We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

Manchester, Uk.
Level Contributor
747 posts
3 reviews
Save Topic
How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

Hi All,

We are going back to the Maldives in November, and I need some advice.

Is there a "right" way to snorkel? I have attempted it three times, and I dont do very well. Firstly, I panic as soon as my face goes in the water, as it feels so un-natural. As soon as I get near any coral I get panicky because I know I cant put my feet down if I need to. I cant stand the sound of my breathing, and my mask fogs up almost straight away. I usually end up geting out of the water after 10 minutes or so, and having a paddy! Oh........and all I can think of is Jaws :-( (My parents fault for letting me watch it at the age of about 8!!)

I really dream of just swimming around, far out over the coral, and enjoying the experience. Velavaru, where we are going in Nov, does boat trips to the nearby reef, but I honestly dont think I would be able to get out of the boat when it came to the crunch - the thought of being in deep water fills me with fear!

I just saw Scooby's post saying that his mate had been diving with a massive whale shark and it really made me WANT to get in that water and get on with it - I am fascinated with the underwater world, but just cant seem to find any confidence from anywhere - anyone got any tips for me??

Thanks. Lisa

Dos cerveza, por...
Level Contributor
3,883 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

Lisa, you made me laugh...........that first bit about panicking could have been written by my other half, she's exactly the same..........lol

You need someone to snorkel closely with you in shallow water where you can easily stand if you need to. Hold their hand if necessary (I know it sounds daft but just touching someone else will give you confidence). Ideally, you should be snorkelling on a patch of coral in the lagoon where it's nice & shallow.

Relax & just float in the water breathing nice & deep & slow. If it's shallow enough you won't even need fins.

The mask fogging can be dealt with by a good dollop of spit & rinse. If that don't work then get some anti fog spray from your local dive shop or the dive centre on resort.

Persevere, it's not natural & you need to get used to it. Once you do then you'll no longer panic, feel the water on your face or even hear yourself breathing. Once you reach that point (& you will surprisingly quickly) you're ready to go a bit deeper. Before you know it you'll be away on the reef.

As for Jaws, research shark behaviour on the net & once you understand what they're about then you'll learn that they're not the threat that Jaws portrayed..........

Hope this helps.........

Stourbridge, United...
Level Contributor
2,103 posts
36 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

Hi Lisa

I really feel for you, i had a very similar situation only with diving, i was terrified, tried to do a padi course in Eygpt and failed miserably, but i tried again with a dive school near to me and they have been so patient with me(I am no spring chicken :) so it wasnt easy) i have now passed my open water course and am looking forward to diving in the maldives, i am still very nervous about it all but i am determined to do it, so if you get in touch with your local dive shop and ask them if they run courses for snorkelling and will teach you it will give you the confidence that you need. I am sure that scoobyboy will have some advice for you, he has been brilliant with me giving me advice and tips to help me. Honestly Lisa if i can do it you can, ask my instructor LOL I am going to see my dive instructor later so i will ask him and see what he says, will be back about 11pm tonight so will reply again later with any info i can get for you

regards susie

United States
Level Contributor
1,425 posts
21 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

At the risk of giving a flip answer I think the secret is basically your level of confidence in the water.

You have to

1. Be confident that you aren't going to drown

2. Be confident that you can deal with the problem

of getting some water into your breathing tube

3. Be confident in the control of your body in the water

with the fins on.

Probably the best way to be able to do that is practice in a controlled environment if possible. If you have access to a swimming pool for example without a lot people in it or spend a fair amount of time in a calm area of the lagoon without a lot of wave action then you can get use to floating along using your fins to propel you. I don't really know how to explain the breathing portion properly. When I use a snorkel I take small "restricted" breaths always aware of the possibility that water might be coming down my tube. I can actually "hear" the water gurgling into the tube before it gets to my mouth so I know that its time to exhale sharply into the mouth piece and blow out the water. Sometimes the best of us will get a random wave that fills the snorkel so quickly that we get a mouthful of water and its necessary to stick our head out of the water and get some air. Once you get comfortable with just the process of using your fins and clearing your snorkel tube you can try actually going under the water a few feet which of course is going to fill the tube with water and then coming back up to a level where you can blow the water out of the tube.

You also need to be confident in your equipment. Some tubes are better than others (personally I don't use the valve types myself as I think they just cause trouble but some people like them). As for your mask fogging problem:

Is this a rental or a mask that you own? If you have a new mask it will have a clear film from the manufacture on the inside that you need to get off. Toothpaste and a soft toothbrush works well to get that off. Commercial anti fog products applied to the inside of the mask before you go help the mask from fogging (personally I have found that a small amount of Johnson's baby shampoo mixed with water and sprayed on the inside of the mask works as well as anything).

When you are 25 meters under the water you can't just take the mask off so its necessary to get mask flooding and clearing techniques mastered. This can also be applicable to snorkeling if you just puncture the seal enough to let a little water into the mask and let the water clear off the fog. If you then tilt your head slightly backwards and blow out through you nose at the bottom of the mask you can clear the water from the mask. (again something you want to practice is a pool or a shallow lagoon.

You didn't mention how good a swimmer you are. If you aren't naturally comfortable in the water that can be a big part of the problem. Perhaps you need to wear a flotation vest for awhile so you feel more confident in deeper water. This of course has the disadvantage of not allowing you to dive below the surface to look at something closer but it might boost your confidence for awhile. I know that the reality of all this is more difficult than just the theory but practice time is really the only way to get use to being in the water. Its like when i teach people to snow ski. They have to learn how to fall down and how to STOP. Once they get that part down they are then confident enough to learn how to ski. In your case you need to learn how to keep your mask from fogging and how to clear the water from the tube without choking.

