Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m not the world’s best snorkeler. (Does such a title/honor even exist?)
So why read my snorkeling tips? I get it. I hear you.
Look, I’m just a guy who loves snorkeling, has done it a few dozen times, and has a knack for finding turtles, rays, squid, octopi, and other assorted sea creatures when I snorkel. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I do some things in the water that seem to help me have a good, safe time while seeing as many creatures as possible.
So while I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago, I thought … why not share some of this with others?
To have a really fun and successful time snorkeling, you should do more than just stick your head down, swim in a straight line, and look as far down as you can see. But every time I go snorkeling, I see other folks doing exactly that.
So let me share a few tips that might help you develop a knack for seeing more fish and having more fun next time you go snorkeling! These first few are obvious, so I’m not gonna spend much time on them.
The Obvious 4
1.) Know the local rules and follow any and all safety requirements wherever you’re snorkeling.
2.) Have the right gear and know how to use it. If you can, be sure to spray defogger on your mask so you can clearly see the beauty of the water.
3.) Don’t be an ass to other snorkelers. Don’t bully your way through a crowd to see a turtle. You’re not Aquaman and you don’t rule the seas.
4.) Coral reefs are great place to snorkel. A lot of fish, turtles, etc., eat along coral reefs.
The Less Obvious 6
5.) Be careful about kicking.
When I’m in active/alert mode — i.e., looking for sea creatures — I try to kick/swim as lightly as possible. When you kick hard, you a) might scare a fish away, and b) create a lot of bubbles in the water that make it harder to see. It can also be rude or even dangerous to people behind you that may not be aware of.
Kick lightly when you’re in “find fish” mode. The only time I ever kick at full strength is when I’m alone and actively swimming to a specific spot.
6.) Look up.
Don’t just look down when you’re snorkeling. A lot of creatures swim closer to the surface, including turtles. Also, wow, up near the surface can be really beautiful with the water bending the sun’s light.
7.) Look around.
Don’t just go forward. Turn around every 30-60 seconds or so. Do a complete 360-degree turn. Turtles can come toward you from behind. Some of my best/favorite turtle encounters began with one of them coming towards me from behind.
8.) Look at and listen to other snorkelers.
I know you’re trying to spot cool fish, turtles, or whatever, but sometimes the best way to do that is to keep your eyes and ears peeled on the people around you. If there are turtles nearby, there’s probably a group surrounding them. Go join them.
And listen as you snorkel. When someone spots a turtle, they almost always yell “turtle!” to the rest of their group — that’s your signal to go join them. But remember rule #3 above.
Watching and listening to others around you is also a good safety tip. Speaking of which…
9.) Never be the furthest person out.
Kaanapali Point is one of my favorite spots to snorkel. There’s a shallow area right off the beach that often has fish and even a turtle or two. You can also snorkel further out toward Black Rock, where the water is a lot deeper. That’s where you’ll see turtles, rays, and various other fish.
But that far out, not gonna lie … it gets a little nerve-racking. When I’m out that far from the beach, I always make sure there’s someone else further out. If I can’t, then I’ll swim back closer to shore. I think it’s smart to always keep someone else between you and a hungry fish.
10.) Keep an eye on the depths.
As long as I’m talking about self-preservation, keep an eye on the depths further away from you. Don’t just look for happy, harmless creatures right in your line of sight. If there’s a hungry fish 20-30 yards away, you want to know as soon as possible.
I have a feeling some of my friends who are also experienced snorkelers might see this at some point, and I hope they’ll add their own tips and advice to mine above. What about you? If you have something to add, drop it in the comments below!