Snorkeling vs Scuba Diving: Detailed Comparison Guide


Snorkeling vs. scuba diving, which one is better? That is a question that many people ask when choosing a watersport to try. Of course, snorkelers will say that snorkeling is the better choice since it is much more accessible since you only need a few items to get started, whereas scuba diving fans will argue that scuba diving opens up a whole new world that snorkelers never get to visit. If you are caught between this scuba diving vs. snorkeling debate, then this guide is for you. Here we take a look at a side by side comparison between snorkeling and scuba diving, from the equipment to the requirements and even the hazards involved. Go over our guide so you can make a better and more informed decision as to which between scuba diving and snorkeling is best for you.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving: Certification

Snorkeling requires no training or certification, though you’ll want to make sure that you listen to your snorkeling guide when they give an orientation before getting into the water. Being a strong swimmer is not a requirement for snorkeling (though it can certainly make your time in the water much safer and more enjoyable). As long as you’re with a guide, in good physical condition, and are wearing a life vest and other safety equipment that your snorkeling guide may require you to wear then you’re good to go.

On the other hand, you will need to attend an introductory course or training before you can go scuba diving. These trainings are conducted in the confines of a swimming pool or shallow beaches for obvious safety reasons. Here, you will be taught the different scuba diving equipment and their purposes, diving, and swimming techniques, and a whole lot of other things. And like snorkeling, having strong swimming skills aren’t required for scuba diving (though again it can make your trip safe and more enjoyable if you know how to swim). It may not seem like much, but shallow beaches often provide enough interesting aquatic flora and fauna for the first time diver to see and explore.

Once you passed the introductory course, you can then go on and take more advanced scuba diving courses. At this point, knowing how to swim is a requirement and the prospective diver needs to pass a swim test comprised of a 200-meter swim without the aid of swimming aids or a 300-meter swim with the aid of swimming aids. He or she will also be required to float for at least 10 minutes without the assistance of a floatation device.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving: Location

With snorkeling, you are limited to swimming near the surface of the water. Because of that, be sure to wear a snorkeling sunscreen to protect your skin (especially your back) from getting sunburned.  At this point, you should still be able to see a variety of interesting marine flora and fauna like small reef fishes and beautiful corals. There is still a possibility that you may encounter dolphins and turtles (two amazing creatures and the reason why most people would go snorkeling) since they tend to come up near the surface most of the time.

Scuba divers can see pretty much everything that snorkelers’ see, but as divers, they have the opportunity to see even more. Scuba diving opens up a whole new world that simply isn’t available to snorkelers. You can go diving among shipwrecks and be transported back in time. You can explore underwater caves and tunnels and see what secrets lie inside those eerie and mysterious caverns.

The variety of marine flora and fauna available for sightseeing also increases significantly in scuba diving. Encounters with large fish like sharks, barracudas, and others are common in scuba diving (many diving adventures even make these encounters the highlight of the trip). There are also more diverse species of corals and other aquatic vegetation to see.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving: Equipment

Obviously, you’ll need less equipment for snorkeling as opposed to scuba diving. To snorkel, you only need a mask, a snorkel, and a pair of fins (some snorkel gear packages may have other items included). Some people also wear wetsuits when snorkeling, though most people simply wear ordinary beach clothes and swimwear.

  • Snorkel masks are available in two forms: the traditional snorkel mask and the full-face snorkel mask. A traditional snorkel mask only covers the eyes and the nose, whereas a full-face snorkel mask covers the person’s entire face. Both designs have their own pros and cons and it is up to you to weigh these against each other to find the perfect one for you. In any case, you’ll want to make sure that your snorkel masks fit you perfectly, otherwise, it will be uncomfortable and will let water in. Snorkel masks with special features like anti-fogging technology can make your time in the water more enjoyable.
  • Snorkels are what you use to breathe while in the water. Choosing the right snorkel is also important, as well as making sure that it’s the right size for you. Choosing a very long snorkel will only make it more difficult for you to draw air in.
  • Snorkeling fins are also available in different styles and designs. If you’re snorkeling near the surface, then a fin with short blades should do. Fins with longer blades are generally designed for breath-holding diving adventures like free dives. You’ll also need to choose between a full-heel fin and an open-heel fin. The former is generally used in warmer waters, whereas the latter for colder waters where snorkelers are wearing dive booties.
  • Wetsuits are generally worn for insulation and are thus only recommended when snorkeling in colder waters. If you’re snorkeling in warm tropical waters, then you don’t necessarily have to wear one of these.
  • Snorkeling vests are different from lifejackets. It is much lighter and can be inflated and deflated to add buoyancy as needed. If you’re an excellent swimmer, you may not need to wear one. Kids though will be required to wear a vest regardless of how well they can swim. Snorkel sets for children will generally include a brightly colored life vest for better visibility (the bright colors seem to make children more excited about wearing them).

