Things to know on your first snorkeling trip

Meagan and Luke snorkeling

Spending a week in Puerto Rico was an amazing thing. Affordable, versatile, and so, so vibrant! But one of the most memorable parts of the trip was our time in Culebra, snorkeling with sea turtles and various other aquatic residents.

One of the things that made it a little funny was that we went into the trip with such different levels of experience in the water:

  • Luke: spent most of his life in the pool as a competitive swimmer, and has also snorkeled in the Caribbean before.
  • Meagan: stopped swimming lessons while she was still in the “tadpole” class, and usually spends her pool time sunbathing in the shallow end.

The cool part, though, is that we both got so much out of trip. So here are a few of the things we think you should know or do on your first snorkeling trip.

There will probably be lifejackets.

Meagan: In Puerto Rico, there were two people in our group who legitimately couldn’t swim. So, our guides completely non-judgmentally gave them buoys and lifejackets, and kept an eye on them.

Personally, I can swim, but I kind of freak out when I get in water where I can’t touch the bottom. So, just like about 80% of our group, I happily stuck with my lifejacket for pretty much the entire excursion. Even if you’re not a prize swimmer, just know that you’ll most likely be covered in any situation.

Do your research.

Luke: Yes, you’ll probably be covered. But you’re in a foreign country, and not in your comfort zone. Take precautions:

  • Read the tour description carefully.
  • Call your tour company or guide and ask questions.
  • Read Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews.
  • Google the company and check out any blog mentions.
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Once you know, you won’t worry like Meagan did – all the way there.

Take it easy.

Meagan: Like I said, water deeper than my height freaks me out. But I freak out worse when I’m in that situation and I start getting fatigued. Happily, our snorkeling outing was pretty leisurely, so I didn’t run into any issues. That is, until I decided to strip off my lifejacket so I could dive down for a picture with a turtle. (Spoiler: I didn’t get close enough and nearly choked. But I regret nothing!) Point is, even if your guides aren’t super relaxed, just remember you have the power to dictate how hard you push and how far you go. If you’re getting upset or anxious, take your time and BREATHE. But, if you’re just nervous, take the damn plunge – you won’t regret it!

In through the nose mouth, out through the mouth.

Luke: As a swimmer, the breathing came back really fast for me. But for Meagan, who practices yoga, it was a lot harder. Think about it, though. When you have a mask on, it kind of seals off your nose. So how else are you going to get air? If you think more about slowly panting like a dog, that should make it easier. I had Meagan try to practice in the ocean before we went to Culebra, but having the mask on really helped most.

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