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Snorkeling vs Scuba Diving

What's the Difference between Snorkeling and Scuba Diving?

The simple explanation relates to the breathing and swimming techniques, specialist equipment, and the maximum depth levels.

After we have explained the basic differences between scuba and snorkeling, we also provide you with extra information about which water activity is easier, safer, and potentially more fun.

Let's start off with the key differences between snorkel breathing and the scuba diving breathing techniques of having an air supply under water from the scuba tank.

Snorkel vs Scuba Diving Breathing Techniques

Snorkel Breathing

If you have snorkeled before you will already know that snorkelers generally float at the surface of the water. Your face is in the water for most of the experience and usually looking in a downward direction to see the underwater world below.

Can you breathe underwater with a snorkel? The closest you can get to breathing underwater while snorkeling is by breathing through a snorkel tube attached to your mask and held in the proper position by gripping a rubber (or silicon) mouthpiece with your teeth.

It means there is no need for you to lift your head out of the water for air when you can breathe comfortably through the breathing pipe. In simple terms, you see through the mask and you breathe through the snorkel.

Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

SCUBA divers breathe from an aqualung or compressed air tank with other scuba diving breathing apparatus equipment attached. This allows divers to stay longer at given depths below the surface without surfacing. Please note, there is some training required to dive safely because of the safety concerns with the air cylinders and the physiological effects of breathing compressed gases under water.

Perhaps the other big advantage of using scuba diving breathing apparatus instead of snorkeling is that divers go deeper so they can examine the sea bed and its formations and marine life.

With a little training in free diving techniques, snorkelers can swim down for relatively short bursts after taking a large breath. Most inexperienced breath hold divers would average between 30 seconds and one minute underwater on one breath before needing to surface for more air.

Snorkel Swimming and Finning Skills

A limited amount of swimming knowledge is needed to appreciate and experience the basics about snorkeling. In fact, given the right conditions, no specific footwear is required and even non-swimmers can have a lot of fun.

Nonetheless, in some circumstances such as in fast-moving water, both snorkelers and scuba divers should be wearing proper swimming fins for assisted propulsion. The leg motions used in both activities are very similar and there should be little or no arm movement. Underwater kick styles used with fins will differ slightly from surface swimming.

Snorkeling and Scuba Depth Levels

Snorkeling tours usually take place around shallow reefs ranging from sea level down to about five meters, depending on the underwater visibility. Skin diving to deeper reefs is generally associated with experienced snorkelers because it requires an increased fitness and skill level.

By comparison, scuba divers often reach a depth of twelve meters even during an introductory program. As divers gain more experience and training they see the benefits of submerging deeper to depths approaching 25 - 30 meters. The maximum 'safe' depth for recreational scuba diving is regarded and respected to be 40 meters below sea level.

Snorkel vs Scuba Equipment

Equipment for scuba diving is significantly more complex and heavier if you compare it to a basic snorkeling set.

Snorkeling Equipment

Scuba Gear

Different Physiological Effects on Health

The physiological effects for scuba divers breathing compressed gas under water have clear health implications including;

Nonetheless, perhaps the greatest danger for all snorkelers and scuba divers is not being seen by jet skis and the hazards of power boat propellers or other water crafts.

Both activities require its participants to follow some basic polite boating etiquette and common sense safety precautions. Statistically, whether you are a snorkeler or a diver they are both considered to be a soft-contact family based pastime which entertains families with children for hours of relatively inexpensive fun.

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