Intro to Scuba- Why it is Different from Snorkeling and How to Get Started
Gazing out at the Caribbean Sea, it’s hard not to be entranced by the turquoise water and the roar of waves breaking over the reef. But what about below the surface? There is an endless world to explore under the spray, full of fantastical creatures, subaquatic rock formations and those tiny, industrious cities of the coral polyps.
You’re ready to jump in, fins first, and begin exploring! Maybe you are more content at the surface, relaxing as you float with your mask and snorkel, soaking up the grand sights. Or are you an adventurer, ready for something new? Scuba might be the answer.
When snorkeling, you rely on a snorkel to breathe air while you float just at the surface of the water. As your face is only inches below the water surface, the short tube of the snorkel that goes from your mouth into the air, is all that it takes to keep your eyes trained below you without having to turn your head to breathe, as you do while swimming. A mask allows you to see the myriad of ocean life and fins give you more control over your speed and direction as you float along. Snorkeling can be done anywhere there is water deep enough to float in with decent visibility (your uncle’s duck pond, maybe not), but some of the best snorkeling is done in shallow, calm areas of the coral reef where colorful fish, sea turtles and of course the coral itself, are all on easy exhibit.
Much like the first time you ever flew in an airplane and saw the sky above the clouds, scuba diving is a whole new way to experience the world. Sure, you’ve been swimming, maybe even snorkeling. But to descend into the deep and feel the quiet while fish swim all around is something you just have to see to believe. Diving does require more gear, and more training, than snorkeling does. Mask and fins are still used, but the snorkel is swapped out for a regulator and scuba tank, which is carried on your back. A wetsuit is used for warmth and weight integrated equipment helps you to descend.
There are several levels of dive certification courses available and a good Dive Center will have not only well-qualified Dive Masters to facilitate your dive but will also provide training courses. Look for a PADI 5-Star dive shop that keeps its equipment in excellent shape, replacing often. A good instructor will always take the time needed to ensure skill sets are mastered before moving on, safety is always the first consideration when diving.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with either option. It comes down to personal preference and to some degree, the location where you will be. Some sites you simply cannot snorkel as all of the marine life and highlights are too deep to appreciate from the surface. And conversely, some shallow reef areas really don’t need the extra gear required for diving. Learning to do both allows you the flexibility to choose the best activity for each destination you travel to. Now get out there and make a splash!