Did you know that Benjamin Franklin invented the first snorkel fin? Although he never made it to Hawaiʻi, we have him to thank for one of the most imaginative and inexpensive ways to enjoy the Hawaiʻian Islands. Yes, that fun fact might be a little distracting, but this is what I came up with when I tried to research the history of snorkeling in the Hawaiʻian Islands. Considering I didn’t come up with too much, I think it’s just too much of an obvious activity to waste any time recording the origins. As in, there is a gorgeous aquatic world just below the surface and it has been enjoyed by many for a millennium, ‘nuff said. If you are compelled to explore on your next vacation, here are a few tips from master diver Annette Johansson.
There is no shortage of beautiful locations on any island in Hawaiʻi. Local favorites include Kealakekua Bay, Big Island, Kapiolani Park Beach, Oʻahu, Molokini Crater, Maui, Ke’e Beach Park, Kauaʻi to name a few. Be sure to keep these coral reefs healthy by wearing reef-friendly sunscreen.
What to expect: Twenty percent of the fish you will see can only be found in the crystal blue Hawaiʻian waters. Tiny Scarfaced Blennies, colorful Potter’s Angelfish and bright orange Hawaiʻian Bigeye are just a few of the exotic sea creatures you will find on the reefs. For turtle lovers, Honu (Hawaiʻian for turtle) sightings are frequent and magical. And don’t touch them — all sea turtles in Hawaiʻi are protected by both State and Federal Law. It is illegal to kill, capture, touch or harass sea turtles. Fines can be as high as $25,000 and may include a year in prison.
Mask and snorkel: A well-sized mask that fits snugly around your eyes and nose is a prerequisite for a good time. They can be purchased before you go or rented throughout the island at any dive shop. You can tell a good fit by being able to suction the mask to your face by breathing in gently until a seal is made between the rubber and your skin. Move all your hair out of the way and make sure there are no gaps that would allow water to get in. Applying de-fogger according to directions will help you see more clearly under water too. A snorkel attaches to the strap for you the breathe through. Here are three of my favorites for adults — but if you click through these links you can choose your favorite colors and features.
U.S. Divers Dorado JR Mask Fins Snorkel Set, Fun Purple, Small (more colors)
U.S. Divers Adult Cozumel Mask/Seabreeze II Snorkel/Proflex Fins/Gearbag (various vendors)
U.S.Divers Diva 1 Lx / Island Dry Lx
Fins: Fins complete your snorkel ensemble. With a little practice, they become less awkward and can propel you much faster and further through the water. Especially in areas where the ocean is a little rougher or there is a current, fins can make a weaker swimmer more capable and can stave off fatigue. Again here are my top picks, with a snorkeling set, including fins (last one).
Speedo Rubber Swim Fins (Grey/Blue), Medium
Phantom Aquatics Speed Sport Adjustable Snorkeling Fin
Basic Snorkel Safety
For the beginner and pro alike:
- Never snorkel alone. Always use the buddy system and be aware of where your buddy is in the water.
- Assess the ocean conditions before you enter the water and know your limitations. Are there waves? Is the water rough? Are there any other obstacles (reefs, boats, people) that need to be evaluated for your safest entry and exit?
- Do not touch or mess with marine life. Some critters will have sharp teeth. Others may employ stings or other protections to keep you away. And many others like the reefs themselves are fragile and won’t survive your touch. Please be careful and do your part to care for the reefs for the generations to come.
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