What Is SNUBA? All you Need to Know!

What Is SNUBA? All you Need to Know!

SNUBA (Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus), not to be confused with “SCUBA”. SNUBA is a cross between snorkelling and scuba diving except you do not have all the extra equipment such as a BCD and heavy tank on your back and are not restricted to the surface like you are with snorkelling. 

Whether you are heading to the USA, the Caribbean or even Australia, SNUBA diving has become an extremely popular hobby with many holidaymakers. SNUBA is a mixture of snorkelling and scuba diving making it a hybrid underwater experience! 

It is a scuba diving alternative that allows you to dive deeper than snorkelling and explore the underwater world just like scuba divers can

People that are new to the underwater world, may not have heard of SNUBA, or if they have, they probably only know it is some kind of hybrid watersport. Do not worry if you are one of those people, this article is going to tell you everything you need to know about SNUBA, and why those that try it, love it!

What Is SNUBA Diving?

SNUBA diving is the perfect alternative to scuba diving as it doesn’t require any scuba certification, and is pretty easy! It was invented by a group of PADI instructors in the late 1980s. They were intrigued to push the boundaries of snorkelling but not go all the way to scuba diving, which is when SNUBA diving was born!

SNUBA is available for people aged 8+ (some SNUBA centres will take 6 & 7-year-olds “power snorkelling”). 

Similar to scuba diving, you will need to fill out a medical form and complete a short demonstration before you can go into the ocean. This consists of a 15-minute safety talk, and a 15-minute safety briefing, then you are good to go!

You may need to take a boat out to a designated SNUBA dive site, but you are most likely to head straight out from the beach. 

Once geared up you can dive to 20ft (6 m). This is because the air hose attached to the SNUBA raft is only 20ft long.

When SNUBA diving, one of the most important things is to always avoid touching marine life, especially fragile coral reefs. Remember to only take photos and only leave bubbles!

Damn, that looks fun!!

The Pros of SNUBA

  • You do not need to come to the surface for air during your SNUBA experience
  • You do not need any previous experience
  • If you want to come back up to the surface, you can
  • It is not as complicated as scuba diving
  • You do not have to lug around heavy scuba gear
  • It is much more fun than snorkelling

The Cons of SNUBA

  • SNUBA may not be available at your chosen destination 
  • You can only go to a maximum depth of 20ft (6 m) 
  • Visibility may be limited – unfortunately, we cannot control this

How Safe is SNUBA?

SNUBA is very safe, as you will be in the safe hands of a certified SNUBA instructor or dive guide during the whole experience!

In the briefing SNUBA instructors and guides will go through the following:

  • How to breathe through the regulator
  • How to use the air hose to get back to the surface
  • Important hand signals to use
  • How to equalize your ears
  • How to recover your regulator
  • How to clear your mask
  • Skills for controlled and safe ascents & descents

Equipment Needed For SNUBA

As SNUBA diving is a shallow underwater system, it doesn’t require you to wear heavy equipment like scuba diving, yet you are still required to wear some basic scuba gear

SNUBA equipment includes:

  • The SNUBA Raft
  • Air Delivery Mechanism
  • Fins
  • Mask
  • SNUBA Harness
  • Weight Belt
  • SNUBA Doo Vest (ages 6-7) – how cool is that name!?

*With SNUBA, basic swimming skills are needed. If you do not know how to swim, this may be a good time and reason to learn! 

The SNUBA Raft

The SNUBA Raft comes in 2 types: a Standard Raft for 2 guests or Quad Raft for 4 guests that are easily inflated using a power inflator nozzle connected to a compressed air cylinder. The SNUBA Raft is made from high-quality inflatable fabric that is fully welded at the seams and shaped perfectly for easy towing. 

The Standard SNUBA Raft contains 1 air cylinder and the SNUBA Quad holds 2 air cylinders. Both rafts have a recessed compartment for the cylinders. The compartments allow the SNUBA Guide to easily make cylinder changes between dives while keeping the first-stage regulator nice and dry! 

