(British spelling: snorkeling) is the practice of swimming
on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving
mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually swim fins.
In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn. Using this equipment
allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for
extended periods of time with relatively little effort.
It is a popular recreational activity, particularly at tropical
resort and diving locations. Snorkeling is also employed by
scuba divers when on the surface, and search teams may snorkel
as part of a water-based search.
The primary attraction of snorkeling is the opportunity to
observe underwater life in a natural setting without the complicated
equipment and training required for scuba diving, and without
the exhaled bubbles of scuba-diving equipment. Snorkeling
is also a means to an end in popular sports such as underwater
hockey, underwater ice hockey, underwater rugby and spear
Although donning a mask and snorkel and swimming in any body
of water would technically constitute "snorkeling,"
by and large it is generally accepted that a "snorkeler"
would don such gear and practice such activity within the
vicinity of a reef, wreck, underwater formation or other submerged
objects either to observe fish, plants, organisms and/or formations.
Being non-competitive, snorkeling is less a sport and more
a leisure activity.
Snorkeling requires no special training, only the ability
to swim and to breathe through the snorkel. However, for safety
reasons, instruction and orientation from a fellow "experienced"
snorkeler, tour guide, dive shop, or equipment rental shop
is recommended. Instruction generally covers equipment usage,
basic safety, what to look for, and what to look out for,
and conservation instructions (fragile organisms such as coral
are easily damaged by divers and snorkelers). As with scuba-diving
it is always recommended that one not snorkel alone, but rather
with a "buddy", a guide or a tour group.
Some commercial snorkeling locations require snorkelers to
wear an inflatable vest, similar to a personal flotation device.
They are usually bright yellow or orange and have a device
that allows users to inflate or deflate the device to adjust
their buoyancy. However these devices hinder and prevent a
snorkeler from free diving to any depth. A wetsuit of appropriate
thickness and coverage is suggested as they do provide some
buoyancy without as much resistance to submersion.
Experienced snorkelers often start to investigate amateur
free-diving, which should be preceded by at least some training
from a dive instructor or experienced free-diver.