Snorkeling in Salt Water

There are definite differences in snorkeling in fresh water and in salt water snorkeling. One of which is that you are more buoyant (you float better) in salt water than you are in fresh water because of the density and weight of the water. For more information read the article about How Water Affects The Snorkeler's Buoyancy. Equipment needs vary depending on the location chosen for your unique snorkeling adventure. Some of the more unique destinations for snorkeling want to remain unique and will more than likely have definite rules and regulations that need to be adhered to. This is to insure the safety of both the snorkeler as well as the marine environment. It is always a wise idea to research your destination to see if there are special requirements that need to be met with regard to equipment and even if there are any health issues and any other rules so your adventure doesn't turn from a reality to wishful thinking.

The percentage of water versus land on this planet today stands at 71% to 29% with the 71 percent being the water. If you really think about it, that is a whole lot of water. Of that 71 percent, 96.5 percent is the salt water that is found in the ocean. That leaves us with 3.5 percent of fresh water. That is pretty amazing when you really think about it. With so much water in the world it really shouldn't be a surprise that human kind finds new and interesting ways to interact with that water. Snorkeling is but one of the ways that we humans do that. If someone says the word snorkeling to you, the images that it conjures up usually consist of swaying palm trees and water lapping at a pristine beach. You can almost be sure that any travel ad that features a tropical destination will have someone in a mask and snorkel. I must admit that I am certainly drawn to tropical destinations with that type of scenario. I think the main reason is that the underwater world is just begging me to explore it. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) only 5 percent of the underwater world has been explored. While I could write about all the popular and really well known salt water snorkeling destinations, I have chosen, instead to introduce you to some rather unique and possibly surprising locations.


This may not sound like a snorkeling destination but you will be surprised that there actually are snorkeling tours offered in Alaska. Snorkelers can see anything from sunken docks that have become homes for various types of fish, crabs scurrying around the seabed and a rock wall with a variety of sea life attached to it. Could you imagine snorkeling in a stream full of salmon, how beautiful would that be? If there is that much to see in the streams of Alaska, imagine what it would be like to snorkel in the ocean.

It is not something that can be done in just a swim suit. Thermal insulation is a definite must on this type of adventure. this would include a minimum 7mm wetsuits with hood, boots and gloves. If you are taking a cruise to Alaska there are some cruise lines that offer this as an excursion. The southern part of Alaska in Ketchikan offers a snorkeling tour at Mountain Point where the water temperatures reach a balmy 65 degrees during the summer months thanks to the Japanese Kiroshio Current that flows through the area. What will I see, you ask? The Alaskan waters are full of marine life including, Sea Urchins, Nudibranchs, Jellyfish, Sea Cucumbers, Rockfish, Cod, Red Irish Lord, Red Rock Crabs and more. Oh and let me not forget the Starfish including the large Sunflower and Blood Stars and plenty of Kelp Forest. And on land, eagles, lots of eagles.  


Jellyfish Lake in Palau is an extremely unique snorkeling experience. Located on the Palau island of Eil Malk, Jellyfish lake is one of only 200 meromictic lakes in the world. Meromictic lakes are lakes the water is in layers and doesn't turn over or have the layers of water mix. The water's main inhabitants are thousands upon thousands of jellyfish with a few species of fish and some copepods thrown in for good measure. The jellyfish are the star of the show as they migrate horizontally across the lake daily. The picture on top is the one I took when I went there many years ago. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please do not miss it. But before you make the travel plans, check to see if it is still open. The government occasionally will close it to protect the jellyfish from, well... us.


Yes you read this correctly. As you don you mask, fins and snorkel and enter the waters off of Cancun, Mexico you will come upon some amazing man made sculptures. This is an ongoing project and right now there are two areas of the National Marine park that currently have sculptures that snorkelers can view. One is of the western coast of Isla Mujeres and off of Punta Nizuc. The sculptures are mainly the works of Jason DeCaires Taylor but five other sculptors have also joined in. This is a definite must visit.


The chilly waters in this area are teeming with snow-white Beluga Whales around late July or early August. This, like the Alaska snorkeling, does require lots of thermal insulation in the way of wetsuit, hood, boots and gloves. The estimated 3,000 Beluga Whales make their way to the Churchill River estuary where they spend the summer. These animals are very vocal and hearing them in the water is amazing.


I have shared a couple of unique cold water snorkeling adventures so now it is time to hit the other end of the temperature spectrum. The Commonwealth of Dominica could be considered a hot spot for snorkeling. This is due to the fact that it volcanically active. There are nine active volcanoes there and you can grab your snorkel gear and head over to Champagne Beach and snorkel through the geothermal vents found there which keep the water temperature at about 82 degrees. The vents release streams of warm bubbles so it is often described as snorkeling in champagne.


Interested in Roman History? This snorkeling destination is exactly that. Due to coastal subsidence the waters in this area reclaimed most of the ancient city of Baiae. Ancient structures and statues remain in the water all around this area. In January of 2007 regulated snorkeling and diving became allowable in this area. Although I have not personally been here, this is definitely on my bucket list of places that I want to snorkel.


The last destination I have chosen to highlight is found off the island of Grand Cayman, in the Caribbean which is home to the world famous Stingray City. The stingrays of Stingray city are noticeably larger than their brothers and sisters located elsewhere. This is probably due to the fact that they are never lacking in a steady food source. That source is the snorkeling and scuba diving part of the tourist population. Almost everyone that snorkels Stingray City has the opportunity to hand feed them. From personal experience I can tell you that this is an absolutely awesome snorkeling adventure. To be among these graceful and majestic creatures of the sea is a memory that will still be ingrained in my mind for years to come.

As you can see, snorkeling in salt water environments does not always include swaying palm trees and warm water lapping at a sugar-white sand beach. The destinations here probably don't even scratch the surface of the many snorkeling opportunities found in the beautiful water portion of this planet we call home. Don't you think that it is time for you to discover the rest of the world beneath the waves?