7 Risks of Snorkeling to Consider

7 Risks of Snorkeling to Consider

Snorkeling is one of the most famous ocean sports on the entire planet because of its fun and relaxing. The underwater world is always fascinating to humans. You can not know how many new things you can learn during a snorkeling adventure. Notably, it is less expensive and complicated than scuba diving. Snorkeling is easy for almost anyone - from kids to the elderly.

Snorkeling is one of the most famous ocean sports (Photo: sunplay.com)
Snorkeling is one of the most famous ocean sports. (Photo: sunplay.com)

You will have the opportunity to get in the water, discover one of the most beautiful spaces of nature, explore immense coral forests, swim with wild marine life, and make unforgettable memories with your traveling companion.

However, we must admit that all exploring activities have dangers, and snorkeling is no exception. Most of the time, people are not confident when snorkeling because they lack knowledge or experience of the situation. It is easy for them to panic when something gets wrong. Of course, they can't solve that situation.

But don't worry, snorkeling is generally a safe activity when you adhere to the precautions. The priority thing is that we must not only remember not to ignore these risks but also know how to deal with them.

Snorkeling on Gam Ghi Island
Snorkeling on Gam Ghi Island

What are the risks of snorkeling? What snorkeling equipment do I need? Is snorkeling safe for non-swimmers and beginners? It is justifiable if you have these queries in mind. 

Before diving in, it is essential to know how to enjoy snorkeling safely. John's Tours will answer your questions about the risks and tips to avoid them in this article.

Under health problems

It is noteworthy that if you suffer from certain health concerns (such as asthma, seizures, heart issues, hypertension, panic attacks, etc.), it’s always best to have a consultation with your doctor if you have any health issues or concerns before getting in the water.

Hypothermia

The seawater temperature has a critical role in this activity. You can catch hypothermia if you are not careful when submerging yourself in cold water for too long. Just remember that water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air, so even in warm water, the risk of hypothermia is higher. 

Warning Signs of Hypothermia (Photo: weather.gov)
Warning Signs of Hypothermia (Photo: weather.gov)

Tip: Wear a full-body swimsuit when snorkeling in deep and cold water. You can add a hood, gloves, and fins for added warmth. However, on Phu Quoc island, if you only swim near the water's surface you don't need to wear that much.

Overheating

In a tropical environment, overheating often occurs when snorkeling, but most people don’t realize it due to being submerged in the water. 
It happens because of overexposure to the sun and too much indulgence in snorkeling for a long time. Your body heats up faster if you wear a wetsuit.
The blood flow to the skin will increase, and your heart has to work harder. Overheating can lead to nausea, dizziness, and heatstroke.
Tip: Take frequent breaks while snorkeling in warm waters, be aware if you feel that you are getting hot, and stay hydrated.

Dehydration and Exhaustion

Snorkeling is a physical activity. You’re going to sweat a lot that you may not realize. This means you will burn a lot of energy like a full-body workout. At the same time, you tend to forget to drink water which is very important. Because you are getting indulged in exploring.

The fun experiences might not let you realize when exhaustion occurred. It's much faster if you are not used to exercising regularly. It might make you out of breath and uncomfortable. You may panic if you are away from shore.

Signs of dehydration (Photo: Smit.fit)
Signs of dehydration (Photo: Smit.fit)

Tip

  • Make sure to stay well hydrated and have enough food to provide enough energy you need. Although you are not thirsty, drink! You can alternate with sports drinks as well and avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks, or alcohol. 
  • Remember to wait at least an hour after eating before you swim.

Cramps

Cramps can occur because of fatigue and overuse of muscles, muscle strain, dehydration, electrolyte deficit, or holding a position for a long time.

The painful cramps will inhibit your motion and make it difficult for you to fight against waves. The cramps occur in your legs. You can relieve them by massaging.

Tips for Treating Leg Cramps (Photo: verywellhealth.com)
Tips for Treating Leg Cramps (Photo: verywellhealth.com)

Tip: Warm up before getting in the water, do not use excessive force when swimming, do not let your body over-exert, and hydrate yourself.

There are many party cruises which include snorkel trips that offer alcohol. Alcohol can lead to questionable decisions, overconfidence, memory loss, and lack of control and coordination. All can make you unsafe while snorkeling. So if you want to drink, do it at least one hour after snorkeling.

