How Safe Is Snorkeling Coral Reefs? Tips to Visit Reefs Responsibly

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the magnificent coral reefs and other equally fascinating natural treasure such as colorful fish, sea turtles, manta rays, humpback whales, whale sharks, and so on. These reefs are usually big enough to extend near the water surface. This makes it very easy to snorkel around them and admire their beauty. However, it is possible to get in trouble if the snorkeler is not careful around them. Which makes us ask how safe Is snorkeling coral reefs?

It is quite safe to snorkel coral reefs. Caution must be taken to make sure that the tide is not too high, and the weather is not highly windy when snorkeling coral reefs. In addition, care must be taken to not let children swim too close to the coral reef as a strong water current may push them towards the reef, entangling them in it.

Coral Reefs Snorkeling

There are a few safety precautions that need to be kept in mind when going coral reef snorkeling. All these measures ensure the protection of the snorkelers and of the reefs as well.

Skin Protection

Taking care of the skin when underwater is crucial. The saltwater may be irritating to the skin. Moreover, on a bright sunny day, the harsh sunlight may also cause rashes. Hence, when going snorkeling, skin protection must be taken very seriously.

Dive skins or Stinger Suits

One way to protect your skin underwater is through dive skins, also known as stringer suits. These are protective one-piece bodysuits that are usually made of elastic material. They are easy to put on and comfortable against the skin. Dive skins offer protection against any cuts and scrapes to the skin that the snorkeler might experience due to interactions with the underwater environment.

Moreover, they protect the wearer against the sun’s rays and from direct contact with salt water. The coral formations that are made of sponges can leave irritating fibers on the skin upon contact. Dive suits act as a barrier between the skin and the reef upon accidental contact hence protecting the skin.

Dive skins also have a limited thermal effect depending upon their thickness. This prevents the skin from hypothermia underwater. However, in case the person stays underwater for longer periods of time, it won’t be able to protect against the cold. Similar is the case with very cold waters. Dive skins are best used in water temperatures of 25C and above.

The suits come in a full shape that covers the whole body as well as in semi-covering options that leave the legs and the foot bare.

New generation dive skins or stinger suits are made of high-quality fabric that provides chlorine resistance and is UPF50+ cover. These suits are also suitable for providing protection against sea lice, jellyfish sting, and sunburns.

Use Flotation Device

A flotation device would not only add to your buoyancy but would also stabilize you. An inflatable noodle or a buoyancy aid vest are valuable pieces of snorkeling gear. If you are snorkeling with a noodle, it is best to situate them under the armpits. This way, they further add to and strengthen your natural buoyancy.

A buoyancy noodle lets you lean on it while you gather your breath and regain some strength or clean out your mask. It makes stabilizing oneself underwater conveniently easy so that the snorkeler can observe the brilliant marine life in peace. They can be passed on between partners without much hassle as well. They are also extremely easy to pack.

Buoyancy vests are easier to use. They can be worn, and they give the freedom of movement. You don’t have to hold on to them. However, in case of emergencies, they cannot be easily exchanged between fellow snorkelers. When picking a buoyancy vest, it is crucial to pick the right one. The suitability is dependent upon the weight of the snorkeler. Usually, while snorkeling, buoyancy vest of 50-70 Newton is used.

Weather Conditions

A lot of factors that combine under the umbrella of weather conditions affect snorkeling. These include rain, storm, wind, cloud cover, water current, etc.

Rain and Snorkeling

Light rainfall does not affect the snorkeling experience much. It is fine to go snorkeling in shallow water bodies during a very light shower. However, it is not safe to snorkel during heavy rain or after a storm.

This is because due to heavy rain, runoff may accumulate in the water body. The runoff includes mud, making the water murky. Murky waters reduce visibility, deeming it unsafe to go underwater. It may also cause eye irritation if the person is not wearing a face mask. Due to reduced visibility, there is a high chance that the snorkeler may disturb the coral reef or come in contact with an irritant.

Murky waters do not affect only the visibility of the snorkelers. Sea life is also affected by the cloudiness of water. In such a case of reduced visibility, aquatic predators might mistake the snorkeler for prey like a sea turtle. Thus, it may result in serious injuries.

Snorkeling Under Cloud Cover

A cloud cover itself will not affect your snorkeling experience. But it will diminish the sunshine. Hence, if you are visiting cold waters, this might be a problem. In such a case, it is advisable not to go snorkeling or wear good insulation.

Conversely, a cloud cover is an indication of rain or a passing storm, which should be avoided during snorkeling, as discussed. Hence, it is best to sit out the passing clouds for maximum safety before you go snorkeling.

Snorkeling in the Wind

High tide or strong waves are caused by windy conditions and can be very difficult to deal with even for experienced snorkelers. The strong currents in these events might push the snorkeler down, risking accidents. Buoyancy is also difficult to maintain under such circumstances, making it very difficult to hold stable.

Moreover, the water clarity during high tide or strong waves is not the best. The water gets cloudy and affects visibility.

In the case of a strong current, it is difficult to move against it, especially for children and the elderly. This might result in serious accidents and disruption of the reefs.

Safe Snorkeling

It is crucial to not let water inside the breathing equipment during snorkeling, especially if you are using a classic snorkel. Keeping water out of the tube is difficult during strong tide and changing current. As a result, the person might spend more time cleaning the tubes then actually snorkeling.

Tips, Dos, and Don’ts

Here are a few trips and dos and don’ts to make your snorkeling trip more secure and un unmatched underwater exploration.

  • Enter the water if the temperature feels comfortable to you. If the water is murky, wait for the mud to settle down before you enter the waters.
  • Do not enter the water directly above the reefs if you are diving from a boat. Look for a clear patch so as not to disturb the reefs.
  • Do not touch the reefs at all. This not only prevents your skin from contracting irritants but also ensures the safety of coral reefs. Oils from the hands of the snorkelers might prove damaging to the reefs. Moreover, if you are wearing sunscreen, make sure to use one that is safe for reefs as any other would destroy them when it mixes with the water off of your skin.
  • During snorkeling, your body should remain parallel to the water surface to prevent your fins and your feet from kicking the reefs.
  • Stay clear of stingrays and jellyfishes. Their stings are hurtful and take time to recover from.
  • Wear protective gear and descend into the water with buoyancy aids.
  • Lastly, swim gently near the reefs and observe and admire the different marine species from a distance. Do not touch the reefs or any aquatic life, especially the sea turtles.


Snorkeling is a great way to observe and enjoy the miraculous creation of nature that coral reefs are – especially elkhorn coral barrier reefs. The colorful coral sunken beneath the water is beautiful, vibrant, and harbor a plethora of aquatic plant and animal life, colorful tropical fish and so on. Snorkeling near the flourishing coral reef should be done with great care to not destroy them or other diverse marine life such as a sea turtles’ nest, and keep yourself safe. All safety precautions must be met to minimize the chances of accidents and to live the experience to the fullest.

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