A lot of people wonder what type of wetsuit they need for a snorkeling trip, if any at all. My recommendation would be yes, no matter where you go snorkeling and how warm the water, purely for protection from the sun. But that’s just me being hyper-aware of anything that involves being in the sun, as I happen to be ‘blessed’ with a skin type that turns a really awesome shade of reddish pink after several minute of sun, then right back to that shade of white that can only be described as pale after the peeling process is over. So yes, this blog is going to be all about what type of wetsuit you need for several different locations. 


Skin Suits and Rash Guard

snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef

  • Best for warmer waters of if you just naturally run hot. 

These types of exposure suits are great for warmer waters as they really just protect you from the sun and the little stingers in the water, without letting you get too warm. The skin suits are great options as they are basically just a thin lycra material that will either be full body design or a long sleeve t-shirt you can wear with your swimming shorts. If you want to do a bit of freediving, this option is great as you won’t need to pack along any extra weights to help you dive down since the lycra suit is neutrally buoyant. 

1 mm Wetsuits

Snorkeler diving down to photograph marine life

  • Good for warmer waters or if you have a tenancy to get a bit chilly.

The 1mm option will give you a bit of added protection if you happen to get a bit cold even in warmer waters, or if you plan to do a long snorkel session. If you intend to do0 some freediving I would recommend taking a smaller weight with you as the added neoprene will keep you more buoyant. 

3-5mm Wetsuits

Happy couple snorkeling a reef in Komodo

  • Best for colder waters or for people that really get cold no matter how warm the water. 

A 3mm wetsuit is a great in-between option if you’re planning a trip to a place like Komodo or Alor where temperatures changes can be quite dramatic. Whereas the 5mm option will keep you warm—quite possibly too warm—depending on the water temperatures. If you’re planning to do a lot of snorkeling in cold water—say 18 degrees Celcius or 64 degrees Fahrenheit—this is not a bad choice. However, if you plan a bit of duck-diving or freedving you’ll need to pack along some extra lead as this amount of neoprene can be very buoyant. 

Just because you’re next snorkel trip is planned for the tropics doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be paddling about in bathwater. For example, in places like Komodo, Alor, Bali, and Tonga I know that you may do one dive in water that is eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit only to jump in on the next snorkel site to find that it’s sixty-four! So, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research before hand into what the water temperature is like in the area you’ll be snorkeling and then dress yourself accordingly. 

With so many many compact cameras on the market, all of which seem to do everything from 4K video to doing your laundry, it can be a daunting task in picking the right one for your upcoming snorkel trip. You can check any of the popular forums and websites that break down the different cameras, but all the reviews are based on how a camera operates on land, and what we need are the relevant details regarding how the cameras do underwater. So, in order to make things a little easier on you I’ve put together a little list of the best cameras that are ideal for this very purpose.  

The Olympus TG-5 is a real powerhouse of a camera, despite being able to fit in your pocket. After seeing it in action on multiple occasions, it’s not wonder it’s one of the top waterproof cameras of the year. That’s right, I said waterproof. You can literally take this camera out of the box and jump straight into the ocean with this bad-boy. If you were to purchase the housing Olympus makes for the camera, which will allow you to take it to forty-five meters should you decide to go for a dive—or you just happen to be an exceptional free-diver—you have the added assurance of knowing the housing will defiantly keep the water out. You would really have to try hard to flood this camera.

olympus tg5 on beach

Aside from being waterproof, the TG-5 also offers some really impressive functions that are extremely beneficial to  snorkelers. Arguably the most important when it comes to bringing out the natural colors of the reef, is that it has a built in underwater white balance mode, along with two additional custom white balance modes. Now, some of you may be wondering what this all means. As we all know, even in the shallow water we start to lose the natural colors of the reef, the first being the reds. So, to overcome this we need to adjust the white balance accordingly, the easiest way being to switch into underwater mode it comes with. This will basically create a digital red filter and will instantaneously bring the brilliant colors of the shallow reef out, no flash needed!

