How to Snorkel safely for beginners

snorkelers in the water who have learnt how to snorkel with Island Ventures

How do I snorkel: The Top 10 Tips on How to Snorkel Like a Pro

#1 Be flexible on the day you will snorkel

The biggest safety issue when considering how to snorkel safely is the state of the weather and ocean. To ensure you make the most of your snorkel trip you will need to go when the wind and waves are low.  We advise you arrange your snorkel trip at the start of your vacation. Keep in touch with your charter operator and then if you need to move it to another day due to the weather you will hopefully still get to see the reef.

For most times of the year the wind does not blow enough to stop the boats for more than a couple of days

Check our weather page to check what conditions we snorkel in and the conditions for the next few days

Island Ventures is the only shop to offer a Weather Warranty so check this out before you book.

#2 Choose your snorkel charter with care

There are many snorkel charters in Key Largo.  Small boats that only carry 6 snorkelers to the large boats that carry 40 snorkelers.  Our advice is to choose somewhere in between and certainly less than 20.  You will get a more personal service if there are less than 20 snorkelers on the boat but have the larger boat with more space if its licensed for more than 6.

Be sure to tell the crew if you are new to snorkeling or are anxious and they will take you to a sheltered spot for your first time in the water.

#3 Make sure you have correctly fitted equipment

Snorkel equipment consists of


Our crew will fit you for a mask that fits.  Put the mask on your face without the strap on. Breathe in through your nose and hold your breath. If the mask fits correctly it wont fall off as the vacuum will be maintained against your face.  We carry a few different size masks for adults and children.

During your snorkel you mask may steam up. To prevent this ensure you use some of our special mask defog prior to putting your mask on.

PRO TIP – Always keep your mask on your face whilst in the water. Do not be tempted to put your mask on your forehead as this will heat up your mask and it will fog up quickly.


Snorkels are designed to be worn on your left hand side and a lot of snorkels with have mouth pieces shaped this way to make it more comfortable in your mouth.


Our fins are designed to not need boots to be worn underneath and are the soft shoe variety.  They all have adjustable straps to modify the length. As long as your foot fits in the shoe part it a good fit. You simply slip the fin on and pull the strap equally each side just enough to stop them from falling off and not so tight it stops the blood from circulating.

PRO TIP If you normally wear socks your feet will be soft so bring a spare pair of socks to stop the rubbing on soft feet.

Snorkel vest

These are essential safety items must be worn. Ours are bright yellow and this helps our crew see you in the water and just as important helps other boat users see you. They go over your head and strap around your waist. You can inflate these by pulling down on the top of the inflator and blowing air in.  To release air pull down on the top of the inflator and squeeze the vest with your arms. if you get tired you can inflate with some air on lie on you back and rest.

Each vest is equipped with a safety whistle that is to be used in emergency situations only to attract the attention of the boat crew

#4 Listen carefully to the boat brief before you leave the dock and once you arrive at the snorkel site

We are a coast guard licensed and inspected vessel and the captain will give a full safety brief prior to leaving the dock.

Once you arrive at the snorkel site the crew will give you a brief on the snorkel area you should be in and interesting areas to look at.  Please consider that we will be taking you 6 miles off shore to the snorkel site.  There will be a lot of wildlife in the water right by the boat you do not have to swim another 6 miles to see it.

#5 Be prepared to see lots of fish

When you first get in the water you may see lots of fish all around you. remain calm, it will look deep when you put your face in the water as it will be 20 to 30 feet deep. Do not panic if you are anxious inflate your snorkel vest and float, you will not sink.

#6 Be calm in the water and float on the surface

Remember these rules for snorkeling

The 3 ‘H’ s. Head, Hips and heels should be floating on the surface with your head looking straight down or just slightly ahead.  There will be much to see! Do not tip your head too far back otherwise your snorkel may fill with water

If you get water in your snorkel you can – turn on your back – remove snorkel from your mouth – empty contents -turn back on your front – replace snorkel in your mouth

PRO TIP – you can empty water from the snorkel by placing your tongue in the mouthpiece – using the air in your lungs create pressure the pull your tongue away to release the pressure which should dispel the water from the snorkel. It takes a little while to master and its just like a sneeze/cough.

Breath slowly and deeply and try to breath as normal as possible.  having a snorkel in your mouth is uncomfortable at first and breathing only through your mouth and not your nose will also seem strange but you will quickly get used to it.

If you get water in you mask you can empty it by floating in the water and lifting the bottom of the mask away from your face and letting the water run out.

Key Largo Snorkeling#7 Always snorkel with a buddy

You should always snorkel with a snorkel buddy. Never snorkel alone. Ensure that you stay close enough to do a ‘high five’ whilst in the water.

#8 Keep a look out for the the boat you are on and other boats

During your 1 hour snorkel you should not be any further than 100 feet away from the boat.  The snorkel boat has a red flag with a white stripe on it that tells other boat users to keep away so this is your protected zone.  However not all recreational boat users are aware of this and sometime stray in to snorkel areas so we advise that you maintain vigilance whilst snorkeling and do not stray too far away from the boat

#9 Do not touch the wildlife in the water

Do not try and touch any fish or critter that you see in the water.  You will be in no danger of the wildlife as long as you do no touch anything. When in the Florida Keys choose only an accredited Blue star operator trained in the conservation of the reef.  Please watch this video before snorkeling on the reef.

#10 Be kind to the environment

You will be in an area of outstanding natural beauty and we need to preserve this environment.

Please adhere to these Ocean Etiquette guidelines whilst in the sanctuary

Do not stand on the coral or rocks or sand as you will cause damage.

Do not pick up shells or sand off the bottom. Even the bacteria from your skin may cause damage to the micro organisms in the sand and remember shells are reused by sea creatures as homes check out this amazing video.