No, that isn’t what we mean! We know what you’re thinking and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Blonde and Brunette both learned to swim when we were young (during the Civil War) and have always loved water activities that don’t require prowess or balance – think water skiing, kite surfing, serious kayaking (we do the go in circles kind) or scuba diving (there’s a math test). Many years ago we each became enamored of snorkeling and that has gone from enamored to obsessed. (For another example of this process see the evolution of the relationship between Paula Broadwell and General Petraeus.)
If you can float or put a flotation device on and breathe you can snorkel – that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to invest a lot of money on gear or take any classes (or math tests). So if you have an interest in active travel that isn’t too active try snorkeling. Here is a primer on what you need to do to get started:
- Make peace with looking like a total dork (while you’re snorkeling). We will provide photographic evidence to help prepare you for the fact that no one in real life emerges from snorkeling with their eye make-up intact and their hair sleeked back from their glowing skin. If you wear flippers you will fall over, when you get out of the water you may have Oceanic Snot Syndrome (OSS) and you will have suction marks from your mask on your face.
- Even if you’re just trying out snorkeling buy your own snorkel at Dick’s Sporting Goods (it was just thrillingly lucky they had the cheapest one in the search results) or somewhere else cheap but don’t use a rental one. You don’t know whose mouth it’s been in, where that mouth has been or how the tube was cleaned or stored – gross! If you want to try an organized snorkel trip (which can be a good idea) feel free to use the masks and flippers they provide. Once you’re a convert you’ll most likely want to get your own face mask to save yourself from the hell of a mask that doesn’t fit right and leaks.
- To save yourself a lot of hopping on one foot and thumping the side of your head after snorkeling it’s a good idea to use gel ear blobs that you can get at any drugstore (but drug dealers rarely have them). They’re gooey and stick in your hair but they keep the water out and, as you already look dorky, go for it!
- Flippers are a hassle to travel with so you will have to factor that in if you want to end up getting your own. After years of traveling with them Brunette – who is an aquatic demon – no longer uses them at all and Blonde either uses the “free” ones or none. If you do use flippers, walk into the water backwards with them and make sure you don’t end up with a sea urchin stuck in your fleshy bum as may have possibly happened to an unidentified person.
- Go somewhere you can snorkel from shore. Often the best snorkeling requires that you go out on a boat trip to get to the reefs. That’s a lot of fun and a plus once you know you enjoy it, but for starters make it easy on yourself. Some lovely places you can go from the shore are St. John in the USVI, Bonaire, Curacao (at least on the northeastern coast) and Grand Cayman. St. John is ideal for a beginning snorkeler because there are a lot of different spots and they’re all free and easy to get to (with a car).
- If you do want to go from a boat we saw amazing things off of Belize, Kura Kura island in Indonesia, Roatan, Honduras and Ningaloo Reef, Australia.
- Before you plan a trip around snorkeling go to a travel forum such as Fodor’s or Trip Advisor or wherever and ask for up-to-date info on the condition of the reefs. Mexico used to have fabulous snorkeling off of Akumal but reckless development ruined it. Once a wadable aquarium, Hanauma Bay on Hawaii has been ruined by people feeding fish and proving that Darwin was right – the big fat guys win and the cute little ones disappear. (That was his theory wasn’t it?) Too many places have had reefs destroyed by hurricanes and reefs around the world are bleaching and dying for a reason no one has definitively figured out yet. So snorkel while you can!
- Do realize that even though your face is in the water your back is getting burned like bacon left on the grill too long. Either slather on waterproof sunscreen or wear a shirt made of Rashguard with a high SPF protection number. (Links are to show you what we’re talking about, not because we are secretly backed by retailers who pay us for referrals – as much as we wish that were the case.)
- Either buy some water shoes or select a pair of shoes you already have and want to destroy by wearing them into seawater. Often the best snorkeling requires entering from a very rocky beach. In that case wear your shoes to the water and leave them somewhere the next tide won’t take them away. (And, yes ladies, those shoes will make your thighs look dreadful.) Do not ever stand on a reef. It kills the reef. Even if you’re German don’t do this. Not that we’re profiling based on experience or anything…
- Get in the water, put your face in, breathe in a non-frenetic way and start enjoying all kinds of things – fish, reef life, hungry sharks looking specifically for you, stingrays, eels, starfish, tortoises and if you’re really lucky maybe an octopus.
And like people who participate in all manner of sports, tell your friends lies about your aquatic accomplishments. How a whale you took you on a ride to meet a dolphin. How you fought off a shark (they don’t need to know you were in college and it was a loan shark). And don’t forget that when you got hungry you easily scooped some of the freshest sushi ever right into your mouth!
Rinse and repeat.