Snorkeling Etiquette - The Do No Harm List
Snorkeling etiquette is a simple set of rules you follow to avoid harming sea life, yourself and equipment in the process. Really this is very easy to do.
Don't be one of those harmful unaware people that make us cringe, banging into coral with their fins, or standing on it. Or someone who assumes that it is OK to pick up a shell, and dies for it.
If you become aware of how beautiful the underwater world is, you will naturally want to do no harm when you are snorkeling.
Etiquette Tip #1: Don't Touch Coral!
Coral is beautiful, and looks like rock, but it is actually a fragile living animal. Really, I have seen video of a coral polyp eating a fish. And when you touch coral with your fins or hands, you kill it. You might think this is because you crush it or break it. That is bad, and should be avoided also. But even just lightly touching it acts more like a poison to it. Sometimes the results of touching it will not appear for weeks to months.
Coral is so wonderful to see and so important to our world that you should feel like you just ran over your kitten if you touch coral. Not to mention that coral is sharp and will often cut your skin, leading to infections, and can cut your fins also.
How To Avoid Touching Coral
Now, everywhere you snorkel you are going to have people telling you not to touch the coral, it's snorkeling etiquette 101. But how do you avoid it?
We have seen that many people stand on coral when they get tired or want a break from swimming. It feels natural to them to try to stand up to relax and talk together, or to take off their mask. Do not do this!
When in shallow waters, over a reef, we have developed a skill of laying on our backs when we are needing a break from being face down. It is super easy to relax on your back in salt-water. We talk to each other this way, and look around this way.
And as an alternative to laying on our backs, in shallow areas we will sometimes tread water with our knees bent up close to our bodies to avoid touching anything. We have gotten so that we can relax in either position, talk, and adjust our face masks.
Practice it, it is a great skill to learn, and it saves the reefs. Be aware of your fins. Know if you are kicking something.
Etiquette Tip #2:Don't Touch Anything - It Could Be Deadly
Besides not touching coral, the rule of thumb is not to touch anything, because there are a number of things in the ocean that are poisonous or dangerous to touch. There are not a lot of them, but do you know which ones they are? For example, picking up a beautiful little seashell when snorkeling can be deadly. Cone Shells have a stinger that can extend for several inches and can be deadly. That also means keeping an eye out for what you are swimming into, like jellyfish or the Portuguese Man-o-War, a jelly-like siphonophore that delivers a very painful sting from the long tendrils that extend below it into the water.
Etiquette Tip #3:Don't Harass Sea Life - Like Fish & Turtles
Give the poor critters some space. Sure you can swim slowly towards turtles and fish, but don't try to get too close. And if they are resting, on the bottom or on shore, give them lots of space. The same goes for all sea life.
Etiquette Tip #4: Don't Feed Fish
Etiquette Tip #5:Use A Great Biodegradable Sunscreen
The ingredients in some sunscreens are killing reefs. In fact in some parks and countries you are not allowed to get in the water if you are using a non-biodegradable sunscreen.
We did not used to think that a "natural" sunscreen would work. But then we did a bunch of tests of the best biodegradable, reef friendly sunscreens and found some that not only work, they are more water resistant and work better than the store bought brands. We love them, and they are good for the environment.
Do Not Stand or Sit on Reef!