How to Snorkel like a Pro

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Snorkeling is one of the most fun things you can do in Crystal River, Florida. It allows you to explore the beautiful crystal clear waters and check out amazing wildlife. Plus, in the springs of Crystal River, there is the added bonus of spending time in the water with the manatees.

Snorkeling is simple. You will only need a wetsuit, snorkel and a mask, though a flotation device may also come in handy if you are not a strong swimmer. With the gear and some degree of confidence, you dive into the water, float gracefully and enjoy the striking view that lies underwater. Snorkeling can also allow you to travel for fairly long distances over an extended period of time without getting tired.

Your Safety Comes First

Since water can be quite unpredictable—with waves, undercurrents, tides and marine creatures that can surprise us—you need to know what to expect before you embark on your snorkeling excursion. What is the weather like? How strong are the currents? How cold can it get in the water? What kinds of animals live there? And once you get to your destination, you should take a few minutes in your boat or on the shore to watch the water, check the waves and current, and plan your entry and exit. When in the water, keep your distance from aquatic animals as the creatures will not hesitate to use their defense mechanisms should they feel threatened.

For your safety, these guidelines will come in handy:

  • Never touch anything underwater. You may not only destroy aquatic life, but also touch things that are harmful or poisonous.
  • Never go snorkeling alone as you may need a hand to help you out should you get into trouble.\
  • Never stand on coral as you can easily kill it.
  • Never swim too close to coral formations as you never know when a rogue wave may come along.
  • Never stick your hands into holes as you have no idea what might be in there.
  • Never remove anything from the water as that would damage the environment and is illegal in most places.
  • Never exhaust yourself in the water as you’ll still need to swim back to your boat or shore.

Use the Right Snorkeling Gear

A great snorkeling experience begins with the right gear. Ask what equipment your tour includes in order to know what you may need to rent. For snorkeling with manatees, a wetsuit, snorkel and mask are necessary. Fins are not necessary because you’ll mainly float and not swim. Besides, if you are unfamiliar with using fins, they can stir up the water and scare away manatees. Once you have your equipment, you will do a second and third check on them before you get into the water. As you check them, make sure everything is in order and the items are properly fitting and fully functional.

Apart from the equipment, bring lots of clothes to use as soon as you get out of the water. Because the water temperature is at a constant 72 degrees in Crystal River, you will be comfrotable underwater in a wetsuit, but as soon as you are out of the water, you might feel chilly and need the extra clothing to warm up. Likewise, if your tour does not include warm drinks, you should bring a thermos of your own for after you get out of the water. Remember that the colder it gets, the more active the manatees are!

Your Mask Should Fit Well

The best fit for a mask is snug and secure, but not too tight. When choosing your mask, go for the one that fits comfortably, otherwise you might suffer from leaks from a too large size, or pain from a too small size.

What should you do if water gets into your mask? Well, you can tackle that in two ways. The first way is to just pop your head out of the water to lift the bottom of the mask and drain it. The second option applies when you are underwater. You simply look towards the sky, push gently on the top front of the mask and exhale with the nose to force the water to exit the bottom of your mask.

Defog Your Mask

Since you don’t want to keep taking off your mask to wipe away the fogging, you will need to defog your mask before going in the water. A simple tactic you can use is to wet your face and hair before you put on the mask—this makes the face have a temperature similar to that of sea water and reduces the risk of fogging. But as you do this, don’t allow any hair to get caught in the mask as this will result in leakage. You can also defog your mask by applying some toothpaste to the inside of a new mask and rubbing it all over the lenses before rinsing properly. This will stop fogging, but make sure to rinse properly so that no toothpaste gets in your eyes.

Find a Quiet Area

For a wonderful experience with manatees, you should not go snorkeling in an area with a lot of people. They will get in your way, cause a lot of splashing and noise, and scare away the manatees. So pick an area with just a few people and don’t make a lot of movements yourself. If you are struggling to find a quiet place, why not try doing something else for a bit until there are just a few people around. You may also choose to go for your manatee tour during week days when there not many people out there. At Captain Mike’s swimming with the manatees we always help our clients find quiet areas to snorkel.

Improve Your Breath Hold

When snorkeling with manatees, stay at the water surface and use the snorkel to breathe while looking down. However, at times, you will want to dive below the surface as you hold your breath. Doing this will enable you to get a much closer look at aquatic wildlife, explore the reefs and springs, and enjoy other underwater features up close.

Before trying it in the water, you should practice breathing through the snorkel until you get used to it. This will allow you to get accustomed to the feeling of the small bit of airflow resistance created when a snorkel is used. With your snorkel on, try to practice shooting water out the end of your snorkel with a large puff of air. This will help you to prepare when it happens unexpectedly in the water. For efficient water removal, check the specific manufacturer instructions for your snorkel—it may have purge valves or other means of removing water.

At times, water will entirely cover your snorkel and compel you to push it all out. You should already know how to hold your breath and then breathe slowly under such circumstances to avoid inhaling water. Controlled breathing enables you to detect the presence of excess water in your snorkel and mouth and allows you to clear your snorkel without problems.

Relax and Conserve Energy

Make no mistake. Snorkeling is a serious exercise that will deplete your energy quickly. Even in warm water, your body will lose heat quickly as water has a greater heat capacity than air. Besides, propelling yourself forward or trying to keep afloat requires energy too just as you may need to spend a lot of energy if you are to stay out in the water for hours.

So remember to slow down and relax. Don’t try swimming along using your arms like you do in a pool. If you have to push forward, use your legs as they can easily outperform your arms in that. Conserve your energy by keeping your arms relaxed and at your side. Avoid kicking hard with your legs as a leisurely pace is just enough to drive you forward. Also, kicking too hard and flailing your arms will create a lot of noise and splashing that will scare away the manatees.

Keep the Right Snorkeling Position

The ideal snorkeling position is having your hands across your chest and gently kicking with your legs. In fact, having your hands crossed is a great way to keep you warm should the water temperature begin to dip. But when kicking, do not use your knees. Instead, move your ankles to produce a far smaller splash that will not startle manatees.

Remain calm and breathe regularly as you will naturally float across the water surface—don’t worry about sinking. When your arms begin to feel stiff, try laying them out in front of you or spreading them to your side to allow them to relax and regain strength. Be free to experiment and find a comfortable position for you. But always remember that snorkeling requires patience and you need to relax with your arms in a crossed position as you enjoy your experience.

Know Your Limits

You should know when you are getting too tired to swim back to the boat or shore. Always be aware of your position in the water relative to your boat so you don’t get stranded. There is no reason to puch yourself too far and turning a relaxing session into something dangerous. Also understand the places you are not allowed to move into, such as roped off areas, manatee sanctuaries or touching the coral. To avoid damaging the manatee habitat, only move into areas you are allowed to access.

Follow the Rules of Manatee Interaction

Do not panic as you get into the water. The size of manatees can be overwhelming, but they won’t hurt you. So relax, float on the surface and wait for a curious giant to approach you. The calmer and quieter you are, the more likely that a manatee will swim over to you. Stick to the rules of interacting with the animals—touching manatees only with one open hand to reassure the animal that you are not trying to hold or ride them. You must also interact with them on their terms; never trying to chase, separate or grab them.

Encountering manatees underwater is a profound and delightful experience. Through snorkeling, you can stay longer in manatee habitats without scaring them away, which allows them to approach you and interact with you. Once in the water, just float and enjoy the experience. As you float along, remember that the animals are in the warm springs for survival and should be allowed to enjoy a peaceful and uninterrupted time. For more information on manatees and manatee tours, visit the Captain Mike’s Swimming With the Manatees website.

Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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