A lot of snorkeling risks, especially sudden health problems, will be easier to prevent and fix if you stay with the others. Therefore, have someone with you or swim near at least another group of snorkelers. It is hard to hear someone calling at the surface when you are underwater. So stay close to each other and communicate (by hand sign) regularly. You can show each other something that you see.

If any problems happen and you are alone, it is tough for you to handle them. But, if someone keeps an eye on you (and vice versa), they can alert the others, and of course, you’ll have a lot of help.

Equipment problems

Snorkeling mask

If the goggles do not fit you, the water will leak inside and decrease visibility. Ensure to pull any hair off your face or forehead completely clear of the mask and the mask fits you well and comfortably.

When using a half-face snorkeling mask, you breathe through the mouthpiece, not breathe by the nose (it can cause your mask to foggy).

Snorkel

Depending on the type of snorkeling equipment, we will have different uses. The traditional type of snorkel has an open tube with a mouthpiece that connects your underwater mouth with the air above the seawater.

A dry snorkel looks very similar to a traditional snorkel, but instead of an open-ended breathing tube, there’s a one-way valve on the tip to keep water from entering the breathing tube when submerged.

John's Tours' tour guide guides tourists on how to use snorkeling equipment
John's Tours' tour guide guides tourists on how to use snorkeling equipment

Tip: Do not forget to check the exact condition of the snorkeling gear: Is the mouthpiece chewed or dirty? If the snorkel has any loose parts or holes? You should never feel shy to ask your tour guide questions if something doesn’t seem quite right.

If you are new to snorkeling, you can get in the water and practice with your equipment according to the tour guide's instructions. You ought to start with a snorkel guide who can teach you. 

Remember to practice getting rid of water that accidentally enters your goggles and tube: 

  • If your masks have a purge valve on the side, you can hold it firmly against your face and blow through your nose to force any water out of the valve.
  • If your mask doesn’t have a purge valve, you will do the old-fashioned way to clear water: keep your head above the waterline, lift the bottom of your snorkel mask, wiggle it a little, and let the water run out.
  • With a dry snorkel, you only need to blow into the snorkel and the water out the bottom of the purge valve.
  • For snorkels without purge valves - wet snorkels, you need to keep your head above the water surface, then tilt your head back a little (but not so far that the tip of your snorkel touches the water behind you) and blow firmly out of your snorkel tube to eject water out of the top of your snorkel.

Fins

Fins allow you to move faster and help you to conserve energy. Make sure you are using fins made for regular snorkeling (and not something like free diving) because these types of fins will be easy for beginners.
Fins should fit snugly. Loose fins will cause chafes and likely painful blisters, even slipping off while swimming. If the fins are tight, it causes reduced blood circulation to the feet.

Flotation

A life jacket is a normal way to keep you a safe distance from corals
A life jacket is a normal way to keep you a safe distance from corals

If you feel a life jacket or snorkel vest would benefit you, make sure it fits snugly and securely and doesn’t pull up past your chin and lift from the shoulders when fastened.

For beginners, you should wear a life vest to keep you floating on the water. You only need to face down to the water and watch the corals. Coral reefs on small islands of Phu Quoc such as Gam Ghi Island and Buom Island are close to the water's surface so you can easily admire them.

A life jacket is a normal way to keep you a safe distance from corals and protect you from coral scrapes and cuts, and unexpected accidents. John's Tours always provides tourists with life jackets to secure.

In snorkeling trips, a tip is to adjust the snorkeling equipment to fit you properly. If you lose them, you have to compensate.

Sun poisoning

A sunny day helps the colors of the coral pop and appear brighter. However, the sun’s UV rays are dangerous. You will get sunburn or even sun poisoning with prolonged exposure to UV rays. 
Applying sunscreen is not the most effective option since the water will easily rub off the sunscreen. Most sunscreens also have synthetic ingredients that are harmful to marine life!

Sunburn vs Sun Poisoning (Photo: Insider)
Sunburn vs Sun Poisoning (Photo: Insider)

Tip: wear a long-sleeve swimsuit to protect your shoulders and back when snorkeling. Otherwise, apply reef-safe sunscreen. Remember to reapply regularly according to product recommendations.

