Which is Better: Snorkelling or Scuba Diving? 

Which is Better: Snorkelling or Scuba Diving? 

Snorkelling and Scuba diving are two very different water activities, but which one is better?

While snorkelling, you float upon the surface face down, taking in all the magnificent sites. Scuba diving is done at depth, while you breathe underwater. You can see more marine life and stay for a longer period of time. 

Snorkelling is fun, cheap and accessible to everyone. However, there are some drawbacks to snorkelling, which Scuba diving can overcome. 

In this article, we will have a look at:

  • What is snorkelling? 
  • Advantages of snorkelling
  • Disadvantages of snorkelling
  • What is Scuba diving?
  • Advantages of Scuba diving
  • Disadvantages of Scuba diving

What is Snorkelling? 

Snorkelling is a popular activity where you swim across the surface of the water while wearing a mask and breathing through a snorkel. You have your face in the water, with the snorkel sticking out over the surface of the water, allowing you to continuously breathe.

If you have been on holiday to anywhere with beautiful waters, you have definitely seen or taken part in snorkelling. Walking along the coast of a tropical island, you will see many groups of snorkellers bobbing along the surface. 

Snorkelling is an easy way to experience the underwater world hidden just below the surface. You do not need to be completely submerged, as you snorkel in shallow waters where you can see the bottom. 

Advantages of Snorkelling


Snorkelling is incredibly easy and accessible. You take a mask, a snorkel and a pair of fins and jump in the ocean! (You don’t even need fins, but it’s a lot easier to swim with them.)

Anyone can snorkel, you don’t even need to be able to swim. You can float on the surface with a life jacket while looked after by a guide. 

Snorkelling is so accessible you don’t even need to book and pay for a trip!

If you are staying in a location with beautiful crystal clear waters, you can walk straight in from the beach. Swim out to the reef and you’ll see a wonderful display of marine animals. This makes snorkelling a relatively cheap activity, whereas Scuba diving can become expensive!

You can see Incredible Marine Life

Floating on the surface with your head looking down into the water might not seem like you’ll be able to see much. But you would be surprised by how much you’ll find while bobbing above a reef. 

The marine life you see depends on your location, but if you are at a good snorkelling spot, you will see a lot. In tropical waters, corals are bright and colourful, fish swim all around you and you might be joined by a turtle or two. 

In some locations, snorkelling is enough to see larger marine animals such as Whale sharks! Organise snorkelling trips to witness their magnificent beauty, filter-feeding as they swim through the ocean waters.

Disadvantages of Snorkelling

Snorkelling is a great holiday activity, however, it does have its drawbacks. You cannot go down very deep, and if you do, you cannot stay for long. 

You Can’t go Deep

The biggest drawback of snorkelling is that you cannot go very deep. Snorkelling is designed for you to remain on or close to the surface of the water. You can hold your breath and free dive down, but this has its limitations. Freediving is difficult and has some dangers, therefore you should have training. 

Cannot go Down for Long

As mentioned above, you can hold your breath and freedive down to see the marine life, but this is entirely dependant on your ability to hold your breath. It is not as easy as it looks!

Scuba diving can overcome this issue, allowing us to breathe at depth for a long period of time. 

What is Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving is a sport where you breathe air through a tank and regulators while swimming at depth. Scuba diving is incredible, defying our natural inability to breathe and survive underwater for long periods of time. This activity is fun, relaxing and extremely addictive. 

Advantages of Scuba Diving

The advantages of Scuba diving is that you can reach depth, stay for a longer period of time and experience some incredible marine life. 

Dive Deep and for Longer

While Scuba diving, you are breathing air from a tank on your back. You do not need to stay breathing at the surface like snorkelling, allowing you to descend down meters below the surface. This means you can swim around at depth while continuously breathing. 

It feels weird at first to be breathing underwater, but you will get used to it!

The tank on your back is compressed air, providing you with enough air for about 30-60 minutes depending on the depth of your dive. 

Experience Incredible Marine Life

You can see a lot of marine life while you Snorkel, but you can see even more while Scuba diving.

Again, the marine life you see will depend on your location. Submerged at 25m, swimming along a coral reef can increase your chances of being joined by a reef shark (this is not scary, it’s beautiful, trust me). 

Staying down for 40 minutes makes it possible to peek inside gaps and explore coral patches looking for crabs, shrimps, octopus and cuttlefish. Snorkelling does not allow you to reach the depths that these animals hang out, or stay long enough to really see them!

Disadvantages of Scuba Diving

Like everything, Scuba diving has some disadvantages. Training is required, it can be costly, there are some medical risks and restrictions, and you cannot fly for 24 hours after a dive. 

Training is Required

You do not always need to take a course and receive a certification to scuba dive.

You can take part in a Discover Scuba diving session, where you have a mini-lesson in the pool, then go diving in the ocean afterwards. This is a great procedure, to allow you to feel more comfortable and safe before going diving.

Scuba Diving courses are available, where you receive a certification, giving you the ability to dive anywhere in the world with a dive buddy. The first certification is an Open Water course. This certifies you to 18m and is relatively easy to complete with training and practice. 

However, when you travel and dive, you should always take a guide with you. This will be cheaper once you are certified, but can become costly depending on how much diving you do! 

There are many Scuba diving courses and specialities you can do, such as deep diving, NITROX, Solo diving and more!

Specialities can become addictive and costly. Although these courses can become expensive, it is fun and exciting to have ways to improve your skills within the sport and become an even better Scuba diver. 

You Can’t Fly for 24 Hours After Diving.

This does not occur on the surface, but breathing compressed air at depth, causes us to absorb nitrogen into our body tissues. After the dive, this nitrogen is slowly released from our tissues over time. 

You cannot fly for 24 hours after a dive, as your body will reach lower pressures in the plane. Nitrogen will therefore be released easier and quicker from your body tissues, increasing your risk of Decompression Sickness (DCS). 

This might be restrictive to travel plans, preventing you from diving the day before flying home. However, this is not an issue when your travel plans are flexible. 

Medical restrictions

Unfortunately, like many sports, there are some medical restrictions. You should not go diving if you have previous ear problems, respiratory or cardiac issues. 

Descending down at the beginning of the dive, hugely increases the pressure on the outside of your eardrums. To alleviate this, you equalise your ear by pinching your nose and blowing, just like you do on an aeroplane.

Previously broken eardrums can cause pain and more damage on the descent, therefore Scuba diving should be avoided.

Cardiac and respiratory diseases such as heart failure or lung cancer, unfortunately, prevent you from being able to Scuba dive. Doctors do not recommend this sport to patients with this issue, as the pressure difference and nitrogen absorption can provide implications. 

Diving with asthma is also not recommended, as your lungs are under pressure, breathing dry air. This could cause irritation in your throat and difficulty breathing. 

Snorkelling is less restrictive, as anyone can do it, even if you have health implications. You are simply swimming along the surface while breathing through a tube. 

Dry Air

The tank you breathe from is compressed air. It runs through a system that lowers the pressure and delivers it into your mouth. This causes the air to feel very dry, and can sometimes taste like rubber. 

This is unlike snorkelling, where you are breathing normal moist air from the surface. However, it is very easy to get used to after your first couple of dives. 

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final Thoughts.

Snorkelling and Scuba diving are two very different sports, but which is better. Snorkelling is extremely inclusive, cheap and fun! However, Scuba diving is a better experience, as you can go deeper, stay longer and see more incredible marine life! 

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Bethany Nyquist

Bethany is a writer, an Environmental Scientist and Dive Master, exploring the underwater world. Practising Underwater Photography, Bethany aims to raise awareness for and help protect marine life.

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