Snorkeling Tips Before Hitting the Water

Coral reef teeming with marine life.


Grand Cayman is surrounded by crystal clear water making it one of the best snorkel and dive sites in the world.  Visibility ranges from a breathtaking 60-100 feet deep and up to 135 feet horizontally depending upon the time of year.  Many other snorkel and dive sites around the world are turbid from the silt runoff of interior lakes and rivers.  Cayman doesn’t have any lakes or rivers.  Rainwater runs off Cayman’s ironshore and into the Caribbean Sea as clear as the way it came down.

Grand Cayman’s waters are saltier than many other ocean bodies due to the high evaporation rate of tropical temperatures.  Higher salinity means better buoyancy.  The combination of high salinity and high visibility makes for super-easy snorkeling.  Floating on the surface is all that’s required to enjoy the hundreds of exotic species of fish and plants living on the reefs below.

If you’re new to snorkeling and will be visiting Grand Cayman for the first time, here are a few suggestions:

Porcupine Fish

Pack a Rash Guard
Water temperatures vary from the 70s in winter to the mid-80s in summer.  An inexpensive long-sleeved rash guard or dive skin will keep you warm and protect your skin from the sun.  Leisure Pro has a great selection of men’s and women’s dive apparel at affordable prices.

Fins, Fins, Fins
Whether it’s behind your villa or at any of the popular snorkel sites, if you’re swimming with water over your head you must wear fins.  This is the ocean we’re talking about here and you need power to counter against the currents.  Fins provide the propulsion to swim through undetected currents.  Oh, and children aren’t the only ones who need to wear life vests if you’re a decent distance from shore.

Protect Your Feet
Pack a pair of water shoes.  Fish and marine life don’t live where they can’t build homes.  Great snorkel spots typically require some wading through soft turtle grass or rocks in the shallows.  Tiny sea urchins may be hiding in ironshore fissures.  Rubber soles will protect your feet from potential hazards and scrapes.

Staghorn Coral

Bring Well-Fitting Gear
Fins are easy to fit but not all masks are created equal. Snorkeling is infinitely more enjoyable if you aren’t fighting leaks and making continual adjustments.  I, my daughters, and sisters-in-law all own Cressi Big Eyes Evolution mask with clear skirt. It seems to fit narrow faces particularly well.  Sorry guys, I do not have any special scoop on masks for you.

New masks come with a silicon film on the interior lens that you will need to dissolve by rubbing Crest toothpaste–not gel–with your fingers and rinsing thoroughly with tap water.  

And hey, great news!  If you can’t bring yourself to spend money on masks for your kids our Silver Thatch Welcome Center on Frank Sound Road provides Scuba Pro masks, fins, and snorkels as a complimentary service to our guests!

Don’t Snorkel Alone
Even if you’re snorkeling in five feet of water behind your villa the buddy system is always best.  Always!

Sea Turtle

Let Others Know You’re in the Water
It’s also advisable to carry along an inflatable float with dive flag if you’re farther off shore.  The dive flag will alert any small boat traveling inside the reef that snorkelers are in the area.

Protect the Coral at All Times
One kick of a fin can break off a piece of coral that took thousands of years to develop.  First-time snorkelers and divers often don’t realize just how far their fins extend.  You may not even feel the coral break off if you hit it but the damage will be done.  Make sure you keep a safe distance between your fins and the terrain.  Watch where you kick.  And even more importantly, watch where you stand.

The information above isn’t exhaustive by any means.  It’s simply a guide to get you started and enjoying this amazing ecosystem!