
  • Remain aware of your surroundings
  • Stay calm and avoid  panic while snorkeling

When snorkeling for the first time, it’s wise to do so in shallow water near  the beach rather than venturing out on a boat. Snorkeling using a boat can provide you access to more varied and exciting areas once you have gained the requisite knowledge and experience.  

snorkeling equipment

Checking and Using Your Snorkeling Gear

Whether you choose to go snorkeling from a boat or from the beach nearer the shore, you should check your snorkeling gear and know how to use it.

You will typically have a mask, snorkel, and fins. The mask needs to have a good fit to prevent leaking. If the mask is too tight you're likely to feel discomfort and there is the potential for problems to occur, such as  hair getting stuck inside, compromising the mask seal making a leak more likely.

Get the mask wet before putting it on and then adjust it. You should also test it by placing your face in the water to check the seal.

When choosing a snorkel, you have several options. Most snorkels either have a splash guard or valves. The splash guard keeps water from splashing into the tube, causing the snorkel to flood with water.

The snorkels containing valves are called dry snorkels and typically cost a little more to rent or buy. They include a valve at the top of the tube to keep water from getting inside and a valve near the bottom for purging water from the tube.

Understanding the Basics of Snorkeling

You should also review the basics of snorkeling with an instructor or accessing a variety of resources available prior to  heading out in the water. Fortunately , snorkeling is not technically complicated and is fairly easy learn and master the basic skills

It’s important  to be aware of the amount of energy you are exerting while snorkeling , as it is easy to tire yourself out. You should also learn to float and how to purge water from the snorkel. A good instructor or guide, if asked, will  review the breathing techniques and answer any questions when you are snorkeling using a tour company. Don’t be afraid or hesitate to ask questions. 

You are entering an environment that humans were not created to function in without the right equipment, training and skill set.  Take the opportunity to practice prior to heading out, either in shallow water near the beach or in a pool.

mom and daughter snorkeling

Safety Precautions While Snorkeling 

Once you get in the water, there are still several safety precautions to follow. First, you need to pay attention to your energy level. It is easy to get exhausted while snorkeling, which may leave you too tired to deal with an emergency or safely return to shore or the boat. If you start to feel exhausted, you need to conserve your energy and begin heading towards safety. .

You also need to remain aware of your surroundings. I know that it is easy to focus on the fish or beautiful corals when snorkeling. However, it is essential that you regularly scan your surroundings, including the surface

As mentioned previously, one of the biggest threats in the ocean are  other people. When snorkeling, remain alert and scan your surroundings for any  incoming boats, jet skis, or other watercraft .

Conclusion – Is Snorkeling Dangerous?

Snorkeling is a relatively safe water sport and poses minimal danger if you take the necessary steps to prepare yourself for the adventure and stay alert to your surroundings. . The biggest threats are panic and boats. If you learn  how to properly use the equipment, practice the fundamental skills and understand the basics of snorkeling, it presents approximately the same risks as going for a swim .

As you venture out on your snorkeling adventure keep the tips we have shared in mind and let us know in the comments section how things go for you.