Can You Snorkel Without Knowing How to Swim?

Last Updated: December 14, 2023

As an aquatic adventure, snorkeling appears like a preserve for strong swimmers. You may be curious, however, to know if you can indulge in the water exploit as a non-swimmer. Technically, you can safely snorkel without swimming skills.

Regardless, it is important you learn to swim to improve your security, and to have a better snorkeling experience. When you are a swimmer, you are in control of your motions, hence able to have a fulfilling, and relaxed water expedition.

Read on to learn about snorkeling as a non-swimmer.

Is Snorkeling Safe for Non-swimmers? The Risks

about to go snorkeling

Open waters are a perilous environment even for the strongest swimmers. Snorkeling exposes you to the mercies of Mother Nature where weather and water conditions can prove arduous.

A non-swimmer may encounter the following risks while in the waters.

Fear of vast waters

A non-swimmer may be intimidated by the vast open waters. The panic may cause anxiety putting the snorkeler in a fight or flight mode which can be risky in precarious environments.

Gear failure

In the event of snorkeling equipment failure, a non-swimmer may get stuck in the waters. Minor gear malfunction requires swimming experience to fix while in the waters. A non-swimmer may not have the latitude to handle such a problem safely.

Getting lost in the waters

Snorkeling exposes you to a captivating environment that may distract you from the rest of your team, or safe shorelines. It is fatal for a non-swimmer to drift far into the waters where conditions may be difficult to navigate.

Dangerous aquatic animals

The sea is home to assorted marine animals, some of which might be dangerous. A snorkeler should swim away, or leave the waters as fast as possible if they encounter such wildlife. Such an encounter may be fatal for non-swimmers.

Emergency health conditions or injuries

In case of sudden illness or injury, a non-swimmer is at risk of drowning while in the waters. It may be difficult to get out of the waters if physically hurt, and unable to swim to safety.

Unpredictable water and weather conditions

It is not unusual for previously calm waters and serene weather to suddenly turn rough and windy. The nasty marine condition may put the safety of the non-swimmer at risk.

Water currents

Open waters usually have strong water currents. A non-swimmer may have a difficult time keeping still and snorkeling against a high tide. The strong currents may also drift the person away from the group (if swimming in groups that is).

Snorkeling Tips for Non-swimmers

You do not have to be a perfect swimmer to snorkel. Though it may seem like a daunting experience, it is possible for a non-swimmer to safely enjoy snorkeling.

Below are safe practices non-snorkelers may use to enjoy this water sport.

1. Choose the right location

If you are a non-swimmer, the choice of your snorkeling location is key. Go to a location that has shallow spots where you can stand in the calm waters. It can be either boat or shore snorkeling. Both are ideal for persons who cannot swim.

A conducive snorkeling spot should have the following qualities:

  • Where you can stand: The waters should be shallow where your head is above the water surface when you stand. When in such waters, you can comfortably adjust your gear, or relax whenever you get tired.
  • Calm waters: A non-swimmer is likely to have difficulties in ocean waters where there are constant waves and strong currents. It is prudent to look for a place that has calm waters.
  • Rich marine life: Choose a location that is active and with rich marine life. An active spot is likely to have wonderful marine sights, unique aquatic wildlife, and beautiful corals to observe.
  • Minimal currents and is safe: It is safe for a non-swimmer to venture into waters that do not have strong currents. The choice location should be free from any threats such as swell waters or sudden weather patterns.
  • Has lifeguards: Snorkel at a location where you can get help if need be. A popular spot is likely to have lifeguards and tour guides who may be of great help to non-swimmers.

2. Get the right gear that fits

Snorkeling gear consists of a snorkel, face mask, and fins. Invest in proper and fitting items that are comfortable for you.

A non-swimmer should also get a flotation device such as a life jacket or a snorkeling vest. The flotation item will improve buoyancy and safety. If you invest in gear that is in good condition and perfect fitting you will likely enjoy your experience.

3. Test your equipment before you go

Test the gear to ensure it is in proper condition. You can try the gear in shallow and calm waters to be able to check for leaks. Understand how each piece works, and how to fix it in the event of any malfunctions.

Practice how to clear the snorkel when clogged or flooded. Learn how to draw air with a snorkel, and how to use a face mask. You will have a better time if you wear good-quality and fitting gear for maximum comfort.

4. Do not snorkel alone

Snorkeling is a relatively safe adventure. Regardless, the ocean may be risky to venture into alone, more so as a non-swimmer. A non-swimmer may be at risk if there is a sudden change in the weather and waters. It is also dangerous if you happen to drift far into the waters while alone.

It is wise for newbies to join a group, and if possible, enlist in a team that has a professional guide. You may let the team leader know you do not know how to swim. The camaraderie will boost your confidence, improve your snorkeling skills, and enrich the adventure.

5. Remain aware of your surroundings

Be conscious of your surroundings for safety reasons, to enjoy the captivating marine life, and to also protect the delicate sea life. Be careful in your motions to not break the corals, upset the ocean animals, or churn silt from the bottom of the sea.

The marine environment is enchanting and may distract you. You have to intentionally remain alert. When conscious of all the life around you, you are unlikely to drift away from your team or venture further into the seas where a non-swimmer may be at risk.

How to Prepare for Your First Snorkeling Trip

Before embarking on your first snorkeling expedition, it is important you are physically and mentally ready. A thorough preparation will enhance your experience, keep you safe, and also protect the marine environment.

Consider the following preparation measures for your first snorkeling trip.

1. Be physically fit

Though snorkeling appears as an effortless activity, in reality it is a tiresome adventure. The exploit requires you to be alert, and in regular body motion while exposed to the weather in the open waters.

You are safer, and better placed to navigate the environment when physically fit. Practice fitness activities such as cycling, jogging, or running to build your strength and endurance.

2. Improve breathing techniques

When you snorkel on the water surface, your body floats on the surface while your face is in the water. In this posture, you breathe normally using a snorkel pipe to get air from the atmosphere.

If you desire to have an incredible time, it is crucial you practice breathing techniques. The enhanced breathing skills will help you to enjoy the underwater experience for longer.

3. Learn to swim

Adequate swimming skills are essential for aquatic activities. Strong swimming skills are a major catalyst to a great water exploit.

Acquiring swimming skills will enhance your physical fitness and also improve your confidence when in the waters. Swimming skills will enable you to explore deep and unique underwater sites that you would otherwise not venture into.

4. Practice in a shallow location or a pool

Vast waters are intimidating and may be difficult to navigate for a newbie snorkeler. Sea waters are usually in constant motion and at times too rough. A beginner needs calm waters to learn how to swim and draw air using a snorkel from the water surface.

Practice in a shallow location or a pool to build your confidence. The exposure will train you to swim with your face in the waters while in snorkeling gear. You will also learn how to clear flooded snorkel or foggy masks.

5. Get snorkeling equipment

Get good quality and fitting snorkeling gear. A face mask, snorkel, and fins are a must-have, among other items. You can either purchase or rent the snorkel gear. A first-timer is better off renting than purchasing the equipment if undecided about snorkeling as a long-term hobby.


So, is it possible to snorkel if you don’t know how to swim? The answer is a solid yes.

While you can certainly be at an advantage with some snorkeling training, it’s still possible to enjoy it as a non-swimmer. All you need is to get a few basics right – such as wearing the right gear, being in groups, and avoiding dangerous spots.

In the long-run, you can always work on your swimming skills so you can make the most of your snorkeling expeditions.

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