As some of my readers may know, I write a column in the Enjoy which is an Antiguan magazine that comes out every two weeks. This last issue had a "staycation" theme and I figured I would write something that locals who were considering having a vacation in Antigua could enjoy. Of course the topic isn't just for locals and some of our recent tripadvisor reviews showed just how many people coming here on holiday don't know how to snorkel either. Snorkeling is easy but many people would benefit from a lesson and that's what my article was all about. Enjoy!
There is a great song by someone called Baz Luhrmann that was a high school graduation speech. It’s called “Everybody is free (to wear sunscreen)”. He gives the new graduates all kinds of fantastic advice that I actually never get tired of hearing. One of the things he tells the students is to do something each day that scares you.
The reason he gave this advice was because too many people live their lives staying away from things that appear scary but that would probably make them happier if they gave them a shot.
I thought I would write about something that scares some people here and hope that they take up Baz Luhrmann’s advice and give it a try.
SNORKELING is what I am speaking about, and it just doesn’t have to be scary. Since growing up around The Lord Nelson Beach Hotel I have been teaching people how to snorkel, and now that I run a snorkeling tour company we use these techniques everyday. The biggest problem that people have when giving snorkeling a try is that they often are not using the equipment properly and have the mask on incorrectly. If you can’t swim then you need to wear a life jacket, or wear a buoyancy vest if you are a weak swimmer. Before you get in the water, put the mask on with the strap fairly high up the back of your head. Put it just above where your pony tail would be tied if you had or have one.There is no need to have the strap tight at all and only need it tight enough to hold the mask in place. If it’s too tight you will get a headache. Make sure your nose is inside the mask and that there are no folds or hair in the edge of the mask as it goes around your face.
You are now only breathing through your mouth as your nose is sealed inside the mask. If you inhale though your nose and the mask sticks to your face then it’s sealed well.
Next is the snorkel. Put the entire mouth piece in your mouth and try to breath in and out of your mouth while keeping your lips tightly sealed around that mouth piece. Don’t try to breath out of the sides of your mouth as that will only let water in.
Once you are suited up, have someone else with you, and are ready to give it a try, walk out into a calm area of water until it’s just below your knees. DO NOT VENTURE DEEPER UNTIL YOU ARE A PROFICIENT SWIMMER AND ARE COMFORTABLE WITH SNORKELING! The next step is to kneel down and put your hands in front of you on the sand as if you were about to do a push up. Remember you are in less than knee deep water and your head is out of the water at this point. When you feel comfortable enough to go to the next step you will need to bend your elbows in order to lower your shoulders and head into the water. Look at the horizon but NOT DOWN, and put your mask slowly into the water low enough so that your eyes are just below the surface. Breath regularly though the mouth piece as you were doing before you put your face into the water. You can easily straighten your elbows and lift your head out of the water at any point if you don’t feel comfortable. Stay in the shallow knee deep water with your palms on the sand until you have relaxed enough to keep your eyes below the surface for a few minutes. If you try all of this you should be able to remove your hands from the sand, try a little breast stroke to move around, and see more within a short while. Keep the top of your mask just below the surface and give a sharp blow through your mouth if you get water in the snorkel. Always remember that you can lift your head out of the water, take your mask off, and breath as normal though you mouth and nose at any time. If this all works then Baz Luhrmann’s advice will have worked well for you. Good luck and have fun!