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reeinaz

Scuba vs Snorkeling

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I plan on getting my open water certification later this year. In all likelihood, all of my dives after that will happen while on a cruise somewhere in the Caribbean. I'm just curious though if there are some "objective" criteria that would make either scuba or snorkeling a preferred activity at any given port. Are there specific ports that give a better experience in one vs the other? Any reasons to do one vs the other? I tried googling but just found sites explaining the differences between the two.

 

Thanks

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Let me start by disclosing a strong bias in favor of diving.  Please consider that when viewing my response. 

 

I would say there are some islands/ports where snorkeling doesn't get you much of an experience.  The first that comes to mind is Cozumel.  The diving is fantastic, but the great sites are generally a ways off shore, and deeper than snorkeling depths.  Not that there's no good snorkeling there, but you won't see the best Cozumel has to offer by snorkeling.   This is similarly true in Mahahual (Costa Maya).

 

Many other places you can really get a lot of great things snorkeling.  Dominica and Bonaire come to mind as examples of this. 

 

Most places where diving is good also have good snorkeling.  however, once you have your Open Water Certification, you'll likely want to spend the limited time you have diving, rather than snorkeling. 

 

Harris

Denver, CO

 

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Cozumel has World-Class Scuba Diving.  Literally some of the best in the world, but from a cruise ship you are going to be a bit limited as they aren't going to take you to the mind-blowing sites.... you'll get great sites, just not the most famous ones.

I have at least a dozen videos of the diving there, its a regular destination for us for the past 20 yrs.

 

Roatan has great scuba as well as great snorkeling.  Most of the scuba is easy and reefs are close to shore, so its a destination I highly recommend for newer divers.  I have quite a few videos from there also.

 

Bonaire has World-Class Scuba Diving, close to shore, and considered the best SHORE diving in the World as you can walk in the water almost anywhere on the island and within 30' run into a reef full of fish.  This is another great place for newbies but I recommend having a guide for divers there until you are more experienced with navigation.  I have videos of the diving there, but they are older and pre-HD.

 

Grand Turk has great scuba but mediocre snorkeling.  I have a couple of recent videos from recent cruises.

 

My Scuba Videos, I have 70 of them....   are located here:

 

Click up at the TOP right corner for the full Playlist and you can pick out which video you want to watch.

 

robin

 

 

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I'm biased.  My feeling is that if you are scuba-certified, why snorkel?

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Been cruising for 40+ years and snorkeled just about everywhere in the Caribbean. Just took up diving last year to see those same ports from under water. Been on 5 dives since then (all on cruises).   I'm pretty much just a cruise diver.

 

My criteria for diving is this....

 

1. Have I dived there before?

2. Can my wife come along on the boat and go snorkeling? (she doesn't dive)

3. What else is there in port to do that would be fun/adventurous and/or I haven't done before?

4. How many times have I dived or plan to dive on this cruise. (you can only afford so much and I need to do some shore excursions with my wife)

5. What's the cost? It adds up.

 

I'm on a cruise in the southern Caribbean in March. We are on 7 islands in 12 days. I'm only diving on 3 of them.  I figure that's enough for one cruise.

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What is a snorkel ?

 

Oh,  now I remember. It’s that long tubey thing you had to wear on your mask during Open Water class.

 

i really do carry a fold up snorkel in my BC pocket when I do ocean dives.

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I'll try to give an alternate view from someone who is a snorkeler.

 

As several people have already implied, if not stated outright, there are some spots that can only reasonably be reached by scuba.  If you're interested in those spots, it's a no-brainer.  Scuba.

 

If you have the option for both, and you're going to choose snorkeling, here are the spots where you would choose snorkeling instead.

 

First, the stuff you want to look at has to be mostly near the surface.  I can maybe make it down 20' on a snorkel dive.  (I've seen a pro do 50', but base it on what you can do, not someone else.)  But I'm barely spending any time down that far.  I want to snorkel where a lot of stuff is within 5' of the surface.  I'm diving down 10' (or more) occasionally.  Not every minute or so.

 

Second, how long are you staying out?  Your tank runs out at a certain point.  I can snorkel all day.  (Okay ... I poop out after several hours ... but that probably exceeds your tank(s) by some multiple.)

