« Good Practice Guide
Snorkelling is a leisurely, non-competitive activity that anyone able to swim can participate in. In shallow waters it can provide a glimpse of the underwater world with the many species that are there and the different types of habitats. In Dorset there are some really beautiful places to snorkel with colourful marine life to see.
What do I need?
Snorkelling is floating on the surface of the water, face down, looking through a mask and breathing through a snorkel while watching the underwater environment. To snorkel, wear clothes that you can swim comfortably and competently in (swimming costume, wetsuit, fins) and a snorkel and mask:
- Mask – it is important you get a mask that you are comfortable wearing and one that doesn’t easily leak. The mask covers your face and provides an air barrier between your eyes and the water allowing you to freely look around.
- Snorkel – An ‘L’ or ‘J’ shaped tube with a mouth piece at the curved end. It is for breathing air from above the water while the wearer’s head is submerged.
- Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) – This handy bit of kit is recommended to make you more visible to boaters and other water users.
Ask shop assistants for advice regarding a suitable snorkel/mask combination that meets your specific needs and budget.
Clearing snorkel and mask techniques
Water can get in to the snorkel, caused by splashes, waves, or submerging so far the snorkel no longer sticks out of the water. To clear a snorkel, make sure it is above sea level and blow hard to ‘blast’ the water out. Any water left in the snorkel can be expelled with a second blast.
If the mask gets water into it can be emptied by taking your head above water level and lifting the mask away from your face, allowing water to fall out from the bottom of the mask.
Alternatively, some masks and snorkels have built in one-way drainage valves to allow you to expel water while underwater.
When’s the best time to go?
Snorkelling can be done all year round but some weather conditions are better than others. In windy conditions there are bigger waves which makes it more difficult and dangerous to snorkel. The safest times to snorkel are at the slack water, which usually occurs near high or low water.
Watch out for wildlife
- The Dorset coast has many areas that are important for wildlife and birds. These areas have restrictions at certain times of the year to help to protect the wildlife. On iCoast please turn on the restricted areas icon to show these areas when planning your activity.
- If near wildlife, don’t linger for too long – by all means look, but then move on.
- Avoid damaging plants and seaweeds.
- Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
Watch out for other users
- Look out for other recreational users and share the water- Swimmers, jet skiers, divers, windsurfers etc. all use the water too so you should be observant, careful and respectful when you are out snorkelling.
Watch out for the environment
- Take home all your rubbish – discard rubbish found in the sea or on beaches spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, can harm marine creatures and birds and can be a hindrance to fishermen with litter getting tangled up in their nets. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.
- It’s always best to go snorkelling in a small group and look out for each other while you are diving down.
- If you are a beginner, stay near to the shore; you may tire quicker than you think
- Do not touch the marine life. Many creatures have self defence mechanisms so don’t be surprised at their attempts to bite, sting or pinch you if you disturb them.
- Jet skis, speed boats and other motorised vehicles can only see a snorkel from above the water, be aware of any potential dangers in the area.
- Quiet propulsion vehicles (small boats, windsurfers) pose more of a risk because you can’t hear them coming, make sure you communicate potential dangers to members of your group.
- Make sure you have had enough water when going out for a long day of snorkelling.
- If you get tired roll onto your back to give yourself time to recover. Swimming on your back uses less energy.
- To prevent tiring too early try to make yourself as streamline and efficient as possible when snorkelling. Conserve energy by keeping your head flat and expelling water.
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