Risks from marine life

Corals and rocks

The coral is fragile and takes a long time to regrow from damage if it’s able to. Touching it can make it stressed and dead. In addition, if you aren’t careful, you can brush up against sharp rocks that can cause some nasty cuts. 

On the other hand, some corals can cause major stings. Coral is sharper than it looks and can cause cuts, and even severe pain, fever, or irritating rashes.

Sea creatures

It is an amazing experience when snorkeling alongside graceful sea turtles, whale sharks, dolphins, massive schools of fish, etc. However, touching them is usually a bad idea.

Coral is the habitat for many different species of sea wildlife. Stings from some animals can have similar effects on coral and can be unpleasant. Moreover, the oils and organisms on our skin can sometimes cause harm to sea creatures. It’s always better not to touch any marine life when snorkeling. Let's enjoy them naturally and respectfully.

Some other marine life that we should pay attention to:

  • Jellyfish have long tentacles with stinging cells that are very painful when touched. Snorkelers can still accidentally become tangled in these tentacles because of unawareness.
  • Stingrays have barbed tails that contain extremely painful venom. They will attack humans when cornered. Stingrays will bury themselves under the sand to camouflage, or forage for food. This action makes us not able to see them. Therefore, we accidentally step on them or place a hand on them and get stung.
Phu Quoc's sea urchins
Phu Quoc's sea urchins
  • Sea Urchins are covered with spines and inject painful venom through these spines. Sea Urchins' spines can even penetrate the wetsuit when you are unaware of their presence.
  • Barracuda could mistake shiny materials for fish scales, prompting an attack. Barracudas have sharp teeth that could inflict serious injury, so stay away from them. 
  • Lionfish are covered with colorful, featherlike spines but contain a neurotoxin that is exceptionally painful and could cause allergic reactions. These spines do a job of camouflaging in coral reefs. 
  • Lobsters and Crab have strong pinchers that will cause a lot of pain if you accidentally touch or corner them.
  • Most fish flee from humans, but some are highly aggressive and will bite if you are too close to them or to defend their territory.

Tip: Do not wear shiny jewelry. Wear a full-body swimsuit, and stay a safe distance from marine wildlife. Keep an eye out for rocks and be aware of your surroundings.

Risks from underwater objects

Littering and careless fishing habits threaten both humans and the underwater environment. Shipwrecks and other accidents create debris that washes up everywhere.

Discarded fishing nets entangle in coral (Photo: Sustainability Times)
Discarded fishing nets entangle in coral (Photo: Sustainability Times)

The priority when snorkeling is to be aware of your surroundings. You should only observe and not poke and prod around in the sand to see what you can find out. Fishing lines, cables, nets, and wires could immobilize or trap you under the waves.

Risks from objects on the water's surface

Buoys are usually anchored on the seafloor with the buoy floating on the surface. Your head is easy to strike the chain and the buoy when you are not careful.

Boats and speedboats also pose a dangerous threat. A helmsman is hard to see a swimmer just under the surface. Impacts can cause serious injuries.

Snorkeling in an assigned area
Snorkeling in an assigned area

Tip: Be aware of your surroundings. Swim in an assigned area or with a dive flag.

Currents

It is much easier to admire coral reefs when the surface of the water is flat. Snorkeling in a current or riptide can be dangerous because it will be hard for you to get away from it.

Tip: Check the conditions of the water. Snorkeling in designated areas with a snorkel guide. Knowledge from the local guide can provide useful information. Always be prepared for changing water direction while you are snorkeling.

It’s useful to check and monitor the forecast for your snorkeling area so you know what to expect. If the weather is looking suspect (such as wind, lightning, etc.), it’s best to postpone snorkeling until another day.

Taking a snorkel tour with a licensed operator is one of our biggest recommendations for beginning snorkelers. They have boats/speedboats and can find where to do the best snorkeling.
Nothing like learning under the watchful eye of a professional tour guide who can teach you and answer any of your questions. When you know how to avoid these risks, you will have more confidence to handle problems underwater.

John's Tours hopes that the above list will help to minimize the risk involved and allow you to get the most enjoyment out of your leisure.

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