I still remember my trip to the Lakshadweep Islands, which I'd taken many years ago. The clear skies, bright, hot days, white sand, aquamarine water, and of course the lazy hours spent floating on water, snorkeling with the tube in my mouth, peering down in fascination at the vividly colored flora. That was one of the best times, ever! Till my friend unknowingly touched some poisonous sea creature, and her leg was swollen for the rest of the trip. Which brings me to the most important part - what to do, and what not to do, while diving when snorkeling. Here are a few tips that I want to share with you, so that you don't suffer like my friend...
Important Diving Techniques while Snorkeling
Remember, the dangers faced while snorkeling are not very different from the dangers faced while scuba diving. Given below are a few techniques that you must follow when diving while snorkeling. They will keep you safe, and ensure that you have help at hand when you need it, in case of an emergency. They are all important, so don't ignore any of them.
# 1 Equalizing
This is one of the most important things to do while snorkeling. Our ears are extremely sensitive, and a slight increase in the pressure on our eardrums, if not equalized, will cause serious damage. As soon as you start going into the water, make sure that you pinch your nose, and blow out gently but steadily, till you hear a popping sound in your ears. This indicates that the pressure has been equalized and your ears are safe for some time. Do this after descending every few feet, because the pressure increases very quickly as you go deeper.
# 2 Cleaning the Snorkel Tube
Cleaning the snorkel tube is equally important, because the tube tends to get clogged with water after sometime. So after regular intervals, when you feel that you are not being able to breathe as easily as before, go up to the surface of the water and blow out with your mouth, with the tube still in your mouth. Make sure that no water is left in the tube, or you may end up breathing in water when you are under, making you choke. If you think some water is left, take the tube out of your mouth and try draining the water out by inverting it, and blow again to be absolutely sure.
# 3 Using the Fins
Use the fins attached to your legs, to propel yourself under water more quickly and efficiently, and gain more distance downwards with minimum effort. The thing to remember is, the tube will fill up with water soon, so you do not want to waste much time in getting to the depth you want to. If you take too much time to get there, the time you get at that depth to actually observing the aquatic life, will reduce. This is really undesirable. Keep your body streamlined, and use the fins to your advantage, to cover more distance in less time.
# 4 Gauging the Depth and Distance
Gauging the depth and the distance before you dive is extremely important, if you do not want to land on the rocks and get your head smashed. Extremely important, is to dive in absolutely clear water. You should be able to see clearly for a few feet inside the water, in the area where you are planning to dive. Avoid diving in murky, unclear water, as you will not be able to see what is under the surface. You may also happen to land on some poisonous plants that are growing on the rocks, and harm yourself. Although when we look into the water, things appear closer than they are, for safety reasons, it is best to assume that they are not actually deeper than they appear to be. It's safer if you think you have only 4 feet of depth and actually have 5, rather than thinking you have 5 feet and actually have less. Plan the depth of your dive with utmost care!
# 5 Safety Stops
Taking regular safety stops while diving deep, is a safe and highly recommended practice. Take these stops, check your air supply, equalize your general neutral buoyancy, slow down your diving speed, make sure your diving gear and equipment is still tightly bound to you and functioning OK, that you have enough air to reach as deep as you want and still come up safely without running out of air midway, etc. It is always a good thing to plan the dive in such a way, that you surface with some air left.
# 6 Plan the Dive and Learn Basic Emergency Skills
Avoid going diving alone. Always go with a friend or a professional, and also keep someone informed about your location and your diving plan. Once there, plan your dive properly. What depth you want to explore, how much air you will require, when will you take your safety stops, how will you signal to your friend that you are doing OK underwater, and all the small details that are generally taken for granted and neglected. Also make sure you know basic skills like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and a few other related skills.
Tips on Diving while Snorkeling
Take Diving Lessons
Do not, at any cost, skip the diving lessons that your instructor tells you that you have to attend. There is not much chance that you will know much about being a diver, or the correct diving techniques, unless you are a pro diver. So pay attention when he talks, and explains what exactly needs to be done.
Check the Weather
Listen to the weather updates, and keep yourself in the loop as to how the weather is going to be, for the duration you plan to snorkel. Keep an eye out for the tides, since they are really powerful and can take you along when you are attempting to dive. You may either be pulled further out to sea by the outgoing tides, or you may be swept onto the rocks with the incoming tides. Either way is not something you want to experience!
Keep Away from Sea Creatures
Do not touch the sea creatures that you come across, just because they look beautiful and pretty. Often, the most attractive ones are the most dangerous, and you may end up being bitten or poisoned. The friend I mentioned had some creature stuck onto her leg, and that part of her skin had to be scraped off under local anesthesia. Keep away from corals too.
Right Gear and Equipment
Although mentioned last, this point is equally important. Make sure that all your diving equipment is working properly, BEFORE you descend into the water, and that your diving gear is suitable for the type of diving you are planning on doing. Also, make sure you are comfortable using all the gear. I saw a guy dressed in shorts and a body hugging tee while going for diving, and laughing at all the others in the group for being overdressed in their wetsuits. Well, that was till the instructor gave him a earful, and sent him back to wear one himself.
Do make sure you follow all the tips and techniques mentioned above. Lastly, do not forget to be generous while applying sunscreen before you get into the water. Now just pick a place that is overflowing with flora and fauna, and enjoy your experience!