Do I Need to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

by CaliCase Team on August 28, 2023

Imagine dipping into the cool ocean waves and peeking into a colorful underwater world. Snorkeling is like a magical window to this hidden place, where you can hang out with fish and plants underwater. We've all seen those awesome photos of people swimming with manta rays, bright fish, and starfish on social media. But here's the big question: Do you need to be a super swimmer to snorkel? Can folks who aren't too comfortable in the water still enjoy snorkeling without having to take crazy swimming lessons? Well, let's discuss!

We made this article by asking several questions to Guillaume, a swimming instructor with 5 years experience.

Snorkeling beginners


What is snorkeling?

Snorkeling is an aquatic activity that involves swimming near the water's surface. Snorkelers observe the underwater world, including marine life and underwater landscapes, without the need for complex diving equipment or diving deep underwater. Snorkelers can float on the surface, breathe through a snorkel, and look down into the water to enjoy the beauty and diversity of the underwater environment. “You can see people of all ages practicing snorkeling in lakes, rivers, indoor pools or into the sea. There are many popular places to snorkel where you can swim with dolphins but also admire corals.” Visit our best places to snorkel in the Carribean Sea to dive deeper on this subject.


How to snorkel?

The first thing we need to break down is the basics of snorkeling. You need a mask that encloses your eyes and sometimes your nose. Alternatively, you can opt for a mask that lets your nose stay free, as snorkeling doesn’t require diving deep. “Masks that enclose the nose allow you to control the pressure of the mask when you go down, because the deeper you go, the more water pressure pushes against the mask. By breathing through your nose, you can balance the pressure and even look upward without water going into your nose, which is pretty cool” pointed out Guillaume.

You also need a snorkel that lets you breathe while keeping your head underwater. “Technically, you can enjoy the view without a snorkel; you just have to hold your breath until you need more air.” The last piece of gear you need is fins, which help you move through the water efficiently. Fins aren't technically a must either, since you can swim without them.


Do you need to know how to swim to snorkel?

You don’t need to be a great swimmer to snorkel. You can use life jackets to help you float at the surface and plan to snorkel with others in case you encounter a problem, such as a muscle cramp or an injury. "People often imagine that snorkeling is about swimming with whales and turtles out in the sea, but most snorkelers enjoy the activity in shallow and calm waters where you can stand on your feet. However, snorkeling involves putting your head underwater, and many people find it distressing. So, I would recommend practicing immersing your head in water before going on a snorkeling trip with your friends." said our swimming instructor.


What is the best way to learn snorkeling?

You can visit our beginner guide to dive deeper on everything you need to know to start snorkeling but here is our swimming instructors three best tips for first-time snorkelers:

  • Choose the location wisely—preferably shallow waters—during the season when the water is clearest.
  • Practice in indoor pools where lifeguards are nearby. They can reassure you in case you experience distress and guide you if needed.
  • Never go alone. "This way, you can share the wonderful moment with friends and relatives, and also have help nearby in case a problem arises."