Travelling light is usually a great idea, but depending on the type of trip you are taking, it might not always be possible. If for example, you plan to do a lot of snorkelling on your holiday, there are a few items you should consider bringing along. Simon and I love taking snorkelling holidays. Snorkelling is a great way to observe the planet’s marine life and the underwater world. Over the years we’ve travelled to lots of places, drawn there by their snorkelling opportunities. As you know, I’m a tad obsessed with turtles, so if there are turtles to be found anywhere, I’ll be there!
We’ve travelled to Hawaii twice, with our main goal being to fit in as much snorkelling as humanly possible. The same goes for our recent trip to Lady Elliot Island. Those kind of holidays are always our favourites.
If you haven’t snorkelled before, you should definitely give it a go. But before you do, take a look at our packing list below. It will help you prepare for your trip and ensure that you’re fully prepared when you enter the water.
1- Snorkel and Mask
Although it’s normally pretty easy to rent snorkelling equipment at your destination and most snorkelling tours will also provide them, you won’t always find top quality gear. If you spend a lot of time snorkelling, it’s best to invest in your own set.
Having a mask that properly fits your head is really important. It’s very annoying to spend half your time trying to keep water out if your mask leaks around the edges. There’s also nothing worse than a mask that hurts underwater. You may have to cut your snorkelling time short because your mask gives you a headache.
I don’t believe that rental snorkels are always washed properly after use and I’m really not keen on using a snorkel that someone else has put in their mouth. It’s also worth investing in a good quality snorkel. It needs to feel comfortable in your mouth and it’s also a good idea to buy one that has a purge valve that lets water out but not in.
2- Fins and mesh bag
Fins can be bulky to carry around but we’ve had issues in the past when rental companies or tour operators didn’t have our correct size. We ended up with blisters over our feet. If you experience similar problems it’s worth buying your own. Shorter fins are better for snorkelling because it’s easier to change direction and they are also lighter, making it easier to kick.
Carrying your fins and snorkels over a long distance can be a pain, as can getting in and out of a boat while carrying them. It’s a great idea to invest in a mesh bag that fits all your gear and that you can hang over your shoulder when out of the water.
3- Swim Suit
Well, unless you want to snorkel in the nude, it goes without saying that you need a swimsuit. If you plan on snorkelling regularly, I would suggest bringing at least two. I hate putting bathers back on that haven’t completely dried.
4- Reef safe biodegradable Sunscreen
It’s important to wear sunscreen when snorkelling to protect the bits of you that are still exposed. It’s something that’s easily forgotten. But many sunscreens out there are terrible for the environment and particularly for reefs and marine life in general. Their oil and chemicals kill the beautiful coral that we are so fortunate to experience. Be sure to purchase a sunscreen that is reef-safe and biodegradable in water.
Some places, such as Hawaii, have already banned the use of non-safe sunscreen, which is wonderful news. We already have so little healthy coral left in the world that we need to do our absolute best to protect it.
5- Go pro and/or waterproof camera
These days we never snorkel without our Go-Pro and underwater camera because we never know what we might miss if we do. What if a manta ray or a dolphin swims by and we don’t have a camera to capture the moment? Nope, can’t snorkel without them!
The best underwater video camera is currently the new Go-Pro 6. We only own the 4, but we are due for an upgrade very soon. The Go-Pro 6 has some big improvements, with many new features that are great for snorkelling.
For example, the Go-Pro 6 can automatically detect underwater scenes and adjust the white balance to remove the greenish tint that you’d otherwise get in your footage. It also has better image stabilisation, better tonal range, better ISO performance, colour accuracy and exposure adjustment speed. It’s also waterproof down to 33 feet without a housing.
Simon normally films while I take photos. I currently use the Nikon COOLPIX W300. I love it, it takes really good quality photos and is waterproof to up to 100 feet. It’s also shockproof and freeze-proof.
If you can only afford a single camera then invest in a Go-Pro 6. You can take still photos with it as well as video and although you won’t have the optical zoom, you can shoot in a higher resolution and then zoom in by cropping in your photo editor.
6- Rash Vest
A rash vest helps protect your body from sunburn. It also helps keep you a little warmer in colder water, although nowhere near as much as a wetsuit will. We don’t own our own wetsuits because they just take up too much space and weight while travelling. But we will sometimes hire them at our destination if the water’s a little chilly!
7- Reef Shoes
Reef shoes are essential when walking across pebble beaches or if you have to walk out over a rocky seafloor to start snorkelling. You should always wear reef shoes if you’re swimming in an area that has dangerous critters such as stonefish hidden in the sand. When snorkelling in shallow water with little current, consider switching your fins for reef shoes to minimise the risk of you inadvertently damaging the coral.
8- Beach towel
You’ll need one of those to dry yourself after snorkelling and to relax and sunbathe on before heading back in. Because you just can’t get enough snorkelling!
9- Waterproof wallet
It’s always a good idea to get a waterproof wallet for your cash, room key, car rental keys or credit cards. It’s not always safe to leave those lying unattended on the beach while your head is underwater. Some wallets are even big enough to hold your mobile phone. Make sure you buy a quality wallet because you really don’t want a leak!
10- Mask Defogger
A mask defogger helps stop your mask from fogging up underwater. Some snorkelling tours will provide defogger for free but if you snorkel off the beach by yourself you’ll need your own. Make sure it’s biodegradable and alcohol-free. Alternatively, you can spit into your mask and rub the saliva around before rinsing your mask. That’s certainly not my favourite thing to do but if you happen to forget your defogger it’s sometimes the only option! For that reason, we tend to keep our defogger bottle in one of our mesh bags, along with the rest of our gear.
So that’s it; you are now all set. The only thing left is to jump in and enjoy our wonderful underwater world! Where is the best snorkelling you’ve ever done? Do you have any other tips or essential pieces of equipment that we can add to our list?