Avoid a Recreational Water Accident: Snorkel with Caution

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

snorkelingSnorkeling can be an incredible experience for those who decide to take the plunge. With little to no training, individuals can peer into coral reef environments and encounter marine life up close. However, individuals should be aware of snorkeling risks before they jump into the water.

Every week at least one person dies in a snorkeling accident. While snorkeling is a relatively safe water activity, the risks and dangers are not always addressed by guides. Unsafe boats and equipment, as well having an inexperienced boater manning the help can also lead to injuries.

So, what can you do to stay safe on your next snorkeling adventure and avoid a recreational water accident?

First, individuals who snorkel should always use some sort of flotation device when in the water, like a life jacket. The device can literally save your life if you get tired. Modern devices and inflatable vests allow individuals to inflate the vest by mouth when they need additional buoyancy. These vests also have release valves to let out the air, allowing the snorkeler to dive under water, when they want to get a closer look at fish or objects located below the surface.

Avoid coming into contact with coral or marine life. Some marine animals are poisonous and use defense methods that can injure you. Getting injured in the water is different than an injury on dry land. A hurt hand or leg can quickly turn a fun snorkel swim into a dangerous situation. You should also familiarize yourself with the marine predators common to the waters you will be snorkeling in so you can minimize the risks associated with encountering one of them, as well as the appropriate response to take should you encounter one up close.

Never snorkel alone. If you get into trouble while snorkeling, having brought along a fellow snorkeler and being close to a boat can increase your odds of minimizing the effects of your negative encounter and help you get back to land quicker. First-time snorkelers are wise to stay close to shore before they try to snorkel out in open water. Going with a knowledgeable guide service can also increase both your safety and the experience, especially for a first-timer or a relative novice.

However, even snorkeling near the shore has its hazards. You need to be ever mindful of your surroundings. Rip tides near shore can pull you out to sea, so take the time to surface frequently to get a better sense of your location. Individuals should also avoid snorkeling in high surf. Big waves can cause your snorkel to flood and can hold you underwater for a long period of time just when you need that breath of air. Worse, they can drag you into shallows and jetties where sharp coral can cut you up. It is important to get information about the beaches you intend to explore before you go, especially if you plan to venture out to where waves are breaking, or beyond the breaking waves.

If you choose to hire a guide, you should definitely ask about the kind of safety gear you’ll be provided and whether the vessel being used is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard. Asking guides about their experience and accreditation is also always a good idea.

To recap, the best way to snorkel safely is to hire a knowledgeable guide if you are unfamiliar with the area, wear the appropriate safety gear, be informed about the risks you may encounter during your trip, and never go it alone. For those who take the time to do their research, and follow these precautions snorkeling can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

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