What do you experience when snorkeling vs scuba diving? Scuba diving requires a bit more preparation than snorkeling but the two go hand in hand or rather fin in fin.
Planning on spending your next vacation by the ocean and deciding whether to invest in scuba diving lessons? Learn the key differences between snorkeling and scuba diving so you’re ready to jump in the water.
What is Snorkeling? (+ Pros & Cons)
Most people that can swim can also snorkel. When you snorkel, you are floating in the water with your face under the surface and breathing air through the mouthpiece of the breathing tube.
This used to limit the underwater movement of marine lovers, but that is no longer necessarily the case. With the way that newer snorkels work, you’ll be able to swim underwater (to a certain depth) without water getting into the tube.
Although snorkeling is an extremely popular underwater sport, it does require calmer and clearer water and weather conditions. This means that although it is simple to do, you can’t snorkel everywhere and at any time.
If you want to admire the coral reefs and marine life in shallower waters, snorkeling is a great quick, and easy way to do so. You can stay underwater as long as you like.
Pros & Cons of Snorkeling
- Requires basic swimming skills
- Only requires basic fins, dive mask & snorkel
- Easily done in shallow waters
- Safer than scuba diving
- Limited underwater movements
- Requires calm & clear water
What is Scuba Diving? (+ Pros & Cons)
SCUBA is actually an acronym of Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. This describes the scuba tank and BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) however, we now use it as a verb.
When scuba diving, you are suited up with breathing equipment that lets you stay underwater for longer periods of time. Most recreational divers stay below the surface for 20 minutes to an hour, while technical divers may remain underwater even longer.
Unlike snorkeling, you can’t just jump in. You first need to understand how the basic equipment works and learn the techniques for breathing compressed air.
Although it is possible to go scuba diving with a diving instructor without first getting your basic open water diver certification, you still need to learn the basic skills and only then is scuba diving safe.
Because of the necessary skills and obvious dangers, such as decompression sickness, there is a minimum age limit of 10 years old. And, children must always be accompanied by a certified diver.
To lovers of underwater life, the extra effort is absolutely worth it. The feeling that you get when exploring underwater caves, swimming alongside manta rays, or facing history in sunken wrecks is indescribable.
Pros & Cons of Scuba Diving
- Dive deeper and longer
- Less affected by weather conditions
- Swim closer to fish, wrecks and corals
- Builds ability to remain calm and observant
- Requires special skill-learning
- Greater risk
- Requires bulky and expensive gear
Snorkeling Vs Scuba Diving
Gear & Equipment
When comparing the two recreational sports you need much less equipment to go snorkeling than to go scuba diving. This means two things, snorkeling is less expensive and the equipment is easier to travel with.
While a good snorkeling set can be purchased for under $20, a good scuba diving gear package is a considerable investment. Because of this many occasional divers simply rent their scuba equipment during a diving trip – which also saves on your luggage.
Given that, to go snorkeling, you only need some swim fins, goggles, and a snorkeling tube. When you scuba dive the list is much longer; scuba tank, BCD, dive computer, fins, diving mask, diving suits, etc.
Snorkeling is mostly recreational and in safe waters, it is a low-risk activity. Whereas scuba diving varies more in its purpose.
Of course, there are many recreational scuba divers, but there are also many types of professional divers. Aside from diving instructors, there are many career paths to follow that involve technical diving.
A good example of this is a marine biologist when knowing how to scuba dive is essential. Other examples of jobs that require scuba skills include ship engineers, search and rescue teams, underwater photographers, and certain civil engineers.
In short, snorkeling is done mostly for enjoyment and to a certain extent, the same can be said about scuba diving. However, there are also very advanced skill sets that can be learned for scuba diving.
Since you are not breathing gas when snorkeling, it feels much more natural. The only thing you have to remember is to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose.
In contrast, how to breathe underwater is one of the first things a new scuba diver has to learn. Although the breathing gas mixture inside a tank is safe you still need to be mindful of how you are breathing.
Very simply put, you will learn to breathe underwater correctly. That will mean breathing slower, shallower, and most importantly to never stopping breathing. This is not only to prevent lightheadedness but also to conserve the air supply, and believe it or not it even helps to keep you calm.
As long as you stay near the surface, you can keep swimming for as long as you like with a snorkel. The breathing tube is all you need to admire what is happening beneath you.
Whereas scuba divers are limited to the amount of air they have in their tank. Meaning that depending on the tank size, your breathing technique, and the intensity of the dive, there is generally enough air for over an hour.
However, divers always keep an eye on the air volume left inside their tank. Planning their ascension to ensure not to completely finish the tank. This is a safety precaution, just in case something happens unexpectedly.
Dangers & Risks
Although snorkeling is not risk-free, many consider it less dangerous than scuba diving. The main risks you need to be aware of are strong currents and obstacles in your surrounding.
Understandably, you’ll be facing the ocean floor most of the time so it is important not to forget to keep an eye on what is going on around you. Swimming into a boat, its motor, rocks, or even other people can lead to serious injury.
When you scuba dive, you also have to be aware of your surroundings but you are often dealing with longer distances (horizontally and vertically). You need to be mindful of currents, stick close to your dive buddy and self-monitor how the depth is affecting you.
Aside from being able to swim, you don’t need to learn much more to snorkel. However, it may help to practice floating in one place and swimming with fins.
On the other hand, both mental and technical skills for scuba diving. You need to know how to use your diving gear, how to breathe with a dive tank, how to communicate underwater, and how to remain calm in uncertain conditions.
To many scuba diving is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. In fact, it might even be less physical than expected because the buoyancy techniques that you will learn will minimize energy exertion.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Have a better idea of the key differences between scuba diving vs snorkeling? Do you prefer one over the other? This may help make up your mind.
Which is better snorkeling or scuba diving?
It is not necessary to choose between the two since both have their own purpose. Most scuba divers will happily go for a snorkel if the water conditions are better suited to it.
Is scuba diving safer than snorkeling?
There are different risks associated with snorkeling and scuba diving. Neither water sport is 100% safe and they do require a different skillset to stay safe.
Can non-swimmers do snorkeling?
People that cannot swim well can often still go snorkeling. However, this should only be done under the close supervision of an instructor or capable strong swimmer.
Dive deeper into what makes scuba diving so different from snorkeling but there is nothing as explanatory as trying it out for yourself. Consider this your encouragement to find a dive school.