In 2018 we finally got brave and tried out snorkelling. I (Mark) have always enjoyed it but it was new to Tamara. Cuba has some of the best reefs in the world, and many of them are right off the beach. One thing we have learned is that you need to seize the moment with snorkelling. The best days are when it is full sun and few waves. Sunlight is the trick to getting good underwater photos. In addition, the fewer waves the better. Waves churn up the water and all the sand and debris in it. We try to plan snorkelling activities in advance, but if the sun is out, the waves are calm and the tide is right- seize that moment and go snorkelling rather than have another Cervesa (or even lunch!)
Using your own snorkelling gear is a good idea. There are hundreds of masks out there for purchase. They generally come in two varieties: 2-piece and full face. We still consider ourselves novices at snorkelling, so we didn’t buy expensive equipment. Make sure that your snorkel has a check valve that stops water from coming in! Not all masks fit all people either, so make sure you follow the sizing guides the seller suggests. I have also found that shaving before diving makes a big difference with water infiltration.
Full Face Mask
This style has become very popular in the last few years. It covers your entire face, which allows you the ability to breathe through both your nose and your mouth. If water gets in the mask, it is pretty easy to blow it out. These are good for surface snorkelling. They aren’t intended for diving. These are a good choice if you are a beginner.
When we first tried ours out we made the mistake of tightening the straps too much. You don’t need to do this. Just tighten the straps enough so it stays on your face. It’s really the water pressure that makes the mask watertight. Be sure to wet your face and the mask before you put it on.
Traditional Snorkel and Mask
These have been around for a long time and work well. It is a bit different learning to breathe only through your mouth. If water gets into the snorkel it can make you a bit uneasy and you will need to blow forcefully to get the water out. The big trick to these is to breath calmly and don’t panic.
You can dive with these. I suggest practising that in shoulder-depth water until you get the hang of it. Diving and holding your breath takes a lot of energy and some getting used to. Flippers are a must if you are diving.
A really important part of snorkelling is getting a pair of flippers! This makes a huge difference! You can leisurely swim around. If you need to get back to shore quickly they will make that a much quicker process. You can also tread water easily with them.
We like to use training slippers for surface snorkelling. They are much shorter and fit in your luggage better. You have a smaller chance of damaging the reef with these.
Not all of us are great swimmers! A snorkel vest can be a good idea if you have trouble floating. You need to be careful with these though, they can make you overconfident and you might find yourself drifting further away from your beach spot than you would expect. This is particularly true if it is windy.
These are not normal life jackets that try to keep your head out of the water. Snorkel vests are designed to put your face in the water, so make sure you buy one for snorkelling. Some people just use a foam pool noodle and wear it around their hips.
We love taking underwater photos. There are lots of affordable digital cameras out there. Some even attach to your diving mask. These are great if you want to video your adventure. Make sure it has a sturdy wrist strap. You don’t want to lose your camera- and pollute the coral reef as a result of it. We own and like these cameras:
There has been a lot of concern lately that the sunscreen people are wearing may be damaging coral reefs. I don’t know whether this is what is actually affecting the reefs or not, but wearing a reef-safe sunscreen can’t be a bad idea. You have to really check the labels on this one- it’s hard to determine what is really reef-safe and what isn’t.