Snorkeling tips for beginnersFranklin Seal | April 30, 2013
The snorkeling on Glover’s Reef at Long Caye is world class.
- Warm: around 80-degrees. This not only makes it comfortable, but also extends the time of your dives. Many tropical vacation spots famous for snorkeling have cooler water.
- Visibility: our water is crystal clear, typically you can see 100 feet or more. Part of that is due to the fact that Glover’s Reef lies 35 miles off the coast, away from the intense human activities that can cloud the water. Many snorkel vacation spots are close to civilization with consequently cloudier water.
- Buoyant: The salinity content of the Caribbean is significantly higher than that encountered in the open ocean. That means you float higher in the water. You can relax and expend less energy.
- Glover’s Reef Atoll stands in the middle of the Caribbean, away from the coastline and in the flow of open sea currents. Yet with the fringe reef on its outer edge protecting the 36 square miles of inner “lagoon,” its waters are much calmer than the surrounding open ocean.
- Inside this protected zone lie over 700 coral patch reefs to explore at easily reachable depths usually less than 20 feet.
- Nourished by the ocean currents, protected by the fringe reef (and a special environmental designation – Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve and World Heritage Site) the coral reef ecosystem is pristine. That means the marine life is plentiful, diverse and healthy, providing an endlessly engaging diving experience that brings meaning to the word “awesome” – you will be in awe.
In order to get the most from your snorkeling experience, it is important to be prepared. That’s why each and every guest on Adventure Island is asked to attend Snorkeling Orientation almost immediately after we arrive on Long Caye. Here’s a checklist of snorkeling tips that we use in our class:
- Have a clear plan or snorkeling itinerary before taking off.
- Stay aware of your group’s location while in the water, especially when crossing any channels or open passages.
- Bring a dive buoy! Boats can be a hazard in open channels. Stay aware!
- Remain aware of where your group’s leader or guide is at all times.
- In putting on your mask, remember to keep your hair away from the seal.
- Men with mustaches will want to use Vaseline to get a tight seal on mask.
- If you have the built in shoe-type of swim fin, you will want to walk backward when out of the water.
- At Adventure Island we like to emphasize floating. Rather than always swimming along on the surface or diving down, try simply floating in one spot using the snorkel to breath and the mask to look down and around. It is relaxing, it conserves your energy and also allows you to become more observant. Sometimes you can miss really cool things because you are moving along past and don’t see them.
- When in a tight group, use your arms to move yourself rather than your legs. That way, people won’t kick each other in the face. If you get nervous about staying afloat, think about wearing a lifejacket. It might make you more relaxed and allow you to enjoy your dive more.
- Leg cramps are common. If you start to feel a cramp coming on, get assistance. Take off one fin, float and massage the leg. Don’t panic. The situation is manageable. Get yourself to shallow water (to stand up) or get a floatation device (lifejacket or kayak) ASAP. For bad leg cramps your buddy may need to take your fins so that you can swim back to shore without them.
- On Long Caye, we don’t wear gloves because we do not touch the coral. For one, it’s dangerous (fire coral can sting) and it’s bad for the coral (oils from skin can kill individual cells).
- Avoid stirring up sand with your fins as you swim as once stirred up, it suffocates coral.
- Wear a dive skin if you have one (also called hydroskin, swim tights, and rashguard).
- We regularly snorkel for an hour or more, and although the water is 80 degrees, it is not 98.6. With a skin you can dive or snorkel much longer. Without one, you will likely want to quit after 20 minutes.
- And because you are on the surface of the water much of the time, windchill is also a factor.
- A full-body skin or suit also greatly reduces sunburn.
- Also it is impossible to predict when marine stinging creatures will be present, and a tight-fitting dive skin protects you from them. Our most common stinging creature is pica-pica, a thimble jellyfish larvae. They arrive in a swarm, like dust in the air; there is no avoiding them when they show up. There is no schedule they adhere to, sometimes we won’t see any for months, then suddenly there they are, two times in one week. A full body suit protects you from their sting.
- Do not use sunscreen on face above nose level. Sunscreen washed into your eyes can develop into a fist aid emergency.