Snorkeling is the practice of using a diving mask, a u-shaped tube called a snorkel, and fins attached to one's feet while swimming in a body of water. This equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions, such as, fish, reefs, coral, and other aquatic life near the surface.
Today, snorkeling is a leisure activity allowing us to see the beauty beneath a body of water and to watch sea life in their native habitat. Centuries ago, it was a utilitarian endeavor for farming and for scientific study. There is evidence that, 5000 years ago, sea sponge divers on the Greek Island of Crete used hollow reeds to breathe while submerged in water, making them the inventors of snorkeling. Ancient paintings dating around 900 B.C. depict Assyrian divers with air-filled, waterproof animal skins allowing them to increase their time under water. Around 500 B.C., Greek army personnel used hollow reeds to swim undetected near Persian ships and cut them free. And, Aristotle mentioned "instruments for respiration" resembling the elephant's trunk in his "On the Parts of the Animals" text written around 350 B.C.
Snorkeling can be done by anyone who knows how to swim and is healthy enough to spend time in the water. Local snorkelers, tour guides, dive shops, and rental shops can give you basic instructions, or, you can check out how-to videos posted on YouTube.com
Riptides, jet skies, boats, sun exposure, dehydration, cramps, sea life, sharp reefs, and getting your feet caught are some of the dangers faced by snorkelers. Dive flags, wetsuits, colorful vests, waterproof sunblock, protective gloves and botties are some of the equipment available to mitigate these risks. Snorkeling in protected waters is helpful and having a conscientious diving buddy is also a must!
Snorkeling destinations exist around the globe on every continent, including Antarctica. Well, yes, its very cold in Antarctica, so probably not a typically family vacation spot. For the more adventures amongst us, it can prove to be a trip of a lifetime.
Enjoy your time in the water and bring back some great photographs to share!