Just because you don’t live close to the ocean doesn’t mean that there aren’t places to go snorkeling and skin diving close by. Any clear lake, river, or stream can provide interesting opportunities to explore underwater.
Deep water snorkeling is a must, as a snorkeling enthusiast. You should experience deep water snorkeling as it is one of the most thrilling experience that you can get as a diver. So just get all the right equipment and start planning your deep water dive.
Fresh water snorkeling sites typically don’t have the variety of creatures that you will find in the ocean, but there are still fish, turtles, crayfish, aquatic plants, and many other interesting things to watch. The best way to know what there is to see and where to snorkel in your local area is to visit one of the local dive stores. These stores will also frequently have maps or books that cover the local sites.
Shipwrecks in fresh water are usually in much better condition than those found in salt water. At sites like Isle Royale National Park in the Great Lakes, some of the wrecks lie in water as shallow as four feet, sloping off to deeper depths. Almost everything on these wrecks is perfectly preserved.
Snorkeling for crayfish is a fun way to spend an afternoon as a prelude to a great dinner. You can make a day of an event like this.
The visibility at fresh water snorkeling sites is usually not quite as good as it is at salt water sites, although there are exceptions. Check with your local dive store to find out when conditions are likely to be good.
You will see the greatest variety of aquatic life when you snorkel in the ocean. The colors, shapes, and habits of marine life must be seen up close to be fully appreciated. Marine life identification books and waterproof marine life I.D. cards are available for both warm and cold water snorkeling locations. These books are geared toward the snorkeler and diver, telling you where to look for these creatures and a bit about their habits and lives.
Many people get their first exposure to snorkeling during a vacation to a tropical site like Hawaii or the Caribbean. These locations offer a dazzling array of fish, corals, and other creatures. The typical tropical snorkeling site will consist of a coral reef, surrounded by sand channels, and swarming with brightly colored fish. The reef may be one large area or there may be scattered clumps of coral.
Coral reefs are formed by tiny creatures called “polyps” which secrete a hard external skeleton, building the reef layer by layer. Brittle and delicate, corals must not be touched or they will damage and die.
As you swim above the reef you will see sea fans and sea whips swaying in the currents. These are not plants as you might suppose, rather they are animals related to the corals. Again, these creatures are delicate and should not be handled.
Sponges grow in both cold and warm waters, although the sponges that live in the tropics generally are larger and more colorful than those found in colder seas. Like corals, sponges are living creatures that live by filtering water through their bodies and extracting microscopic bits of food.
There are many different types of fish found living on coral reefs, ranging from tiny, brightly covered butterfly fish to massive groupers weighing several hundred pounds. Watching the antics of the fish is what makes snorkeling fascinating.
“Cleaner fish” actually clean small parasites off much larger fish, who line up along the reef for this service. Silversides are small, highly reflective fish that form huge schools that live inside caves or wrecks. Fairy basslets are brightly colored yellow and purple fish that often swim upside down along the underside of ledges or crevices. Learning to identify these fish and to understand their habits makes snorkeling more interesting.
Fish such as parrotfish feed on coral, chewing up the hard external skeleton to get at the delicate polyps inside. Spotted drums have long, ribbon-like fins that undulate as they swim. Triggerfish are small aggressive fish that protect their territory and nests and will actually try to chase you away from their turf.
Larger open ocean creatures will occasionally visit the edges of the reef, providing a real thrill as they swim in to check you out. These creatures include manta rays, whale sharks, and the larger tunas.
Nicholas Wade, “The Science Times Book of Fish.” Amazon