Snorkeling is for the adventurous. It lets you fully experience the shallow waters and makes swimming through them fun and easy. It is especially a great way to observe coral reefs from up close.
Snorkeling is done close to the water surface with fins and a mask or a breathing tube. The mask has a tube attached to it that extends out of the water behind the person’s heads. There are limitations to how far one can go deep in water with a snorkel with the tube length. Which brings us to think, how deep can you snorkel?
The standard length of a snorkel tube attached to the mask is 12-15 inches. Keeping in view the safety standards, the deepest distance deemed safe by experts with the usual snorkeling gear is up to one meter.
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Like all other watersports, with snorkeling, the safety standard procedures must never be ignored. Out in the waters, if the safety protocols are broken, it might lead to some serious consequences. Wearing proper gear is one of the safety requirements.
Moreover, snorkeling is a sport of shallow waters. The gear has a certain capacity that measures the distance to which the person can dive. Whether you use a classic snorkel or a mask, it would enable proper breathing only up to a certain depth.
A classic snorkel is a usual plastic tube that is bent close to one end to form a ‘J’ like shape. Hence, it is also known as the J-style snorkel. It is the most affordable type of snorkel, and due to its uncomplicated design, it is great for beginners.
However, the plastic tube is hard and rigid, which makes it not very comfortable to hold in the mouth for longer times. Holding it tightly with clenched jaws will eventually tire the mouth out and make the muscles sore.
In addition, it is quite normal that the snorkeling tube gets completely submerged underwater while swimming. It frequently happens with the snorkelers. In such a case, the water enters the tube from its free end, which was previously underwater. Snorkelers then have to forcefully exhale to move the water out of the tube. This might not be very convenient and easy for beginners. The water may also easily enter from the end that goes into the mouth.
Also, due to its rigidity, the snorkel is not flexible. It does not rotate or bend to change shape. Hence, it cannot be positioned according to the water’s current, which increases the chances of getting the water in the tube.
The maximum length of a classic snorkel goes up to 16 inches. This limits the depth that the snorkeler can travel to one meter. If the person goes any deeper, the water enters the tube and stops the air, making it impossible to breathe.
Another very popular breathing equipment for snorkeling is the snorkeling mask. It combines a full-face mask with a tube. The tube extends up from the mask and out of the water. Such a mask makes it easier to breathe, compared to the classic snorkel, as you don’t have to clench on to the tube. Rather, the mask covers the full face, and you can breathe normally in it. It also does not let any water inside.
This is the easiest to use and does not involve any learning. All you have to do is make sure that the mask fits your face correctly so as not to let any water enter.
There are, however, limitations to the mask as well.
The mask is made up of plastic, which could easily scratch. If the area around that covers the eyes is scratched, it will make visibility underwater poor. Moreover, since it is easily scratched, great care needs to be taken while packing the mask and traveling with it.
Since the exhaled air remains inside the mask and around your face, it gets uncomfortably warm after some time to wear it. Hence, you cannot remain underwater for a very long time. The mask is even more difficult to put on if the person has a beard, and in such a case, the chances of leakage also exist.
In addition to the warming, since the exhaled air is trapped inside the mask with no way of letting it out under the water, the amount of CO2 inside the mask rises. If the mask is worn for too long, like more than 30-45 minutes without taking it off in between, the CO2 accumulated might cause lightheadedness and blacking out. Any such episode at a greater depth is difficult to recover from and might lead to serious complications.
Once above the water’s surface, if you want to talk to your snorkeling partner, you will have to take off the mask and then put it on again every time. This might prove to be a bit of a hassle.
The air inside the mask creates pressure on the face. Unlike traditional masks, the full-face mask leaves no room for nose equalization. With the snorkeler going deeper in the water, the pressure on the mask and hence on the face increases. The trapped air inside under too much pressure may cause facial bruises and cuts.
With a full-face mask, you can hold your breath and dive up to 2 meters under the water surface. While doing so, you can breathe easily as no water is entering the mask, even if the tube is fully submerged underwater. However, with the descent, the pressure on the face, and the amount of CO2 in the mask increases, making it difficult to go very deep or stay underwater for longer periods of time.
It is pretty clear that snorkeling is an activity of the shallow waters. For the same reason, the equipment designed for it works safely to a maximum depth of 2 meters. If the person wants to explore further than that, scuba diving is recommended.
Best Depth for Snorkeling
Snorkeling does not involve going very deep into the waters. It is meant to be done close to the water surface. Snorkelers explore the spectacular aquatic flora and fauna present close to the surface. This is because the gear designed for it is not suitable or safe for deep-sea diving.
The best depth prescribed for snorkeling is 1 meter. However, using a full-face mask, the person may go up to 2 meters deep. But any further than 2 meters would result in discomfort, difficulty breathing, and might very possibly also cause accidents.
People with health issues, especially relating to breathing difficulties, should consult their doctors before going snorkeling. For during snorkeling, there is a high chance that the water may enter a classic snorkel, if you are using one, and hinder breathing. With a face mask, the CO2 build-up is always a problem. Hence, proper consultation with the doctor is crucial to ensure your safety.
It is always advisable to go snorkeling with a party. Going alone might prove dangerous in case the person encounters some problems. When completely underwater, the person may blackout due to the inability to breathe. It is also possible that due to some mishap, the person might inhale water or the sea/ocean water may enter the mouth. In such a situation, the help from fellow snorkelers proves to be life-saving.
The dangers of snorkeling for longer periods include fatigue and low oxygen saturation in the body, which might lead to dizziness and facial bruises or sore jaw muscles due to the constant use of face masks or snorkeling tubes.
Hence, in order to snorkel and have fun, the safety precautions, as conveyed by the authorities, must be fulfilled. The person should also take a break every 30 minutes in order to normalize the breathing and regain strength before going in the water again.
Snorkeling is an extremely fun activity and a very addictive hobby. It lets the person witness and explore the marine life present up to 1-meter depth. You might find yourself among a school of fish or next to a coral reef.
However, if safety precautions are not followed and proper gear is not used, the fun may turn into a disaster. Snorkeling may prove to be life-threatening if the instructions regarding the depths to which a snorkeler can go are ignored. Therefore, in order to fully enjoy the experience, these safeguarding instructions must be taken seriously.