The most ideal way to snorkel is from a boat and most tropical resort destinations offer some sort of fee based boat tours. Both shore and boat can provide a truly rewarding experience but snorkeling from a boat may have a few more advantages. Boats can transport you to pristine sites which, might not be as readily accessible from shore without involving a long and possibly tiresome surface swim from shore. Questions about the site or any of the marine life can be addressed at the location rather than having to wait till you got back to shore. If there is an emergency, a properly equipped boat will carry an oxygen kit, first aid kit and immediate communication via marine radio regarding weather or medical needs. The Captain and crew will be more familiar with the chosen locations and should (not always) include an orientation of the chosen site(s) prior to entering the water.
Most tour operators will have larger boats to accommodate more people which could be a blessing or a curse. The blessing is that you have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. The curse is that some of those people are those that you would have preferred not to meet. Whatever the case may be, there are definite rules when you are snorkeling from a boat that need to be followed.
When signing up for an excursion you should pay particular attention to when you are to be at the dock. Be at least 15 to 20 minutes earlier than the posted time. Being late to the dock is a discourtesy to everyone else on the trip and could cut into the time that is allotted for the adventure.
Make sure that you have all of your gear in a mesh or gear bag that you are going to be using with you before getting on the boat. A separate dry bag is excellent for clothing and towels. Marking your equipment with a permanent marker will make sure your equipment is yours and avoids confusion. Leave all of your valuables in the hotel or room safe. Sunscreen is probably not advised on the boat because the ingredients may get on surfaces and make them slippery, ask the crew before you apply it. The best protection at this point would be a rash guard, hat and sunglasses, if you have a one piece or two piece (top bottom) rash guard made of lycra material, this is a great way to be prepared for both sun and water.
If the boat is at the dock, wait for the permission of the crew before boarding. The captain and the crew all have duties to perform to make sure that the boat is ready to accept passengers and having someone in their way while they are performing their duties is disruptive. When permission to board has been given, board in an orderly fashion and only at the acceptable points of boarding. Do not crowd the boarding area, it is better to back away and wait till the crowding subsides.
Typical boarding procedure will usually involve handing your equipment to a crew member on the boat who will place it in a general out of the way area for you to retrieve when you are fully boarded. That crew member or another may offer to assist you onto the vessel by offering a steadying hand. This is for your safety as the boat may suddenly shift it's physical position in relationship to the dock depending on the movement of the water so accept this help. Once boarded clear the boarding area as soon as you are able. Though there is no assigned seating, try to choose where you are going to sit so that it is the farthest away from the boarding area. This will alleviate any congestion in that area. Ideally everyone will fill in accordingly. Your equipment bag should be picked up and carried to your seat only if there is space free beneath the seat to store it. Stay seated until the boat gets under way.
Most boats will have a roster with your name on it and when you hear your name being called make sure that you answer that you are present. If you are with other people, please do not answer for them. As a courtesy, refrain from conversation during roll call so that others are able to hear their names when they are called. In lieu of a roll call some boats may just do a head count which is another reason to stay seated until the boat gets under way.
Conversations, introductions and fiddling with stuff in your equipment bags should wait until the boat has fully left the dock and is enroute to the snorkeling destination. The Captain and the crew are there to make sure that you have a pleasant experience but they are still in charge. Directions given by them are to insure the safety of everyone on the boat.
Those who are prone to motion or seasickness may are encouraged to read our How to Prevent Seasickness article.
When the Captain or crew members announce that you should get ready, do so in a manner that is orderly If you take something out of your bag make sure that you stow it back in the bag when you are finished. Keep the aisles and walkways clear of your personal effects where someone may trip over it.
Once the boat has reached it's destination a member of the crew should give you a briefing which will include points of interest, any interesting characteristics or marine life you might see. The briefing should also include your entry options available and how, when and where you will exit the water. Proper boat etiquette dictates that you listen to the briefing regardless of your familiarity with the site being snorkeled, this is out of courtesy to any new passengers of the boat. Try to save any questions you may have till the end of the briefing so the person giving the briefing is not distracted away from any important safety information.
When instructed proceed to the assigned entry areas. It is important that you carry your fins to the entry area, never walk around a boat deck while wearing fins.
The method of entry into the water from the boat is dependant water conditions and the assigned entry areas of the boat itself. The three basic entry techniques include the Giant Stride, Back Roll In and the Controlled Seated. If the boat has a platform at the rear any of the three entries may be done if the water is calm to gently rolling. For choppier water the Giant Stride method is preferred as it is easier to keep your balance while standing than it would with the crouching back roll entry. It is also safer than the controlled seated (in choppy water) because it gets you away from the platform itself. Click on the individual videos for detailed instruction for performing the various entries.
For specific information with regard to getting back into the boat from the water, make it a point to read our How to Use a Boat Ladder" article.
Once you are back on board the vessel any gear that you handed up during your exit from the water should be collected and stowed to keep it from getting mixed with equipment belonging to other people. This also helps to keep it from getting damaged.
Take your seat and wait for another roll call or head count remembering to listen and respond when your name is called.
When the boat has returned to the dock or pier following your in water adventure wait until the crew says that it is ok to disembark. Bring your gear bag with you to the exit point and accept help that should be offered when transitioning yourself from the boat to the dock.
These are the usual and customary procedures and etiquette for snorkeling from a boat there may at times be variations which may be dependent on the type and size of the vessel but while the procedures may change proper etiquette does not.