Air Delivery Mechanism

You will be diving under the surface, so you will need an air supply! SNUBA divers breathe through a regular scuba regulator system and mouthpiece. The air is delivered via a 20ft air line that is positively buoyant. 

The air line connects to the compressed air cylinders on the SNUBA Raft via manifold distribution. 

The 20ft air line allows you to dive to whatever depth you wish, with 20ft being the maximum depth allowed. During the SNUBA training, you learn how to use the air line properly; you may need to go vertical to avoid coral reefs and other marine life. 

SNUBA Fins, Mask, Harness & Weight Belt

You will be wearing a lightweight harness that is easily adjustable. It is quick release for safety and is an important piece of equipment as this is where the air line and SNUBA Raft is attached to. 

You will also be given a scuba mask and fins similar to snorkelling and scuba diving. 

You will also wear a comfortably adjusted weight belt to help sink below the surface. Do not worry, you will not sink to the bottom of the ocean, only Certified SNUBA Guides can determine how much weight you require, to be neutrally buoyant.

If you are worried about wearing a weight belt, you can go without one, making sure you hold onto the raft at the surface while still breathing through the regulator, this is called “power snorkelling”

SNUBA Doo Vest

Children aged 6-7 can take part in the SNUBA Doo Program. This involves wearing a SNUBA Doo floatation vest to allow “power snorkelling”. The vest is designed so that children cannot remove it without the assistance of a Certified SNUBA Guide or their parent/guardian. 

Children also get a child-sized mouthpiece, are fitted with a mask and fins (optional), and breathe through a standard regulator. 

“VI Snuba Excursion” by Loimere is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What Is the Difference Between SNUBA & Scuba Diving?

SNUBA is similar to scuba diving, allowing you to explore the underwater world while still being able to breathe under the surface.

When diving on SNUBA, you have a sense of freedom as you will not be lugging a tank and bulky equipment around with you underwater. Even though they are similar, they are still oceans apart as you do not need a scuba diving certification to take part in SNUBA. 

As there is much less equipment involved, SNUBA allows you to jump in the water much faster than when scuba diving. 

SNUBA Vs Snorkelling

If you are one of those snorkellers who wants to explore more than “surface life” but are not ready for scuba diving, then SNUBA is a happy medium.

SNUBA allows you to explore more and dive deeper than snorkelling with the reassuring feeling you can continuously breathe through the regulator – this means no water splashing into your snorkel – don’t you just hate it when that happens!

Where Can I Try SNUBA 

SNUBA dive systems are not for sale, but there are more than 80 Licenced SNUBA Recreational Centres around the world that provide qualified supervision. 

How Much Does SNUBA Cost?

Prices vary between SNUBA locations, but below are the prices for a single SNUBA experience based on 2021 Google searches from licenced SNUBA centres:

  • SNUBA Adult (age 12+): $70-175/£50-126
  • SNUBA Child (age 8-12): $60-$90/£43-65
  • SNUBA Doo (age 6-7):  $60-90/£43-65

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Final Thoughts

SNUBA is a mix between scuba diving and snorkelling, making it a happy medium! It is a great alternative to scuba diving and doesn’t restrict you to the surface like snorkelling does. It is easy and allows you to get up close and personal to epic marine life.

If you are bored with snorkelling, but not quite ready for scuba diving, then why not try SNUBA? If you enjoy SNUBA then you can always do a try dive such as the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Programme. 

Thanks for reading, we hope to see you again soon. Happy bubbles!

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Darby Bonner

Darby is a marine biologist and PADI scuba diving instructor from the UK. With over ten years of diving experience, she has visited some of the best dive destinations in the world. Currently, Darby is living in Bali, Indonesia and regularly dives at some of the most beautiful dive sites in the Indian Ocean. Her passion for the ocean led her to study seals, publish a paper, and become a marine mammal medic. In the future, she hopes to complete her master’s in marine science, and of course, continue her love for teaching and diving!

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