A Complete Guide to Snorkeling
You’re staying in Gran Canaria for holidays? Grab your mask and slip on your fins – it’s time for a snorkeling adventure! This underwater activity is one of the best ways to get up-close-and-personal with exotic fish and coral around this magnificent island.
You don’t need to carry oxygen tanks, you don’t need to dive deep, and there are few risks. It’s an affordable way to see a new side of the coastal site of Gran Canaria, but before you head for those azure shores, there are a few things you need to know about this activity.
What is Snorkeling?
Snorkeling is an activity that takes place on or just under the water. The snorkeler wears a mask with a breathing tube attached, allowing them to dip their head under the water while the tube pokes out above it. They also wear swim fins to allow them to glide effortlessly through the water.
Snorkeling offers a unique perspective, showing swimmers an underwater world and giving them a chance to explore every inch of it, from minor shipwrecks and manmade coral reefs, to exotic marine life.
Snorkeling, unlike SCUBA, doesn’t require heavy equipment, but the snorkeler will need to know how to swim and should be comfortable in the water.
How Deep Can you go?
The ideal depth for snorkeling is between 3 and 13 feet, or around 1 to 4 meters. However, there will be some breath-holding required the deeper you go and the skill level of the swimmer also needs to be higher. Inexperienced swimmers are advised to stay near the surface until they are confident that they can safely dive deeper.
Is Snorkeling Safe?
There are a number of risks with SCUBA diving that simply don’t apply to snorkeling, the most notable of which is decompression sickness and nitrogen narcosis. The equipment can also malfunction, leading to extreme panic and, in some cases, drowning.
These risks are negated with snorkeling as the swimmer is always near the surface and is not breathing compressed air, nor are they relying on heavy or complicated equipment. Should their mask fall off, they can just pop their head above water.
However, there are still some risks that snorkelers need to be aware of, including:
Collisions: The biggest threat that snorkelers face is being hit by boats and Jet Skies. Many snorkelers prefer to stick to the coast, making it easier to get on and off shore, but doing so means they are constantly surrounded by people partaking in water sports. You’ll see this in many coastal areas, such as Playa del Inglés in Gran Canaria or Destin in Florida. Which is why experienced Destin snorkeling services will take customers out to quiet, secluded areas on a boat, before leaving the boat nearby to ward off traffic.
Dehydration: This is a very common issue with snorkelers staying on the water for several hours, baking under the sun and gradually losing water. It can lead to cramping and fatigue, and if the weather is particularly hot and they are not properly prepared it could lead to heat stroke. Read our section on “what you need to go snorkeling” below to make sure you’re prepared.
Dangerous Marine Life: Snorkelers often assume that coastal waters are safe, filled with harmless fish and other sea life. But all waters can contain potentially dangerous marine life, and it’s important to avoid contact with them.
Shallow Water Blackout: This is a condition that results from repeatedly holding your breath, something that snorkelers do in order to dive deeper. Take extended breaks between dives and don’t push yourself too much.
Snorkeling and Health Issues
There are a few people who need to practice additional caution when snorkeling, as well as those who should avoid this activity altogether. These include anyone in the following groups:
People with Breathing Problems and Health Issues
If you have a breathing condition, such as COPD or asthma, then you are high risk for snorkeling and other diving related activities. It can be safe if your condition is controlled and the dive is monitored, but this is something that has to be judged on a case-by-case basis and it should be assessed by both a doctor and a snorkeling expert.
Snorkeling can be safe for kids above the age of 3, but they should always be closely monitored and under strict supervision from a parent and an expert.
SCUBA diving is a no-no for pregnant women, but snorkeling is much safer and may be a good alternative. It’s considered to be a relaxing and safe alternative to SCUBA diving and many doctors recommend it for pregnant women for this reason.
How Much Does it Cost to Snorkel?
There are companies in Gran Canaria that will take you out on a snorkeling adventure for around € 45 per person inclusive all necessary equipment. Or you can buy a good snorkel set for as little as € 30 and you can go snorkeling yourself. If you have a family of four and want everyone to join in, it may looks expensive but it’s still much cheaper than many other water activities. And the purchased snorkel sets can be used again and again.
Of course, it can be more expensive if you want a better quality set and you want a better or more exclusive location, but the basic level is very affordable and should provide a family of thrill-seekers with everything they need.
Where to Buy Snorkel Sets
You can buy snorkel sets from beachside shops, but be wary of shopping here as you’ll always pay a premium and will rarely get what you pay for. The best place to buy a basic set is Amazon, who sell everything you could need, right alongside stacks of reviews to help you make up your mind.
The Best Snorkeling Spots in Gran Canaria and Worldwide
Gran Canaria allows you to enjoy snorkeling all year around. There are a variety of stunning snorkel spots:
- Agaete: Las Merinas
- Gáldar: Caleta de Baja, Sardina
- Punta de Arucas
- Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Playa Chica, Playa Grande, Roque Tortuga
- Tourist areas such as Maspalomas, Anfi del Mar, Puerto Rico or Puerto de Mogán
You’d be surprised at how many great snorkeling locations there are near you, but here is a selection of some of the best worldwide:
- Destin, Florida
- Key West, Florida
- Stingray City, Cayman Islands
- Great Barrier Reef, Australia
- Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
- Santorini, Greece
- Paxos, Greece
- Kauai, Hawaii
- Oahu, Hawaii
- Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
- Komodo Island, Indonesia
- St. John, US Virgin Islands
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
- Everywhere in the Maldives!
What You Need to go Snorkeling
You need more than a snorkeling mask and a pair of fins to try this activity for yourself. If you want to stay safe and healthy, make sure you also:
Work with an Experienced Guide: Not only will they take you to a secluded spot away from danger, but they’ll advise you on what you should and should not be doing while providing assistance if anything happens.
Stay Hydrated: Make sure you are properly hydrated before you get into the water and don’t stay in the water for too long, especially if the weather is hot. You should also leave a few bottles of water on the boat just in case.
Dress Properly: If the weather is cold then wear a wetsuit to protect yourself from the elements; if it’s hot, wear something that will protect you from sun. It’s very easy to get sun stroke or heat stroke out on the water, so don’t strip down to your trunks/bikini and assume you’ll be okay.
Practice Your Swimming: If you can’t swim then you’re not going to have an easy time of it in the water. Knowing how to swim is essential, and the better you are the more fun you’ll have. So, if you can’t swim, now is a good time to learn, and if you’re not a strong swimmer, make sure you practice!
Be Wary of Marine Life: Generally speaking, you shouldn’t have an issue with fish. If they’re swimming near the surface then there’s a good chance they’ll be harmless and will likely disperse before you get close. But you should be wary of everything else – jellyfish can sting and even kill, turtles can bite.