 

Third, have you investigated what's available at your port-of-call?  I'll be at Grand Cayman in a week or two.  The Wreck of the Cali (practically next to the tender port) is mostly 20' to 30' down.  For close-ups, scuba is the way to go.  However, 1/2 of a mile further down the coast is the Wreck of the Gamma.  It sticks out of the water.  10' down, your belly is on the bottom.

 

It's really a research thing.  I'll also be in Cozumel.  On a previous trip, we were taken snorkeling at a spot that was really a scuba spot.  No argument that Cozumel has some amazing scuba spots.  But as a snorkeler, I did better research for this trip.  We'll be hitting a shallow reef this visit.  I won't be wishing that I was 30' to 40' closer.  Most of the reef will be at/near the surface.

 

My goal is to spend a minimum of 3 hours doing underwater photography in both Cozumel and 3 hours in Grand Cayman.  And as a snorkeler, I can do that on a shoestring budget.

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On 2/4/2020 at 3:06 PM, Laurie S. said:

I'm biased.  My feeling is that if you are scuba-certified, why snorkel?

I enjoy snorkeling.

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Not me.  I'm an underwater photographer and I like to be able to spend a lot of time at greater depths doing my thing.  I used to free dive for abalone, but when the permits were denied a few years ago, that ended that.  I find snorkeling to be boring.  Actually did it back in November as a safety diver for some friends going off my boat.  They weren't scuba-certified.  Did not have a good time, but everyone got back on board safely.

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I'm biased as a diver, so keep that in mind.

 

There really isn't much reason for me to snorkel, anywhere, at any time, if I can dive. Like Dive Master, my wife and I both have folding snorkels in case we need them, or if we get a chance to jump in the water with dolphin, whales, or other fun critters between dives, or can't dive by law.

 

Went snorkeling in Alaska in 2018, drank more water than I care to remember because I simply kept forgetting that I was not breathing from a tank and kept dropping below snorkel height to see things closer/better.

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On 2/3/2020 at 5:21 PM, reeinaz said:

I plan on getting my open water certification later this year. In all likelihood, all of my dives after that will happen while on a cruise somewhere in the Caribbean. I'm just curious though if there are some "objective" criteria that would make either scuba or snorkeling a preferred activity at any given port. Are there specific ports that give a better experience in one vs the other? Any reasons to do one vs the other? I tried googling but just found sites explaining the differences between the two.

 

Thanks

 

I have only done snorkeling and snuba (an excursion that is basically snorkeling but with a regulator instead of snorkel.  I really didn't like snuba, but that's mostly because of being tied to a small area (hose length) and poor communication/understanding from some of the others who shared our raft (4 people per raft, and hoses can easily tangle).  I did like the concept of the regulator vs. snorkel and the thought of going deeper - and was able to be deeper on a helmet dive in Bermuda - so I think once if we get certified diving would be the preferred method.

 

I'm still inexperienced enough that there is still a lot of beauty just in snorkeling too, so I don't think there is any shame in enjoying that when diving isn't an easy option or you just want a simple/easy/inexpensive day.

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Thanks for giving me things to consider. I think it will be great to have options that I equally enjoy. I definitely want to dive enough to make the time and expense of getting certified worth it. I also know that I will need to become much more experienced to enjoy the more interesting dive sites, so will need to take that into consideration also.

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On 2/8/2020 at 8:16 PM, reeinaz said:

Thanks for giving me things to consider. I think it will be great to have options that I equally enjoy. I definitely want to dive enough to make the time and expense of getting certified worth it. I also know that I will need to become much more experienced to enjoy the more interesting dive sites, so will need to take that into consideration also.

I'm going to call BS on the experience for more interesting sites. One of my favorite dive sites in the world is Pumpkin Patch in Nassau, shallow, easy current, beautiful corals, lots of fish, and I have never dove there and not had sharks (my favs).

 

As for getting experience, just let any dive operator know your experience and comfort levels and you will be fine. They set things based on the lowest experience/comfort level and many dive operators run more than one boat to separate newer divers from more experienced divers. And operations of shops also run differently, some require all divers to stay with the guide so they can keep track of everyone, others let you fend for yourself. Make certain you know which type of dive shop you are booking.

