A Guide to Safe Snorkelling: 10 Things to Avoid

by Catalin Andries on August 24, 2023

Diving into the mesmerising world beneath the ocean's surface, snorkelling unveils a breathtaking tapestry of marine life and vibrant coral reefs.

It's an experience that offers unforgettable moments of wonder and awe. However, amidst the enchanting allure of the underwater world, it's crucial to be aware of potential risks and exercise caution. In this article, we'll delve into the essential things you should be mindful of while snorkelling to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure.

From understanding currents and respecting marine life to proper equipment usage, we'll equip you with the knowledge and tips needed to make the most of your snorkelling escapades while preserving the delicate ecosystem. So, grab your gear and dive in with us as we embark on a journey of underwater exploration while prioritising safety above all else.

Sun Exposure

© (WT-shared) Queensland at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Engaging in outdoor activities exposes us to the risks associated with the sun. Despite this fact, when we're frolicking in cool waters, we often overlook the potential harm caused by excessive sun exposure. The damaging effects of the sun apply to people of all ages and skin colours; the duration of exposure is a key factor in determining the risk. Nevertheless, individuals with fair skin are particularly vulnerable and should exercise great caution.

Sunburn is never a pleasant experience, but prolonged exposure can escalate to sun poisoning, leading to skin blistering, headaches, fever, swelling, and even nausea and dizziness. The aftermath of sun poisoning can last anywhere from ten days to two weeks, effectively spoiling anyone's beach trip.

To safeguard against sun-related issues, it is highly recommended to use sunscreen, preferably one that is water-resistant, and to reapply it regularly as per the product's instructions. Wearing wet suits or rash guards can provide additional protection against the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure.

Furthermore, eye injuries are a genuine concern when discussing sun damage. The cornea and vision can be adversely affected by overexposure to UV rays. Therefore, it's essential to wear sunglasses with good UV protective lenses whenever you are not in the water.


When considering sun exposure, it's crucial to address the risk of overheating, a factor that may not immediately come to mind during water sports but is very real.

As you venture further south, the water temperature tends to rise, increasing the likelihood of overheating. Even if you opt for a wet suit as protection against other dangers, it may cause your body to heat up faster.

Overheating prompts a surge in blood flow to the skin, forcing the heart to work harder, which can lead to dizziness and nausea—symptoms you definitely don't want to experience while trying to stay afloat. Heatstroke is another potential consequence of overheating, already perilous on dry land but even more hazardous in an aquatic environment.

To mitigate these risks, it's vital to take frequent breaks when diving in warmer waters and be mindful of any signs of excessive heat buildup in your body. Staying aware and proactive can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience during water activities.


©Photo Credits : Daniel Foster via Flickr

Staying properly hydrated can often be overlooked when engaging in water activities.

Snorkelling, in particular, demands a significant amount of effort as it involves using numerous muscles in the body, making it a rigorous exercise.

Hence, it's essential to keep the body hydrated, and you certainly don't want to be drinking seawater.

Make sure to carry an ample supply of freshwater with you during your outing, and don't underestimate the importance of staying hydrated, even if you don't feel thirsty. Alternatively, sports drinks can be a suitable option to replenish electrolytes and keep yourself well-hydrated throughout your water adventure.


© Photo Credits : Triathlete.com

Experiencing exhaustion can catch you off guard, and it's particularly undesirable when you're far from shore out on the water. To avoid this, be sure to take frequent breaks while swimming and conserve enough energy for your return journey.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep before embarking on a snorkelling holiday is of utmost importance.

Being well-rested ensures optimal physical and mental performance during the activity. Additionally, it's essential to be in reasonably good physical condition before taking on an activity like snorkelling.


© Photo Credits : Swimmerssolutionswim.com

In the water, particularly in the ocean, muscle cramps can pose a significant danger. The resistance of the waves makes it harder to move, and painful cramps can leave you struggling.

To reduce the likelihood of cramps, it's essential to avoid muscle fatigue. Taking measures to prevent exhaustion will be beneficial in this regard. Additionally, staying well-hydrated is crucial as cramps are more likely to occur when the body is not getting enough fluids.

While the body needs salt to ward off cramps, it's important to avoid consuming mouthfuls of seawater. Instead, opt for sports drinks available in the market, which are infused with an appropriate amount of salt to help prevent cramps.

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you will have noticed that if you’ve taken care to not be Dehydrated or Exhausted, your chances of getting cramps will also have decreased!

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Coral & Sharp Rocks

© Photo Credits : Qeensland.com

The ocean floor can be riddled with various geographic hazards, including sharp rocks. Carelessly brushing against these surfaces can result in severe gashes, so it's crucial to remain cautious and vigilant of rocks on the seafloor while snorkelling.

Coral reefs are among the ocean's most breathtaking sights, attracting many snorkelers. However, it's essential to show respect to these beautiful formations as they come with their own dangers.

Coral is delicate and easily damaged, so any contact can lead to its breakage and even death since it's a living organism. Certain types of coral, like fire coral, can cause significant stings.

