Tropical island holiday destinations are famous for their snorkelling and diving opportunities, but if you’re new to the game you may not know which option is for you. However, after flying in over that crystal clear water and being able to see the coral reefs that rest below the surface, the one thing you do know is that you’ve got to get down there to check it out. One of the biggest Hawaii attractions is the crystal clear water that’s just begging to be explored. Still if you’ve never snorkelled or dived, you might be struggling to decide which you should give a try.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Snorkelling is easy, inexpensive and doesn’t require a guide while diving offers a more immersive yet more expensive experience that requires lots of equipment and a knowledgeable guide, particularly for first timers. Whether you’re exploring the depths of an overseas destination or are discovering the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef closer to home, we’ve weighed up the benefits and pitfalls of snorkelling versus diving to help make your decision a little easier.
Easy: All it takes is a snorkel, mask and fins and people of all ages can get into it immediately with no practice. Not only that, but you can do it for as long as you like without risking serious harm and you’ll never run out of air. If you can hold your breath, you can even dive down under the surface for a closer look at the marine environment.
Cheap: Snorkelling is far more affordable than scuba diving. It can costs hundreds of dollars for the complete Fiji diving experience, however snorkelling equipment is usually free to hire or attracts only a small fee. Better still, a snorkel and mask weighs virtually nothing so if you’ve got your own gear it’s easy to pack in your case, meaning you can snorkel til your heart’s content and it won’t cost you a thing.
Freedom: You don’t need a guide to snorkel, and many tropical destinations boast some superb snorkelling spots right off the beach. That means you’re free to explore the underwater world at your leisure without being weighed down by heavy equipment. Driving around the island and see some incredible water calling your name? Jump right in!
Exposure: With all that freedom it’s easy to want to stay in the water all day watching the lives of the marine animals reveal itself before your eyes. Unfortunately being face down all day means your back is completely exposed. While you’re watching playful manta rays, the sun’s harmful rays can be doing damage. Snorkellers must be vigilant with their sunscreen and should wear a t-shirt or rashie for maximum protection. Severe sunburn is a very real side effect of snorkelling.
Envy: It’s all well and good to be amazed at the coral and creatures that you see when snorkelling, but as soon as those divers surface they’ll start bragging about the reef sharks and other deep dwellers that they saw and suddenly you’ll be feeling a bit left out. It’s fairly easy to brush it off after a day spent seeing some amazing aquatic sights but divers just love to rub it in any chance they get.
Immersive: Diving allows you to become one with the amazing marine environment that exists below the surface. Not only are you part of the diving community, but sinking below the depths you find you become part of the marine community as well, where fish swim so close you feel like you belong there and sharks pay you as little mind as they pay the sucker fish on their backs. It feels like you’re in another world, one you won’t be in a hurry to leave.
Nocturnal: Snorkelling at night can be a bit of a spooky experience, but night diving is an adventure all of its own. Diving the sea at night is one of the most unforgettable things you’ll experience as the predators come out to play. Fish take on an almost neon characteristic while big fish like giant trevally glide past and sharks prowl around for their next meal. This is a show you certainly won’t see from the surface.
Unique: Anyone can snorkel, but diving is a much more unique experience even for the inexperienced. For example, Vanuatu diving is renowned as some of the best in the world and there are plenty of spectacular dive sites for all skill levels. You don’t need to be a pro, you just need to be willing to give it a go and listen to the instructions of your guide. You’ll see coral formations and wreck dives like nowhere else in the world. Sightseeing is great and all, but this will be one of the best memories of your holiday.
Sober: If your idea of a holiday means kicking back with a few cold ones, perhaps diving is not for you. Spending hours out on a boat in the tropical sun can create a thirst that only an ice cold beer can quench, but if you’re planning on diving than most operators won’t allow you consume even one single beer before you dive. Safety is the most important thing, but if you’d rather P-A-R-T-Y then diving might not be for you.
Heavy: There is a lot of equipment associated with diving and although most operators provide this for you, what they can’t provide you with is the strength to carry it. Divers have up to 50kg of gear on their body including buoyancy control devices, wet suit, air gauges, air tanks and goodness knows what else. Just getting in and out of the water is a struggle and for first time divers, all of this equipment can end up making them panic as they plunge into the depths feeling heavy as a rock. Panicking is not a fun way to spend the day, so if you tend to get claustrophobic you might prefer snorkelling.
At the end of the day, snorkelling and scuba diving both have their pros and cons. One isn’t better than the other, rather just a different experience suited to different people. If you have the money and confidence to give diving a go then it is certainly a unique and unforgettable experience. However if you think snorkelling suits your style better, don’t feel as though you’re missing out – you can enjoy a far more relaxing time on the surface and still see some incredible marine life. You might even choose to do both, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. There is no right or wrong answer, it all comes down to what works best for you.