A Guide to Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef for Non-Swimmers

Not a strong swimmer? No worries! Our guide to snorkelling will have you splashing about with Nemo in no time.

The Great Barrier Reef is a bucket list destination for many travellers and anyone visiting Australia will surely have this on their itinerary. With its array of colourful corals and fish, the reef is a wonder to behold underwater. But if you haven’t swum before or aren’t very confident in the water, the thought of jumping into the ocean to discover this magical underwater world can be intimidating or even frightening. Follow these tips if you are a first time snorkeller, so you will be ready to take the plunge on your trip to the reef.

What to expect

After jumping on the boat and cruising for an hour and half to two hours, you could expect the waters of the Great Barrier Reef to be deep, scary and full of dangerous sea monsters. But not to worry! The reef sites you visit will be close to the surface, so close you could stand in some areas. While this will make you feel safer in the water, it is important not to touch the reef as you snorkel. The reef is made up of tiny living creatures which can be seriously damaged if you try to stand up in the water.

As for those scary sea monsters, again you don’t need to be worried. Most people will be afraid of sharks, but any that inhabit the reef are mostly small harmless reef sharks. If you are lucky enough to spot one, enjoy the opportunity to observe these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.

Snorkelling Technique

Wearing a mask and snorkel can feel a bit strange for the first time, as the mask will restrict your breathing through your nose and force you to breathe through the snorkel in your mouth. It’s a good idea to try a few times on the boat before you jump in the water so that you feel comfortable before you dive in.

Spraying your mask with some soap will stop it fogging up underwater. Tie back long hair to keep it off your face and lightly push the mask to your face while simultaneously breathing in as you put your head under water. This will help the mask form a seal and stop it from leaking. Men with facial hair might want to put some Vaseline around the moustache to stop water getting in.

If you get some water in your snorkel as you are swimming, don’t panic, just blow hard through the mouthpiece to push it out.

Your fins will help you move through the water but avoid bending your knees when you kick. The best technique is to move your legs up and down, keeping them straight. Watch out for other snorkellers around you!

If you start to feel uncomfortable in the water, head back to the boat and chill out on deck for a while. You will probably start to feel better and then you can jump back in again!

Noodles and floatation devices are available on tours which will help you keep afloat and glide along the surface of the water. These are not only good for first time snorkellers but are also handy if you get tired and want to rest as you observe from the surface.

Remember that the crew on board are there to help and can give you some tips if you still feel unsure. A lifeguard is always on duty to keep an eye on any swimmers who might be in trouble.

The most important thing is to relax and have fun, so dive in and have a go!

Related article: The Great Barrier Reef – Snorkelling

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