Is it Possible to Snorkel Without Knowing How to Swim?

Snorkeling is a super fun way to enjoy a new and exciting adventure while on vacation and offers many health benefits including boosting your mood, being easy on your joints, and improving your breathing. If you don’t know how to swim you may be wondering if snorkeling is a good idea for you. 

Yes. In fact, snorkeling requires very little actual swimming. While you don’t need to know how to swim, you do need to be comfortable enough in the water so that you can enjoy yourself without panicking.  

If you or someone you know doesn’t know how to swim but is considering snorkeling, check out the following tips and ideas for non-swimmer snorkeling and the benefits of snorkeling.

Non-Swimmer Snorkeling: How to Do It

Let’s go through the different things to consider when you want to snorkel as a non-swimmer.

Location, Location, Location

If you don’t know how to swim, choosing your snorkel location is super important. There are two main types of snorkeling you can choose from: shore snorkeling and boat snorkeling, and which one you choose depends on how comfortable you are in the water. 

Shore, or beach, snorkeling is done in shallow waters and is more ideal for those who can’t swim and aren’t really comfortable even floating in water. Beach snorkeling allows you to decide how deep you go, and more often than not, you can simply dunk your head in the water to see colorful marine life. 

Deepwater snorkeling is typically done off of a boat, and is ideal for someone who can’t swim but can comfortably float for an extended period of time. You can also our recommended flotation device for comfort.

Make sure when you’re choosing a location that you do your research and opt for a spot with calm, clear waters. It’s not wise to put yourself at risk in strong, dangerous waters if you can’t swim. Also, avoid murky waters that can make it difficult to see what dangers lurk under the water. 

Know and Understand Snorkeling Gear 

If you don’t know how to swim, but do feel comfortable enough in the water to go snorkeling, it will be super beneficial for you to get familiar with your snorkel gear and to understand what each piece is for and how to use it. The more comfortable you are with your gear, the more you can focus on relaxing in the water. 

Snorkel Mask

A snorkel mask allows you to see clearly underwater. There are two options when it comes to snorkel masks, you can opt for a traditional mask, in which you will need a dry snorkel to go with it, or a whole face mask that allows you to breathe underwater without an additional piece. 

If you’re interested in a traditional snorkel masks, here are a couple of recommendations: 

If a whole face mask seems more your style, check out a couple of those here: 

Dry Snorkel

A dry snorkel is paired with traditional snorkel masks and is what allows you to breathe underwater. 

Here are a couple of options of dry snorkels to pair with a traditional snorkel mask: 

  • Cressi Standard Snorkel. The Cressi snorkel provides comfort and easy breathing for prolonged use. 
  • ZIONOR Snorkel. Comfortable headgear, optimized mouthpiece that keeps the snorkel in place, and mount design makes it easy to use. 

Snorkeling Fins

Fins help you as you navigate the water; they allow you to move efficiently in shallow waters. Fins should be lightweight and fit comfortably. 

Check out these snorkel fins: 

Tips for Non-Swimmer Snorkeling

Here are a few things to do to make snorkeling easier and safer when you do not swim:

Ask and Tell 

As a non-swimmer, it’s a great idea to book a snorkel trip with a professional instructor. Not only do instructors typically keep a flotation device with them at all times, but you can also ask for a flotation device such as a life-jacket to wear and keep with you. 

It’s also beneficial to let the instructor know that you don’t know how to swim, so they can carefully watch you and make sure you’re staying safe. 

Use The Buddy System

Using the buddy system when snorkeling is great for a number of reasons, regardless of how comfortable you may be in the water. The buddy system will most importantly, help you avoid dangerous situations. Should something go wrong, you have someone right there that can help you or call for help. 

If the water makes you a little uneasy, it’s often calming just to know someone is there with you. Sometimes problems arise with snorkel equipment, with a buddy you always have an extra pair of hands. And lastly, snorkeling is simply an experience best shared with someone you know and love. 

Pair of snorkelers using the buddy system, a great idea if you can’t swim

Stay In Shallow Waters

If you’re considering snorkeling in shallow waters, but are scared you’re going to miss out, you won’t. There is still a lot to see even in shallow waters including unique fish, rocks, and colorful coral. 

Join the First Timers Club 

When looking for the best place to go snorkeling, keep in mind that many places offer special snorkeling trips for first-time snorkelers and/or non-confident swimmers. This will ensure that you’ll be in shallow, calm waters with a professional instructor. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call the place you’re looking into booking, and make sure you tell your instructor you aren’t a swimmer. 

It’s Worth It: The Benefits of Snorkeling 

You might be wondering if jumping into the water to snorkel is really worth it if you can’t swim. Well, it is! Here are a few of the benefits:

  1. Muscle strengthening. Snorkeling is a great leg workout that tones and trims. You can burn approximately 300 calories every hour. 
  2. Good for your heart. Snorkeling gets your heart pumping and strengthens your heart muscles. 
  3. Joint mobility. This is a great form of exercise if you suffer from joint pain; since you’re in the water you won’t have to worry about putting too much impact on your joints.
  4. Stress Relief. Snorkeling increases endorphins which put you in a better mood, and focusing on your breathing will naturally calm you. 

Final Thoughts

It’s totally possible to go snorkeling and not know how to swim since snorkeling doesn’t even have to involve much actual swimming. What is important is that you’re comfortable enough in the water not to panic. Floating skills preferred (source.) 

If you’re going snorkeling and don’t know how to swim, consider the location you’re snorkeling in. Decide if you’re comfortable enough in the water for deep water or if you should stick to shallow waters. Know and understand your gear before you use it, let your instructor know you can’t swim so they can keep an eye on you. Use the buddy system to avoid potentially dangerous situations, and know that there’s plenty to see even in shallow waters. 

Snorkeling is great for strengthening your heart muscles, toning and trimming legs, improving your joint mobility by allowing you to exercise and not impact your joints, and for relieving stress by releasing endorphins and making you focus on your breathing. 

Don’t let your lack of swimming skills keep you from experiencing marine life, and the ultimate adventure that is snorkeling. 


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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