environment2022/08/01

How To Snorkel Responsibly

by Choltida Pekanan

Being stuck in Thailand during the pandemic has had its benefits. I've spent so much time on islands and in the sea that I've become extra protective of natural resources. I’ve spent a good amount of time with the real divers - the actual masters as well as the sea gypsies – who taught me ways to enjoy the marine life respectfully. Here’s my take on how to have fun, and do right by our Mother Nature when snorkelling. 

The lowdown 

Thailand has a lot of beaches that lead straight to reefs that house fishes. Shore snorkelling is the most convenient, inexpensive, and much less polluted way to enter the water. No need to fuss with the boat, you come and go as you please. 

First, carefully consider your path into the sea - don’t step on corals. Some places will even provide a reef map for you to avoid vulnerable wildlife. If the tide is low, do not enter – you’ll end up having to step on corals. If the current is strong, be careful - not just for yourself but for chances that you’re swept into the corals or even something harder. I normally check against these factors via the apps Windy.com and Tide Charts

Pick up rubbish when you can to keep our waters clean. I believe that this makes good karma and I’m often rewarded by rare sightings of certain sea creatures.

Look, but don’t touch the marine life. You’re the visitor invited into their home, be gracious, and don’t feed or mess with the ecosystem. Always swim gently and quietly, fish tend to not scatter away when you are still or swim in the same motion as they do. Don’t chase, they are wild after all. Wild animals can do unpredictable things when threatened.

How to snorkel at night

Do you know that a whole different set of creatures come out at night? Make sure you always have a buddy and your torches are fully charged. It takes a bit of courage the first few times but for me it’s just that much more exciting, thrilling and calming all at the same time. Never enter the dive site without having explored it in the day to familiarise yourself with the area.

Snorkelling responsibly starts with you. Exploring at night anything means you need to be a confident swimmer, but better yet, learning to “float” comfortably is even more important. You can last a whole day floating, but an hour of actively swimming (especially against the current) will exhaust you completely.

How to snorkel with a torch

Never shine the light directly at the fish (or your buddy), it will temporarily blind them and result in them crashing into rocks or corals. Also, if you’re taking photos, it won’t look nice. To get good photos, shine the light close to or around the subjects.

If you can, get a torch that has red light - the best light to get up-close and personal. Theory has it that fish can’t see red. So you can quietly sneak up on them and they won’t be bothered or swim away.

A blue filter will make the entire sea glow in the dark. It’s magical as most corals will light up in technicolor you only see in movies. You can also amplify the experience with an amber mask filter, for the more vivid visuals. The experience is unforgettable.

The sea is extra dark on new moon nights so try turning the light off completely and just swim. You might find sparkly dust falling out of every movement you make, those are bioluminescence planktons that flicker when scared. Once your eyes are adjusted to the darkness, you will find a sense of calm unlike anywhere else.  

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