As for the fear of sharks theres really nothing I can do to solve that problem other than suggest that as far I know there has never been a tourist attacked by a shark in the maldives. I think the sharks (being that they are hunted by the locals are so scared of people that they swim away from the sounds of boats and you are fortunate to actually see one up close).

Manchester, Uk.
Level Contributor
747 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

Hi All,

Firstly, thank you all v much for your advice.

Secondly.......holy shi*, I hadn't even considered water coming down the pipe.....

Anyway, some really practical advice there, thank you. I will give all that some thought.

It's definitely down to my confidence, thats for sure, I try to think 'whats the worst that could happen', afterall everyone snorkels, it cant be that difficult.

Cheers again, really appreciete your viewpoints.

Regards, Lisa.

Level Contributor
249 posts
1 review
Save Reply
5. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

I can't give any pratical advice but i know exactly what you mean Lisa. I struggle snorkelling espeically when water goes down the pipe and i start choking, then can't stand up and then get water in my mask and can't open my eyes cos they sting. Believe it or not i found diving easier! Ok so i have only done four dives in total and dont have my PADI / SSI but i fell in love with my purge button!! OMG it's fabby no more choking just press and go lol.

Just take it slow and build your confidence. It takes me a few days to get my confidence back and then i'm kicking myself that i didn't book my SSI course. I hate water in my face in the shower but to be honest as soon as i see the fish i'm distracted enough to relax a little also my partner helps me out the first few days

Good Luck


Stourbridge, United...
Level Contributor
2,103 posts
36 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

Hi Lisa

My dive instructor said he would have no problem with teaching someone to snorkel and said that most dive shops would be the same, so give your local dive shop a ring and ask the question, at least then you will be doing it in a controled environment. good luck


Crawley, United...
Level Contributor
1,349 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

This sounds exactly like me last year..Having been to the maldives a few times i was very nervous of the prospect, but finally did it without the usual panic attack !

hardest part for me was , well the whole thing !!!

once i got the relax part right then the rest just followed.The spit and rinse that Rex suggests works every time and the water didnt go down the tube as long as you dont think about it !.

My water craft has never been great and im not a strong swimmer ,but once you learn to relax ,then you will luv it !

Level Contributor
818 posts
73 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?


A couple of extra things... Its hot out there as you know. Laying face down in the water looking at the wildlife can burn most folks a nice shade of red very quickly. I lose track of time out there and 5 five mins becomes 30 mins in a flash. Make sure you have mega amounts of sun cream on your back and legs ,wear a tshirt or better still an anti uva diving vest top.

Also if you are not gettin on with fins ( flippers in my day ) get a pair of neopreen booties. They are about 20 quid-ish. The bottom of the sea is not always sandy and the odd bit of coral will float off and land on the sea bed where you want to walk. If you do get water in your mask and stand up quickly in shallow waters at least you wont cut your foot in the "panic".. Its one thing less to worry over.

As others have said... Practice in a pool ( or the bath! ) and ALWAYS go with someone. Start slowly in the shallows and get braver as the week goes on. Its worth it , belive me its another world down there.

I am sure you will be fine,


Suthampton, UK
Level Contributor
225 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?

HI Lisa - had to add my bit to this, because I can so relate to what you're going through! I'd always had the same problem - I could cope wih looking in the water with a mask on (just), but freaked totally if I tried to breathe out of a snorkel. We were in the caribbean about 10 years ago, and I tried going on a snorkelling trip, but couldn't get my face in the water, and breah out of the snorkel, no matter how I tried which was so frustrating. Then a couple of years later we were in Malta, and the sea was millpond still, and very clear, so thought I'd try again, on my own, wih no pressure, and suddenly I did it!! Couldn't get me out of the water after that, and the next challenge was Diving.. comleted Open Water last year, and have been to the Maldives twice since, and can't wait to go again. So my advice is.. get your own mask and snorkel from your local dive shop. Clean mask initially with toothpaste, and then after that, a good spit and a rub prior to getting in the water stops it fogging. Snorkel designs nowadays are excellent, and rarely let in water. Try breathing out of the snorkel on dry land to get the rhythmn, and if you can face it, try in a local pool, in shallow safe conditions. Alternatively in a shallow part of the lagoon when you get to the Maldives. Don't worry about not floating - honestly the hardest part about diving is actually sinking below water!!! If it really worries you try wearing a shortie wet suit - it will keep you afloat honest! Good luck and keep trying, it is soooo worh it!

Devizes, United...
Level Contributor
622 posts
115 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: How Do I Snorkel "Properly"?


Just to let you know my wife was IDENTICAL to you....until our last visit to the Maldives. She has always felt claustrophobic when putting on a facemask which also seemed to let in water.

What I did this time was buy a good mask that fitted her face which is quite thin compared to standard. Having got the right quality mask I got her to put it on a few times and keep it on a few minutes prior to going anywhere near water. Next step was to forget about flippers to start with and simply stand in waist high water (wearing reef shoes if necessary) and dip the head under to look around with feet firmly planted on the bottom. Finally I got a small flotation aid which she could push out before her and she started floating with her feet off the bottom.

By the end of the holiday she was using flippers, swimming like a fish and making me look like an amateur.

So my advice? Get good equipment , do it in stages and take you own time.

Now about sharks. Whatever anyone says I agree with you...they are scary to look at....at first. In the relative shallows where you will be they are small, still LOOK scary but are harmless (unless you want to try and grab one!). After 3 trips to the Maldives I am now totally casual about them but the first time was not so calm!

So GOOD LUCK and I hope it works for you. My wife is now a snorkelling addict and the last thing we packed when we came home were her bikini and face mask !