SCUBA diving vs. snorkeling: Which is better?


Fact Box

  • A key difference between snorkeling and scuba diving is the depth of water; snorkelers observe from the water’s surface while scuba divers descend into the sea. 
  • Medium reported on a Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) analysis that the number of snorkeling participants in the US is almost triple the amount of scuba divers. Over 7 million Americans snorkeled in 2020, while about 2 million participated in scuba diving. 
  • The full meaning of “SCUBA” is actually an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. The term was coined in the 1950s by US Major Christian J. Lambertsen.
  • The best snorkeling spots in the world are listed by Smithsonian Magazine: Belize, Brazil, Hawaii, The Philippines, Indonesia, and The Maldives.

Maha (Snorkeling)

Snorkeling is a blast of an activity, allowing any individual the chance to explore the beauty hidden beneath the surface in a fun, safe, and affordable way. For experienced swimmers, snorkeling can be quite easy to master quickly. 

The basics take 30 minutes, while professional lessons go up to two hours. In comparison, SCUBA divers require dive training and significant experience. Basic training offered by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) requires three to four days. Even then, divers need to practice in a pool first. Once trained, snorkelers can stay submerged for up to two minutes. This duration, however, can increase based on factors such as lung capacity, fitness, and snorkeling technique. And this can be achieved without heavy equipment, making it an overall enjoyable experience. 

Regarding safety, snorkeling is undoubtedly the safer option. In fact, in addition to sunblock, less experienced swimmers only need a life jacket for peace of mind. On the other hand, SCUBA divers are at risk of many diving disorders. Making a mistake while scuba diving can produce drastic, life-altering consequences. For instance, not taking the time to decompress while returning to the surface results in the bends, a limb- or life-threatening condition. 

As far as cost goes, snorkeling is far more pocket friendly as it doesn’t require extensive training or costly certifications, as SCUBA diving does. Renting snorkel gear costs $10-15, and day tours start at around $70-150. Meanwhile, renting SCUBA gear costs $40-60, while day tours cost $200 or more in most places. There’s also the added expense of SCUBA certifications, which start at around $350 per person. So, for those quickly seeking a unique experience in the water that doesn’t impact their health or budget, snorkeling is the way to go. 

Chad (SCUBA)

For first-time sea explorers, SCUBA diving is better than snorkeling. Learning SCUBA diving requires very few existing skills. You only need to be able to swim, be older than ten years, and have a desire for adventure. You learn everything with an instructor, so SCUBA allows more people to access the ocean and observe marine life up close.

Because of the safety standards in place, SCUBA diving is very safe. When learning, you are under the constant supervision of a certified instructor. Often with snorkeling, you are on your own, which can make it dangerous or difficult. 

Most snorkeling is done just at the surface unless you are a skilled freediver and able to go deeper. From here, it is hard to see most of the marine life below, and you have the sense of being an outsider instead of truly being immersed in their environment with them. With SCUBA, you can go to depths of 130 feet and spend an hour or more underwater to explore and enjoy. 

SCUBA diving also opens up more activities, such as exploring shipwrecks, underwater photography, and even working to restore coral reefs. SCUBA diving has more utility value and is used in marine science, construction, archaeology, and many other fields inaccessible through snorkeling. 

SCUBA divers comprise a global community, embracing an activity you do with others, and it is a great way to travel and meet people. There are always more places to explore, more skills to develop, or dives to try. For many, this can become a fulfilling and fun career that allows them to travel to many unique places worldwide. Dive into the depths of nature to explore through one of the best ways imaginable—SCUBA!

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