Scuba diving, on the other hand, requires more equipment all of which are necessary to help you stay and hours. The basic equipment includes the following:

  • Scuba tanks are the first to come to mind whenever people talk about scuba diving, and rightfully so since this is the apparatus that is responsible for storing the compressed gas that you’ll be breathing in while underwater. Scuba diving tanks are filled with other simple compressed air or specialized air mixtures like nitrox, and which of them you’ll be using will depend largely on where you’ll be diving and the type of driving you’ll do.
  • Scuba regulators connect to your scuba tank and provide passage of air from the tank to you. They have a first stage that connects the tank and a second stage which is the end that you put in your mouth.
  • Scuba gauges like depth gauges and submersible pressure gauges are also necessary. A depth gauge simply records the current and maximum depth you’ve reached during the dive while a submersible pressure gauge displays the amount of air that is left in your scuba tank. You’ll need to constantly check your submersible pressure gauge to monitor your oxygen consumption and ensure that you don’t run out of air. Along that line, remember to leave enough air in your tank for a slow ascent.
  • Dive computers are probably one of the most important diving equipment you could own. It can contain plenty of features from making your dive plan to alert you if something about your diving gear or equipment is amiss.
  • Buoyancy compensator devices are what helps you to stay underwater. Adjusting the compensator will allow you to sink deeper by releasing air from the compensator or float upwards by adding air to it.
  • Diving masks may not look that different from snorkel masks, but they are designed to perform much better underwater where pressure is way stronger. They are also fitted with features that enhance the diver’s vision and comfort while underwater.
  • Thermal suits like diving drysuits and wetsuits are worn to keep the diver warm underwater. Wetsuits are generally worn on shallow dives and when the water is warm, whereas drysuits are worn by more technical divers who need to go deep down the ocean or when diving in icy cold waters.
  • Diving fins are necessary to help you move underwater since you won’t be using your hands to propel you forward. Again, comfort and fit are important your feet don’t get bruised or blisters after hours of kicking.
  • Scuba diving gloves are merely options for some divers saying that the gloves affect their fingers dexterity. However, scuba diving gloves are necessary to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes corals, rock formations, or shipwrecks. They also keep your hands insulated against the cold water.

There are several other things that you’ll want to have or bring during your scuba diving trip. This includes dive knives, underwater flashlights, dive slates for communicating with other divers, and other gear and equipment. You can also bring with you a diving camera to capture your glorious underwater moments. However, if you’re fairly new to scuba diving, it would be better to let your scuba diving guide take the photos for you so you can concentrate on diving and your equipment. Once you’ve got a few dives in and have more experience, you can handle your camera by yourself and even get some attachments like underwater strobes and better underwater camera lenses to improve your shots.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving: Hazards


Snorkeling and scuba diving are activities that are done in an environment that is far from what human bodies are used to. We humans simply aren’t created to survive in a marine environment without swimming or diving aids. That said, both types of watersports have their own risks and hazards which you should be aware of well before you get into the sport.

Most people think that snorkeling is a much safer activity than scuba diving, and that may hold to some degree. For one, you’ll mostly be in floating near the water’s surface which greatly lessens the risk of you drowning since you are pretty much visible to everyone on the water or in the boat. Should anything happen to you, help is much nearer. Second, there aren’t a lot of aquatic wildlife that can pose a threat at the depths that snorkelers explore. There are still some marine creatures that you should be on the lookout for like jellyfish, sea urchins, and others. However, most snorkeling trips (especially when you’re snorkeling with children) generally take place in a safe environment and far from these creatures.

There are more dangers and risks involved with scuba diving, that’s for sure. For one, you’ll be diving into deep waters, and should anything go wrong you can only rely on your dive buddies for help. Such depths are also home to many marine creatures which can be dangerous when scared or surprised (so watch them from a distance and avoid spooking them).

Then there are also the technical risks and hazards. For instance, if you don’t check your equipment before a dive, you may find them failing you while you’re deep underwater which is never good. You can also be at risk of nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness, oxygen toxicity, hypothermia, and health concerns.

Fortunately, many of these risks and hazards can be completely avoided with proper training. Keeping a cool head during times of trouble will also help you deal better with any problem that may arise.

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So, which between snorkeling vs. scuba diving is the better choice? The answer actually depends on a variety of factors and different people will have different opinions regarding this. Some people love snorkeling because it is much easier to do and are more than satisfied with what they can see in shallow waters. On the other hand, some people prefer scuba diving because it offers more excitement and more interesting marine flora and fauna and topography to explore. If you are torn between scuba diving vs. snorkeling, we suggest that you take a look at the different pros and cons of both sports and take into consideration your fitness level and physical capabilities. Or better yet, why not give both sports a try and then decide which one you enjoyed the most?

More Scuba Reviews:


  1. Scuba Diving vs. Snorkeling, Scuba Diver Life
  2. Which is Better: Snorkeling or Scuba Diving? Scuba Diving Earth
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!