Furthermore, coral may appear softer than it is, causing abrasions to the skin upon contact. Some types of coral even possess poisonous properties, leading to severe pain, fever, or irritating rashes if they come in contact with the skin or cause abrasions.

Additionally, coral reefs serve as habitats for various species of fish and other sea creatures, some of which are toxic to humans and can deliver stinging attacks. These stings can have similar effects as those caused by coral, resulting in an unpleasant experience that might cut short your vacation.

To fully enjoy the beauty of coral reefs while snorkelling, it's essential to treat them with care and be mindful of the potential hazards they present. By doing so, you can have a safe and memorable underwater adventure.

Marine Life

© Photo Credits : Alexander Vasenin  via Wikipedia

The seas are abundant with mesmerising marine life, which is a primary reason why snorkelling is such a gratifying experience. However, it's crucial to exercise extreme care as some marine creatures can pose dangers in their natural environment.

Sharks are often the first concern that comes to mind when discussing hazardous marine life, but it's essential to know that shark attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. Generally, if you avoid actions that might provoke a shark, they will likely steer clear of you.

Avoid wearing flashy jewellery or any shiny materials that could resemble fish scales to a shark, as they might mistake it for prey. Additionally, some accidental shark bites have occurred due to people feeding other fish in the presence of sharks. If you spot a shark, the safest course of action is to exit the water.

Other marine life that may present potential threats include:

  • - Jellyfish/Portuguese Man o' War: Their long tentacles have stinging cells that can cause intense pain if they come into contact with your skin. Wearing a wetsuit can provide some protection.

  • - Stingrays: Though not aggressive, they may sting when cornered or accidentally stepped on. Their barbed tails contain painful venom.

  • - Sea Urchins: Unintentional contact with their spines can lead to painful stings, and some species inject venom through the spines.

  • - Barracuda: These predatory fish might mistake shiny materials for prey and could attack. They possess sharp teeth that can cause serious injuries.

  • - Lionfish: Their colourful, featherlike quills contain a potent neurotoxin that can cause severe pain and allergic reactions if touched.

  • - Triggerfish: While some species are skittish, others, like the Titan Triggerfish, can be aggressive and defend their territory with bites and butting.

  • - Lobsters/Crabs: Generally, not a concern, but their strong pinchers can cause pain if accidentally touched or cornered.

  • - Remoras: These hitch-hiking creatures might try to cling to anything moving, which can be annoying and might cause scrapes with their sucker-like mouths.


When encountering marine life, always be mindful of your surroundings, refrain from touching the creatures, and avoid feeding the fish. Practising these precautions will help ensure a safe and enjoyable snorkelling experience amidst the wonders of the ocean's biodiversity.

Boats & Buoys

© Photo Credits :World-Diving.Com

Objects on the water's surface can pose a significant threat to snorkelers. While much of the enjoyment in snorkelling comes from observing the underwater world while floating on the surface, it's crucial to remain vigilant about boats and buoys in the vicinity.

Buoys are common fixtures near the coast, and though they may seem hard to miss, they are often anchored on the seafloor with the buoy floating on the surface. The chains and buoys are typically made of steel, making them easy to accidentally hit with your head when flipping on the water's surface. When swimming at a rapid pace, these objects might become visible too late to avoid a collision, underscoring the importance of being constantly aware of your surroundings.

Boats also present a considerable threat. Swimmers just under the surface can be challenging for boaters to spot, potentially leading to dangerous situations. To enhance visibility to boats in the area, it's advisable to swim with a dive flag.

Additionally, snorkelling only in areas explicitly designated for the sport is a wise decision, as it ensures a safer environment for both snorkelers and boaters.

By being mindful of boats and buoys and adhering to safety guidelines, you can have a secure and delightful snorkelling experience while appreciating the wonders of the underwater world..


© Photo Credits : Jeremy Bishop tidesinourveins, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ocean contains currents unlike any other body of water, and being prepared for these changes is vital for a safe swim.

One of the challenges with ocean currents is that they aren't always visible from the surface. When waves crash onto the beach, they create an undertow or a flow on the ocean floor that moves back out to sea.

Understanding how ocean currents function can significantly contribute to your safety while snorkelling. Seeking knowledge from locals can be helpful in learning about the behaviour of water currents in the area. However, the most crucial aspect is to be ready and vigilant for any shifts in water direction as you swim. Staying aware and prepared will ensure a safer and more enjoyable snorkelling experience in the presence of ocean currents.

Equipment Failure

© Photo Credits : Jeremy Bishop tidesinourveins, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like any equipment, snorkelling gear is not exempt from the potential for errors, which can have serious consequences when you're in the water.

While many charter snorkelling businesses provide rental equipment that is generally safe, it's still a wise idea to have your own gear. Having your equipment ensures that you know its exact condition, that it fits you properly, and you are aware of its previous usage history.

It’s also crucial that you steer clear of cheap gear, especially when it comes to full-face snorkelling masks.

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Final Thoughts

Snorkelling, like most any activity, can be harmful if not done properly.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pick up snorkelling as a hobby, though. It just means that you should do it the right way!

That’s exactly why we’ve written this article, to help people understand and be conscious of the potential risks of snorkelling, and to help avoid them.

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