Can You Snorkel When it’s Raining?

by Mihai Pinzariu on September 24, 2019

Planning a snorkelling trip throughout the winter months? Or perhaps you’ve already booked your fantasy snorkelling holiday and just had a look at the weather forecast… uh-oh! Have you spotted rains coming? Will rain affect your snorkelling experience? Is rain going to make snorkelling more dangerous?

The funny thing is that you’ll find the best snorkelling in and around tropical islands. And that’s also where you’ll find lots of tropical rains and thunderstorms! For the curious and the anxious, here’s everything you need to know about snorkelling when raining.

Forecasting tropical rains…

If you’re looking at the weather forecast for a tropical snorkelling destination before heading out, keep in mind that tropical rains can be very unpredictable (yes, even with the weather forecasts!) Basically, unless there is a big low-pressure area picking up a ‘tropical disturbance’ then it can be quite difficult to tell whether your chosen snorkel site will be affected by rains or not.

If there is sign of a large low-pressure area and tropical disturbance, you can guarantee that your snorkelling tour operators will reroute and take you somewhere else (or cancel the trip entirely). With tropical rains, it’s also worth noting that rain tends to be localised to a small area and last only a short while. Most of the time you’ll see people snorkelling through the wet patches and patiently waiting for them to pass over.

Does rain affect visibility when snorkelling?

Good question, especially if you’re planning to head out with your GoPro and take some awesome snaps. Rain shouldn’t have a huge effect on visibility when snorkelling as you’ll mostly be looking towards the seafloor and not the surface. Raindrops will typically just disturb the area around the surface (and therefore shallow waters may also be affected). If the rain is light, with little wind, then you’ll hardly notice a thing. When there’s the addition of wind, storms, and dark clouds, however, you’ve got another experience entirely.

Cloudy days and lack of light

While visibility may not necessarily be disturbed when it’s raining, it’s worth noting that dark clouds and overcast weather will most definitely have an affect on what you see while snorkelling. When clouds take over the sky it becomes very dim, and the lack of light will add a dullness to everything. Fish and reef colours really come to life under the sun, and when there is little to no sunlight, everything will appear a little dimmer and darker. You’ll still be able to see it all, but with much less vibrance. This is worth noting if you’re planning to take videos or photographs, as they just won’t look as nice. Here’s a good Youtube video demonstrating what it can look like to snorkel underwater in the rain.

Rain + wind = poor snorkelling

Okay, so light and gentle rain on its own is fine when snorkelling, but add a bit of wind and you’ve got a whole other issue. Wind has a high chance of stirring up sand from the bottom of the seabed, making things look cloudy and murky underwater. Visibility will be reduced, waves may be choppy and dangerous, and you should also be on the lookout for changing currents.

Rains, rivers, and run-off

While most rains will hardly make a difference when snorkelling, it’s important to consider your location before heading out to sea on a rainy day. Are there any rivers flowing out into the ocean? If so, then there’s a chance of run-off affecting visibility. Rivers tend to be quite muddy, and as it rains this mud will be churned up and flow along with the water into the ocean, making it appear slightly dirty. This will definitely have an effect on visibility.

Depending on the size of the storm and how heavy the rains have been, the water’s murkiness could last up to a few days. Imagine hosing down your driveway for the first time in years – all that water will pick up all the dirt as it trickles down, and you’ll be left with one very muddy and dirty pool of water at the bottom of your driveway. That’s basically what run-off is, and it’s not always fun. Can you snorkel in murky water? Well sure, but you don’t know what’s lurking out there…

Snorkelling in tropical rains

Most tropical islands will experience both the brightest sunshine and lots of rain in one day. With light rains, you’ll hardly notice a thing. With tropical thunderstorms, however, you’ll be dealing with reduced visibility, rougher water, and a less enjoyable experience. If you want to take pictures, forget about it. Most tour operators will just take you somewhere calm if it happens to be raining, but shore-side snorkelling will be out of the picture during a storm.

However! Remember this important fact: tropical rains are nice and warm, the clouds will make the sun lot less harsh on your skin, and you’re gonna get wet anyway. Tropical rains while snorkelling are a good exercise in patience – the rains never last that long and you can just sit them out until the sun comes back out. Weather patterns can change so quickly on tropical islands, it’s never worth staying at home just because the sky looks a little dark. You could be having heavy rains now and experiencing bright sunshine for the rest of the day. Don’t be left in the hotel room kicking yourself for not having head out!

Snorkelling in the rain

So what’s the final verdict? Rain on its own is hardly going to affect your snorkelling experience. Everything will still be there, and it should all look the same as usual (as long as you’re not snorkelling in shallow waters).

Add rivers, and you’ve got the chance of swimming in murky brown water. Add wind, and you might be dealing with less visibility and choppy waves. Add a thunderstorm, and conditions could be too dangerous for snorkelling. Add dark clouds, and things won’t look as colourful or pretty. It’s all about considering these other factors and assessing the situation at the time.

In our opinion, it’s hardly worth cancelling a snorkelling trip just because of a bit of rain! We’ve done a lot of extensive research on this matter, and we reckon most people’s experiences are just as good when snorkelling with rain as they are without rain. Just don’t head out in a tropical thunderstorm or super windy day, and you’ll be fine!


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