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Snorkeling & Free Diving Techniques

Much of your time here on Eleuthera will be spent in the water. Now is the time to become familiar with the techniques we use while studying our underwater world.

The Water: The first thing you’ll notice is the salty taste. It takes a little getting used to but after a couple of dives you won’t even notice it. Secondly, you’ll discover that you’re much more buoyant due to the water having a higher density than fresh water.

Skin DiverSnorkeling is simply floating or swimming on the surface while using a mask and snorkel for breathing and fins for propulsion and control.

Free diving is taking snorkeling one step further. We’ll teach you the art of breath-hold diving using only your basic snorkeling equipment with perhaps the addition of a little weight on a belt to help you overcome the extra buoyancy of seawater. Learning this is strictly optional, and everyone will seek their own level of proficiency. With this skill, you will greatly enhance your adventure by being able to see more marine life under ledges and in caves than you would from the surface. Also, you’ll be able to get much closer to creatures and even put your photo skills to work with those inexpensive underwater cameras! 

SnorklersSnorkeling / Free diving is never done alone. You will have a dive buddy AT ALL TIMES. You’ll assist each other with equipment, water entries, and never be more than an arm’s length from each other while in the water so you can grab each others’ attention in case of emergency, or simply if you see something cool that you would like to share with your buddy!


Note: All equipment rented to you by Wild Studies is your responsibility. If you lose it or break it, you will need to pay for it.

Your first land session will be the issue of gear and instruction on proper fit. Your mask should fit snugly over your eyes and nose. Remove all hair from your face and forehead. Place the mask on your face and pull the keeper strap to the crown of your head. All of our equipment is of the highest quality, but it is not perfect. Folds, facial creases, and hair in the skirt of your mask will cause leaks. Masks that are too tight and too loose will also cause water to seep in. Aside from a little sloshing up your nose, this water will cause no problems, but should you want to eliminate it, here is how: press firmly on the top of the mask and look up slightly while exhaling through your nose. Begin exhaling before tipping your head back to prevent water from running into your nose. The water will exit around the skirt of the lower part of your mask.

Your snorkel allows you to breathe through your mouth while keeping your face in the water. There is no need to breathe hard, heavy or fast, just normal, calm breathing is all that is necessary. An occasional wave, kick in the face from a buddy, or a dive below the surface will cause the snorkel tube to fill with water. To clear the snorkel using the displacement method, just as you are about to surface, look at the surface and exhale a small “puff” of air into the snorkel. This air will expand, forcing water from the snorkel by the time you reach the surface. We also use the blast technique. Upon reaching the surface, exhale with as hard as you can with the air stored in your lungs for diving. Be sure for both methods to take a cautious second breath by placing the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and take a slow breath around your tongue. Any extra water in your snorkel will collect in the space between your tongue and teeth and not go down your throat. Exhale with force again and spit the excess water out.

We use fins to propel us through the water, and more importantly, to control our movement during observation of sea life. Fins should be slipped on over your foot protection and fitted so that they are not so loose that they fall off or too tight that you are unable to pull them off with one hand. In the water, use a slow kick and lengthened stroke, having the fins point behind you. Keep legs extended and knees bent only slightly.

Water Entry and Exit

Shore entries are a simple matter of carrying all of your equipment through the surf to waist deep water. First put on your mask. Have your dive buddy look to see if hair is in the skirt of your mask and to ensure you have no facial creases. Put your snorkel in your mouth, one fin in each hand, and place your face in the water. Sit down with one ankle across the opposite knee, and slip the boot of your fin over your foot and pull the strap over your heal. Repeat for the other foot. If you need help balancing, ask your buddy for assistance.

The giant stride entry is used where you are unable to walk into the water because the shore line is a rocky outcropping. In this procedure all equipment is put on before entering the water with a feet first “giant stride”. Take a breath, place hand over your mask and snorkel to secure them in place, and step off. As you enter the water, bring your feet together. This will prevent your head from going more than a few inches below the surface. We will then proceed as a group to the selected dive site.

Exiting the water is just the reverse of entry. Using buddy pairs in waist deep water, remove your fins, then mask and snorkel. If you do this in less than waist deep water, the surge will tend to tip you over, causing you to lose your gear and deposit you on the beach. Not a pretty picture. Never wear your mask on the top of your head, even if you are in calm conditions. Not only is this a bad habit, it is a universal sign of a “panicked diver”.


Free Diving Techniques

Free DivingFrom a face down, swimming position, bend forward at the waist. Thrust your head and arms downward while at the same time, lifting your legs above your head and out of the water. On land this would be equivalent to doing a handstand. In this position, the weight of your legs, combined with a slight pull of your arms, will propel you downward with the least amount of effort and noise. It is important to equalize each foot you descend to equalize the effects of pressure on your air spaces.

The Effects of Pressure

As you descend, water pressure increases equivalent to1 atmosphere of pressure (about 14 pounds per square foot) every 33 feet below the surface. Areas most affected are sinuses, ears and the space between the mask and face. If pressure within these spaces is not kept in balance with the increased water pressure, the sensation of pressure, known as a squeeze builds up, becoming uncomfortable and even painful if you continue to descend.

The squeeze can be avoided by equalizing pressure between air spaces and the outside water pressure by adding air to the spaces during descent, before discomfort occurs. To Equalize, wiggle your jaw; pinch your nose and exhale, swallow, or all of the above. Be sure to equalize before you feel the squeeze. Once you feel pain in your ears or behind your eyes it is too late. Equalize early and often.

If you are having trouble equalizing talk to your dive leader, you may not be doing it properly. The technique takes practice. Congestion due to colds or allergies can plug air spaces making equalization difficult or impossible.



Eleuthera OverviewBahamas CrittersBahamas GeologyProtect the ReefsHouse Rules
Careers in Marine ScienceThe DogsBahamas Snorkeling