Snorkeling gives us windows into the underwater world where we can see marine life in its natural habitat. Snorkeling is one of Maui’s most popular activities and almost anyone can explore the ocean with easy to use snorkel equipment even if they are a beginner snorkeler.
What Is Snorkeling?
It is said that sponge farmers in ancient Greece used snorkel style methods as far back as 3000 B.C., but the concept of snorkeling wasn't documented until 350 B.C when Aristotle used a reed to breathe underwater. In 1933, the fin style we use today for snorkeling was first patented by Frenchman Louis de Corlieu, a French inventor, modeled after a design by Benjamin Franklin who loved spending time in the ocean. In 1945, the definition of the word “snorkel” was used to refer to the activity of snorkeling, deriving its meaning from the German word “Schnorchel” meaning submarine, related to the German term for snore.
The early snorkeling methods of breathing through a reed lead to the development of other diving techniques like scuba diving and freediving. While scuba diving, divers wear a tank of oxygen and descend under the surface, learning how to monitor their oxygen intake and how to resurface safely. Freediving takes snorkeling to the extreme, while divers do not use oxygen takes, and instead train their bodies to dive 100+ feet underwater while holding their breath. Both of these advanced diving techniques take special education and skills to learn but both start with the basics of snorkeling.
What is Snorkeling like?
The actual act of snorkeling is when a person uses equipment like a snorkel tube to breathe near the surface of the water while their face is submerged wearing a glass lens mask to see underwater. You do not need oxygen tanks or any expensive equipment to enjoy snorkeling. Any level of swimmer can experience snorkeling, even if you are a beginner swimmer or snorkeler in the ocean.
Snorkeling is similar to swimming but you do not need to know how to swim in order to snorkel.
Snorkeling is essentially floating on the surface, which means floatation devices like pool noodles and float belts can be used to assist the snorkeler if they do not know how to swim. If you are a beginner snorkeler you may believe wearing a life jacket is the best option for your comfort, but because life jackets are meant to float your head above water, it can be very difficult to perform the activity of snorkeling while wearing one.
That is why floatation belts and pool noodles are recommended as they will float your abdomen or chest while allowing for your face to be underwater comfortable. These flotation devices are provided on almost every snorkel tour in Maui.
It is important that the snorkeler be comfortable in the water or ocean prior to snorkeling, so they can enjoy the experience and have confidence in their safety.
Fins are also an important part of snorkel gear as they propel the snorkeler further and faster while swimming along the surface. They are not required but will give the snorkeler the ability to enjoy more time snorkeling and admiring the underwater world of Maui.
Beginner’s Guide to Snorkeling
If you are a beginner snorkeler or considering snorkeling for the first time, here are 5 tips to use as a guide to snorkeling.
1. Practice breathing with the snorkel tube.
It’s important to practice breathing through the snorkel tube before you enter the water. During most of our day, we breathe through our noses, but snorkeling requires you to breathe through your mouth into the tube that brings fresh air to the surface. Practice this breathing technique outside of the water and then in a shallow pool setting where you do not have to worry about waves or other variables.
Let yourself breathe naturally, like you would if you have a cold and a stuffy nose. Once you have your face in the water, breathe slowly through your mouth and snorkel tube, focus on relaxing and enjoying what you see around you. Don’t overthink! If you feel yourself start to panic, simply lift your head out of the water and remove your snorkel out of your mouth and breathe freely. It’s that simple!
2. Make sure your equipment fits
Proper fitting equipment will ensure your first time snorkeling is safe and enjoyable. If you are on a snorkel tour your guide will help you fit the mask correctly. If you are buying from a snorkel tour, the representative will do the same. You want your snorkel mask to fit securely without any gaps
Many beginner snorkelers gravitate towards full face snorkel masks because they are marketed as easier to breathe through and more visibility. Unfortunately, the majority of full face snorkel masks on the market are not made to circulate C02 properly and can lead to a lack of oxygen for the user.
There is also the style that makes it difficult to remove if the user is having difficulty breathing. With the separate snorkel it is as simple as removing the snorkel tube bite guard from your mouth as mentioned above, but for a full face snorkel mask, the entire mask has to be removed from the person’s head and face for them to breathe air freely. If you plan to snorkel often and advance in your diving skills, the regular two-piece mask and snorkel also allows for the ability to equalize which is necessary when diving below the surface. Full face mask to not allow for this skill to be learned or diving below the surface.
Take your time to learn to snorkel the correct way with a two piece mask and snorkel.
3. Snorkel in beginner friendly locations
It’s important to choose snorkel locations that are beginner friendly so you feel safe and comfortable snorkeling. Beginner friendly snorkel spots will be calm, less or no current and easy to access. The best way to determine if a snorkeling spot is beginner friendly is to contact the local snorkel shop which will have a snorkel report for the day, or go on a guided snorkel tour.
4. Snorkel with a buddy
We recommend always snorkeling with a friend. If you have an equipment malfunction, a health issue while in the water or begin struggling with snorkeling, having a friend nearby to help is of most importance. When snorkeling with a friend, look up occasionally to ensure you are still together and have a plan where you are snorkeling too and for how long. Never snorkel alone.
5. Go on a guided snorkel tour
If you want to accomplish the first 4 steps with less stress and more help, book a guided Maui snorkel tour. Snorkel tours on boats provide all the equipment and flotation devices and we provide snorkel instruction for beginner snorkelers, to ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable while snorkeling.
Our guides will size your gear so you have the right fit, even providing prescription snorkel masks. We select snorkel locations that work for all levels of snorkelers and provide conditions that are ideal for beginners, calm waters with little or no current. We always have a marine naturalist guide snorkeling with you in the water, keeping you safe and pointing out unique marine life, fish and coral!
If you are coming to Maui, don’t miss the most popular underwater activity, snorkeling! Book a snorkel tour and learn how to snorkel, see tropical fish, turtles, and more.