Let me begin by saying that if you’re just now wondering what is snorkeling, you’ve been missing out on something big. HUGE. What is snorkeling? Just the easiest, most amazing way for us humans to interact with the marvels of the underwater world (while taking a refreshing dip in the beautiful crystal waters of Cancun).
Humans have been fascinated with the submarine world for thousands of years and have always sought ways to explore what lies beneath the surface. There’s something fascinating about going into the ocean and, for a little while, becoming part of that world. But have you ever wondered who was the first person to think of putting a tube in their mouth so they could stay underwater? Or maybe you just want to know what’s the deal with snorkel gear? Looking for some tips on how to snorkel? Stick around and your questions will be answered.
Cancun offers some of the best places to snorkel in the world, but before reaching the sophisticated level of water activities we have today, this sport had a very interesting evolution. Just keep on reading to find out more about one of the best Cancun water sports, snorkeling.
What Is Snorkeling?
First things first: snorkeling is defined as swimming with a mask, a breathing tube (called a ‘snorkel’), and swim fins. The mask provides a clear view through the water, the snorkel allows the person to breathe without having to hold their breath and come up for air, and the fins facilitate faster swimming.
If you think about it, it’s a pretty innovative idea… but who came up with it?
A Brief History of Snorkeling
Snorkeling in ancient Greece
The beginnings of modern snorkeling date back to about 5000 years ago, off the coast of Crete. However, these people did not go snorkeling to admire the coral reefs and the beautiful underwater life, instead, they were looking for natural sponges. They were sponge farmers!
Researchers believe that they used hollow rods as snorkel tubes to breathe when they were underwater, allowing them to spend more time underwater.
The first traces of scuba diving
Alexander the Great was responsible for promoting the development of the first diving bell in 333 BC. This was a huge gadget, designed to trap air inside the canopy when it was lowered into the water – pretty much the same principle as the helmet of our BOB Adventure! Not exactly a snorkel, but definitely an important step in its evolution.
In Aristotle’s Parts of Animals he writes about divers using “instruments for respiration” that resembled an elephant’s trunk.
The first goggles
Finally, in 1300 AD, the Persians realized that opening your eyes underwater for long periods of time is not the best idea. The Persians were the first to make goggles (underwater glasses) using turtle shells. They cut the shells thin enough to make them translucent, and polished them to make them transparent – amazing! Thankfully, now we can just admire different types of sea turtles while snorkeling without having to use their shells to do so.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s genius
Bet you weren’t expecting to see that name in a snorkeling-related article, right? Well, think again! That guy was in everything. In the 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci designed many diving devices ranging from simple snorkels (which allowed divers to breathe surface air) to a wetsuit (which was autonomous in all respects). The ancestors of modern fins also appear in Da Vinci’s sketches in the form of swimming gloves with webbed fingers.
Later, in 1531, he also introduced what was basically the prototype of today’s snorkel: a hollow tube that attaches to a person’s cap or helmet.
The evolution of swim fins
Benjamin Franklin did more than just found the United States. In 1717 he invented his own version of the swim fin. They weren’t as good as the fins you and I use, they were more like wooden shovels attached to your hands and feet. Not very practical.
In 1912, the Frenchman Louis de Corlieu took Benjamin Franklin’s wooden paddles and turned them into something efficient and practical. He invented what we now know as swim fins and in 1933 he patented them.
The first modern snorkeling gear
After the industrial revolution came what we call “modern times”. This is when the snorkel evolved to look a little bit more like the beautiful device we have today.
In the 1940s, the first commercial snorkel masks were released. They were an oval piece of glass or plastic with a piece of rubber stretched over the edges, holding them in place.
Today, thanks to modern technology, more complex and efficient equipment has been developed and even basic snorkeling equipment has been improved. Ultimately, it is thanks to this development and the inventions of modern technology that snorkeling is such a popular and safe pastime to practice.
Snorkeling Gear, everything you need
As you have gathered (from me repeatedly saying so), the basic snorkeling gear is a mask, a snorkel and a pair of swim fins. You can either rent the equipment whenever you need it or, better yet, invest in a snorkeling gear of your own. This will allow you to get comfortable with your equipment and practice this wonderful sport more regularly. FYI: on every Aquaworld snorkel tour, you get a free snorkel, so you’re halfway there! In a previous article, we talked at length about how to choose the right snorkeling gear for you. We gave some pretty awesome tips so be sure to check that out.
Other gear you should get if you’re planning to go snorkeling often is a waterproof bag to keep your things close and safe, a swim shirt or rash guard with sun protection (if you can’t get your hands on one, the next best alternative is a reef-safe sunscreen). A life jacket and snorkel buoy are also pretty essential if you are going to be snorkeling in open water or around an area transited by boats; this is also why the use of a life jacket is mandatory in Aquaworld’s snorkel tours. Safety first!
If you need to use glasses we recommend you invest in a prescription snorkel mask or check out these life-saving tips when snorkeling with glasses.
How to Snorkel
Snorkeling is a very safe activity and can be done by people of all ages and levels of experience.
1. Put the mask on and make sure it is comfortable around your head. Put the snorkel in your mouth and make sure it reaches your mouth comfortably. Put the mouthpiece into your mouth and gently bite down. Let your lips form a seal around the mouthpiece.
2. Put your fins on. Many people prefer to put their fins on in the water because it’s easier to get them on.
3. Lay down in the water so that your face is submerged but the other end of the snorkel isn’t.
4. Start swimming and breathe slowly and evenly through your mouth.
It is important to remember to stay calm and swim in a relaxed manner and it is advisable to wear a life jacket.
Aquaworld offers snorkeling tours for all tastes, and no matter where you are staying, we have a tour that is accessible to you. In Cancun, the Jungle Tour allows you to drive your own motorboat on Nichupte Lagoon and then snorkel at Nizuc reef. Another way to see Nizuc reef is with a tour on a larger boat that has a platform, which makes it easier to get in and out of the water, this is the Paradise Snorkel Tour.
For a unique, unforgettable experience, go snorkeling with the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark (June-August), tour the Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA), or take a catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres that includes a snorkeling stop.
Aquaworld can take also you to the best snorkeling sites in Cozumel and the Riviera Maya.