 

The other thing I will mention, get certified AT HOME. Do your online classes and find a local or semi-local dive shop to do pool and open water cert with. During classes you are mostly paying attention to your instructor and all your gear (breathing, keeping track of air, looking at depth gauges, ect.) and not really enjoying your dive. Don't waste valuable vacation and enjoyment time to do these things.Doing them in a lake or quarry may be boring, but you are there for class. This way when you do hit the Carib, you can spend all your time enjoying the dive and not going over skills.

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On 2/8/2020 at 6:16 PM, reeinaz said:

Thanks for giving me things to consider. I think it will be great to have options that I equally enjoy. I definitely want to dive enough to make the time and expense of getting certified worth it. I also know that I will need to become much more experienced to enjoy the more interesting dive sites, so will need to take that into consideration also.

 

I totally agree with DarkJedi's comments above. 

 

There are fantastic dive sites, especially in the Caribbean, that are both very interesting and very well suited for newer divers.  A cardinal rule of diving is to dive within both the limits of your training and your COMFORT.  You've obviously got the right attitude about not trying to proceed too quickly. 

 

The real key once you're certified is to be very up front when booking dives.  Let the dive operator know if you're just certified or, once you're a little further along, how many dives you've logged, and what sort of dives they've been.  This allows the dive operator to make sure you're someplace where you'll have fun, which is the point after all. 

 

If possible, I'm also a fan of getting your certification completely at home.  You can certainly do your classroom and pool work there.  This way you'll have an instructor, and dive shop, of "your own" you can go back to for questions, or for additional courses, to learn more skills.  Once you've done your class and pool work, the choice is whether to do your dives locally, or on a referral; where you go someplace else to do your check dives.  Inland lakes tend to be cold, and have poor visibility.  However, that experience has value of its own.  And, as DarkJedi pointed out, on your check dives, you're diving to demonstrate the skills you learned in the pool, not diving to have fun.  As long as my students have a trip planned to someplace nice to dive, I encourage them to do their check dives locally, so they don't spend two days doing their check dives when they could be enjoying the sites as a certified diver.  The other argument is that for some the inland lakes are such a miserable introduction to the sport, they don't stick with it.  That's the reason I won't take students to local lakes unless they have a trip planned. 

 

Harris

Denver, CO

https://my.divessi.com/pro/64612

Edited by omeinv

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On the other hand....doing your class/confined water part at home and check out dives in the Caribbean allows you experience a number of different instructors. Every instructor does things a little differently and emphasizes different things. What's relevant in a murky inland lakes may not be relevant in the ocean and vice verses so I guess it depends on where you intend to dive.

 

I did my open water dives on a cruise with two different instructors on two islands on different days. Each instructor one went back through the basics to ensure I knew my stuff.  It was interesting to see different instructors do their thing.  Doing my check out dives in warm Caribbean waters was actually pretty fun. The first set of dives was off the beach in an exotic location. The second set was off a boat and were real dives.  I got my OW certification so I could dive on cruises. Pretty much guided dives in cruise ship ports is all I'm probably ever going to dive so that worked for me. May not work for you.

 

Probably the only thing better would be to go to a Caribbean resort for a week or so and do the whole OW class there at one time.  I think I may have done it this way if I'd known about it.

Edited by mac66

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And a different perspective: I’m a certified diver.  I do not go on dive trips from locations that have heavy tourist traffic (such as most Caribbean cruise ship ports).  I grew tired of spending a lot of precious time and money waiting with the group, getting briefed with the group, dealing with unfamiliar gear,  and ultimately  having my dive cut short because someone in the group over stated their abilities and ran out of air or got cold. Snorkeling when in cruise ports is just fine.  I save my time, patience, and money for dedicated dive trips.  

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As an experienced diver of 30+ years, I am fully with post #16.  Saying that, as a new diver you will love the port diving from cruise ships....it is set around divers with little experience and air supply that can last 45 minutes (have been on one, that 2 divers ran out of air by 20 minutes and they decided to bring us all up at the same time.....can assure you I was not a happy bunny after spending above the usual cost of diving on a cruise ship tour). By all means use these cruise ship dives for your 1st 50 dives, but after that, arrange your own at each port.

The downside of arranging your own dives, is the cruise ship may of commandeered all dive boats in the area. We have got round that on few occasions and dive in the afternoon with the same dive shop/centre. They are usually pleased of the extra money and longer dives!!

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I disagree about the first 50 dives on the cruise ship excursions.  I quit doing that after 12 dives and was so much better off.  Do your research and book privately.

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