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Snorkeling Vs. Free Diving Vs. Scuba Diving

October 24, 2022 in Engineering Around Travel

There is a lot of adventure to be had in the water. From ocean to fresh water, the world below the surface is full of life, and all but the most adventurous tend to explore beneath it. There are a lot of different terminologies that you may not have a complete understanding of here, though. Let’s break these down, so they are more straightforward, and you can find what will be your preferred method of exploring the world’s bodies of water. First, let’s dive into the differences between snorkeling vs. scuba diving vs. free diving.


Snorkeling is primarily where the adventurer will stay at the water’s surface with a dive mask that covers the face, fins for propulsion, and a snorkel. A snorkel is a long tube that wraps behind your head and pokes out of the water. It allows you to breathe air comfortably while facing down and looking at anything to see under the waves. At its root, snorkeling is very simple and beginner friendly. Snorkels usually have mechanisms to disallow water from being breathed in, and they mostly work reasonably well.

Snorkeling is a great place to develop curiosity, bravery, and confidence in dealing with water. Many folks tend to fear the unknown, and the ocean especially has a lot of unknowns in it. Snorkeling is relatively safe (especially in well-known snorkeling areas). Snorkeling is an excellent place for anyone to start and build comfort, as the other forms of activity will take you under the waves. They are called diving and tend to be more technical and get you closer to sea life than snorkeling.

Of note, you don’t need to be excellent at swimming to snorkel, as kicking with fins does most of the work. However, knowing how to swim will bring comfort and confidence in the water, which will help you grow confident faster. It may also save your life in hazardous situations like losing your fins.

Free Diving

The next level down from snorkeling is free diving. Again, it tends to be pretty beginner friendly as the entry point starts with being able to snorkel. It gets much more advanced, though, and has a very high skill bar to do some of the extreme stuff.

As a snorkeler, you may want to get closer to things of interest that you see from the top of the water. To do so, you take a breath of air and simply “free dive” to it. This requires you to be able to propel through the surface and begin swimming downward swiftly. It takes a while to start getting used to running off one breath of air.

More advanced forms of free diving will likely require training to build a more keen sense of. In addition, these advanced forms often require long fins, weight belts, and powerful breathing techniques that can have you holding that single breath of air for up to 2-5 minutes!

Many folks prefer free diving as it is the way to get closest to curious wildlife. Often wildlife is afraid of technology and gadgets scuba divers bring. Especially the bubbles that emit when you breathe. In free diving, you have a breath of air, everything is silent, and you are at peace, feeling much closer to nature than otherwise.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is using technology to dive deeper and longer than human capabilities naturally allow. Because of this, it becomes much more technical. It is no longer natural to the body, and one must take care of the limits of the physical body with the limits of the technologies used. Technology for scuba diving is constantly evolving and opening to realms of possibilities. Essentially, for scuba, you will use everything you use for snorkeling, adding an air tank to breathe from, technical mechanisms to breathe from it, and an inflatable air bubble (called a buoyancy control device).

Because scuba diving is technical and requires running knowledge of the technologies involved and their effects on you, it requires a certificate to perform (and almost adhered to everywhere in the world). However, the certificate is not hard to acquire and well worth it. I recommend PADI’s open water certification as a primer to getting started with scuba. It will help you learn the basics; from there, you need a lot of practice to build your comfort and confidence.

Mitigating the risks of scuba diving

One of the primary issues for folk getting into scuba diving is that scuba diving can result in bad injury or fatality if things go wrong. However, the training prepares you well for knowledge and contingencies to handle these hazards appropriately. Therefore, practicing vigilance in scuba diving safely is essential. As a result, we’ve scuba-dived across the world in hazardous circumstances and feel confident and ready to continue our adventures!

It is also worth knowing that scuba diving is broken into several major categories. There is recreational scuba diving which is what most people practice and generally does not exceed 50 m under the water. Technical diving uses more equipment and technology to go deeper than 50 m. Then there is cave diving, which uses equipment and safety contingencies to ensure you can safely get in and out of caves. Most folk traveling the world for fun and enjoyment will be happy enough with recreational diving only.


Snuba is a new form to explore I’ve seen in some areas of the world. It is not scuba as you don’t bring the air tank with you. Instead, you wear a heavy suit and tend to fall to the bottom. Air is pumped to you from the surface of an air pump. It is essential to be careful with Snuba as often it has you walking on the bottom of the ocean, which can cause damage to coral. Therefore, I don’t support Snuba anywhere that could have coral.

I have never tried Snuba, but I have seen it here and there and, for completeness, wanted to mention it here! I would say it is not technical and beginner friendly. Although it is worth noting because you will be essentially stuck under the water, you will not have a good form of communication with those above if something goes wrong.

Finding what works for you

The world under the waves is silent. You have no good way to communicate other than hand signs. The deeper you go, the more technical things require more training, skill, and confidence. Failure to abide by what you’ve learned can lead to severe consequences. Thus, scuba diving is not for everyone. Beginner-level snorkeling and free diving can still take you far and has much less of a technical bar, and is generally safer. Although, snorkeling will always only have a limited view next to the surface. Unless, of course, you are an exceptional free diver.

With all this in mind, we hope we inspired you to get out there and explore the unknown beneath the water’s surface! There is an incredible world beneath the surface that can only be explored by the truly adventurous! So start with snorkeling, and if you enjoy it, don’t hesitate to try that open water scuba diving course! If you enjoyed this article, check out other articles like this on Travel-Wise here!

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