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Whether you are snorkling with snorkeling gear or scuba diving, it is strongly advised that you have a buddy. You and your buddy can look after each other and should there be an emergency or problems. Children should always be accompanied by an adult when in or around water.
Purge snorkels make it easier to clear water from your snorkel. There is a purge valve located at the bottom of the snorkel, which may enable divers to use less air to blow out water. Some purge valves are sheltered by a little cage that keeps debris out.
Some divers will only use purge snorkels, while others do not find them helpful and prefer simple snorkels. When you go on scuba trips, it's always handy to have a snorkel. You can snorkel at the surface, for example, as you wait for the rest of your dive party to enter the water. If you surface far from the dive boat, it's easier to use a snorkel to swim back, rather than getting a mouthful of water.
Choose your snorkeling site with care. You do not want to be in choppy waters, so it may be best to be in a protected inlet, near an island or in shallower portions of a bay. Dive shops may offer snorkeling trips, or be able to advise you where to go.
You can choose to snorkel from a beach, off a sand bar, or from a dive boat. Tropical reefs make perfect spots for sight seeing as you snorkel. They often are not deep but contain an abundance of fish and sea creatures -- clown fish, grouper, barracuda, angel fish, even small sand sharks or hammerheads.
Advise the kids not to touch the coral or sea life. You don't want to damage anything, and at the same time you do not want to be pricked or scraped in the saltwater, which contains millions of micro-organisms. Barnacles, sea urchins, jelly fish and moray eels are among the sealife that is fascinating to watch but you should stay away from to be safe.
Snorkels no longer are simple "J"-shape devices. They come in a range of new designs. Here are some things to consider when shopping for snorkel gear:
Scuba divers carry snorkels, but many keep them in the pocket of their BC or strap them to their tank or leg. Unless you have a long surface swim ahead and want to conserve air, you may want to do the same when scuba diving. Your snorkel will be handy if you need it, but kept safely stowed in a convenient spot.
Both scuba divers and snorkelers need to let passing boaters know there are people in the water. Tie a buoy off your boat with a diving flag on it. The last thing divers or snorkelers want is to surface and find a motor boat heading straight toward them. If no one is on the dive boat, there is no one to signal that snorkelers are swimming the water.
Before you snorkel in the open ocean, make sure you practice first in a pool. If you are staying at a resort or hotel, see if there are any classes or instructors to teach you how to snorkel.
When using a snorkel, place it on the left or right side of your face, in front of your ear. Choose a snorkel with a large opening, because it will let in a lot of air. Dry snorkels prevent any water from entering the snorkel, even when you dip below surface.
Snorkeling involves floating face down at the surface, then swimming deeper to get closer looks at reef fish, star fish, whatever catches your interest.
It's easy to clear your snorkel when you surface, if you do not have a dry snorkel. Just blow real hard on the snorkel and the water will shoot out. It's like having your own whale spout.
Snorkeling doesn't take training. You can snorkel from a Grand Bahamas beach or over a reef in Key Largo, Florida. All you need to do is rent or buy a mask, snorkel and fins. You are ready for adventure. Snorkeling also is a great way to introduce children to nature.
But don't leave the sunscreen behind. Being underwater does not protect you from the sun's rays. In fact, the kind of diving snorkelers do -- near the water's surface -- makes them more prone to sunburn. Dive shops are the place to find sunscreen that is water-resistant as well as your snorkeling equipment.
Your snorkeling buddy should be someone you trust. The buddy is there for companionship but also to back you up in an emergency. Take simple precautions when snorkeling, and you will be guaranteed a day of fun and adventure.
Dry snorkels are popular with divers, because they are pretty efficient at keeping water out. A pressure-release valve opens when you surface to allow in air, and closes when you go underwater. You never have to clear a barrel filled with water.
An additional feature popular with scuba divers is a one-way purge valve at the bottom of the snorkel that helps you clear water quickly from the snorkel after you take the regulator from your mouth.
You may want to try out a dry snorkel before you use one to be sure that the brand lives up to its promises of a dry barrel after you have been submerged in the water. How easy you can take your first breath at the surface, when the valve releases, is another factor to consider.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|