Snorkeling. One of the weirder words in the English language. And an activity that requires slightly weird, somewhat unflattering attire (let’s face it, no one looks good in a snorkeling mask). But it’s also one of the key drawcards for Seychelles tourism. The islands boast some of the best snorkeling spots in the world and ideal conditions with average surface water temperatures between 25 and 29°C – not to mention the seemingly endless array of exotic marine life.
So how do you get in on the action if you’ve never so much as donned a pair of fins before? Here’s a beginner’s guide to snorkeling:
Get the gear
Luckily snorkeling is one of the more accessible forms of marine adventuring, but you’ll still need the right gear: buy or rent a mask, snorkel and a pair of fins (Pro tip: don’t call them flippers). Ensuring that everything is the right fit is essential. The better the fit, the fewer the leaks – and headaches.
When choosing a mask, you want to make sure the rubber or silicone outer section that makes contact with your skin properly fits your unique face shape, to form a water-tight seal. To test the fit, place the mask against your face while holding your breath. Lightly press the mask to your face. If it fits well, it will stay on your face without you having to hold it. A good fitting mask will mean you don’t have to tighten the straps to prevent leaks – meaning you also won’t have an imprint of the mask on your face for hours after snorkeling.
It’s important to test your mask with a snorkel attached as this can change the fit. The snorkel is designed to go on the left hand side of the mask and your lips should be able to form a seal completely around the mouth-piece.
Flippin’ good fit
When it comes to fins, you’ve got two options – either closed or open foot. Open foot fins have an adjustable strap to allow for a customised fit, and are worn with boots (which can be useful if you’re going to be entering and exiting the water in a rocky area that might be too harsh for bare feet). Closed foot fins are generally more light-weight and recommended for snorkeling.
Your fins should have a snug fit, without feeling too tight. Your feet will shrink slightly in cool water so you want to avoid your fins getting too loose and causing blisters. If you’re opting for open foot fins, make sure you try them on with your boots on.
Even if you’re a strong swimmer, snorkeling can take a bit of getting used to. So test your gear out in the pool before diving straight into the sea. Make sure you master breathing through your snorkel and get a feel for diving under the surface and clearing your snorkel when you get back to the surface without lifting your face out of the water.
The pool is also a great place to practice clearing your mask of water. Small leaks are bound to happen, so to clear it, just press the top of the mask against your forehead and blow air out of your nose to expel the water from the bottom of the mask.
When you dive below the surface, you’ll need to know how to equalise the pressure in your ears. To do this, just pinch your nose and blow. If that method doesn’t work for you, try to swallow instead (while also holding your nose). Find what works for you. Once you’re comfortable snorkeling around the pool, diving under water, clearing your mask and equalising, you’re ready to hit the open water.
Bring a buddy
Always snorkel with a buddy. Stay close to each other at all times and stay in each other’s line of sight. Hold hands if you need to, just make sure you stay together. It also helps to have someone else help check if you’ve missed any spots while applying sunscreen before heading out (which is as essential as your snorkel itself). Remember the back of your ears, neck and legs.
Watch your surroundings
While you’re snorkeling, you’ll be more interested in what’s happening below the surface than above. But you’ve got to stay aware of your surroundings – take note of any currents, nearby boats, other people and rocky outcrops. While swimming, try to propel yourself with your fins rather than your arms. Keep your arms at your sides and resist the urge to reach out and touch marine life or coral – just observe. Also take special care to avoid disturbing any sediment or coral with your fins.
What to look out for
Depending on where you snorkel in the Seychelles, you could potentially see some stunning marine life including Butterfly Fish, Parrot Fish, Lion Fish, Sea Turtles, Giant Sting Rays, Sea Turtles, Moray Eels and even Whale Sharks if you’re lucky.
Best snorkeling spots
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to snorkeling spots across the Seychelles. Here are just some of the top recommended ones:
- The Vista Bay Rocks, Beau Vallon Bay, Mahé
Stunning granite and coral reef formations known for sightings of Moray Eels and Lobster.
- Sainte Anne Marine National Park, Mahé
With an abundance of reefs and lagoons, this collection of six islands is the oldest marine park in the Indian Ocean and is positively chockfull of stunning marine life.
- Anse Lazio, Praslin
The real-world embodiment of every idyllic tropical beach postcard you’ve ever seen, the eastern end of this spectacular stretch of coastline is known for crystal clear waters, turtles, bright corals and breathtaking granite formations.
- Curieuse Island, 2km from Praslin
At the centre of the Curieuse National Marine Park, this granite island is known for its seagrass meadows and large schools of Humphead Parrotfish.