Manta ray belly
No White Balance
Manta Ray Belly
With White Balance

Some of the other benefits of the TG-5 include RAW photo capabilities so you can play around with your photos in your post-production software just like the pros. It also has a remarkable ability to shoot in low light with minimal loss in the overall quality of the image. Along with that it offers what seems like an infinite amount of aftermarket products like strobes, video light, and different wet-lenses so you wont’ need to upgrade cameras as your skills start to improve.

It’s a common misconception that you don’t see as much when you snorkel when compared to scuba diving. This idea is generally put forward by divers who have spent little to no time snorkeling, or maybe have just been snorkeling in the wrong areas. Yes, it’s true there are certain species that prefer the deeper portion of the reef, however, you can also argue that there are certain creatures who are typically more present in the dappled light of the shallows. Living in Asia and working as an underwater photographer I’ve spent my fair share of time in both the deep and shallow, and I can say without a doubt, the shallows rock.

snorkeler swimming through overhang in reef

In Bali, Komodo and Raja Ampat, fleets of mantas feed directly on the surface while other species like turtles regularly emerge from their reef buffet for a breath of fresh air. Then, of course, there are the surprise visitors you often find wandering around the shallows like whale sharks, dolphins, and in one very exciting snorkel session—a giant sunfish. While these pelagic experience will no doubt get your blood pumping and leave you with some lasting memories, one of most amazing experiences you will continuously have is just drifting over the vast fields of immaculate shallow coral reefs.


There is no better place to enjoy pristine reefs than in Indonesia. With over seventeen thousand islands in the heart of the coral triangle, the snorkeling possibilities seem endless. To help narrow things down though, I’de just like to take this time to focus on a few regions within Indonesia where the snorkeling is truly epic, starting with Bunaken National Park in northern Sulawesi. This marine park is home to some excellence snorkeling, and a lot of it is accessible by just walking out from your resort. The underwater topography is characterized by fringing shallow coral reef plateaus which begin as shallow as a meter and gradually drops to about five meters, before abruptly turning into a vertical wall. The reefs in Bunaken are covered in an array of hard corals and sponges with no shortage of green sea-turtles, thanks to the turtle conservation projects from resorts like Siladen.

One of my favorite things to do while snorkeling in Bunaken is to let myself drift over the fields of coral until I reach the point where the reef just plunges into the blue abyss, and then just let myself float over the several hundred meters of blue nothingness. My fear of heights and sound logic have never allowed me to go hang-gliding, but I imagine that feeling of running down a grassy slope and off a vertical cliff into nothing is the probably most relatable experience you could have on land, only a billion times scarier. I’ll stick to the reefs thank you very much.


You have no doubt heard about Komodo, if not for its world-class diving than for its infamous giant lizards. Komodo also has some absolutely amazing snorkeling with a huge variety of styles. Peaceful drifts over immaculate reefs, placid mangroves, vast seagrass beds, and bays where mantas are known to feed in large numbers. One of my favorite sites for a really amazing snorkel experience, which could easily last hours should you choose, is in the north of Komodo and goes by a couple names. It’s most commonly known as Shotgun or the Cauldron thanks to the current that propels you through a narrow channel between two small islands and essentially shoots you out onto the other side. After the exhilarating drift over the giant trevallies, snappers, and white-tip reef sharks who hang in the current and you cruise pass, you’ll find the that current suddenly slacks off and you are left floating over arguably one of Komodo’s most pristine reef. Coral bommies brimming with hard and soft coral nearly reach the surface while schools of reef fish, cuttlefish, and turtles indulge in the life-giving forces the reef provides.

lion fish with sun behind

You can literally see anything at Shotgun. In my own experiences snorkeling here, I’ve encountered large schools of a hundred or more mobula rays and the less common cow-nose ray, and even glimpsed a dugong from the surface, not to mention the frequent manta encounters. A couple of years ago you may have seen a viral video of a diver who had managed to film the super rare megamouth shark, that video was actually filmed at Shotgun! As I said, you can literally see anything there.

Megamouths and fleets of mobula rays aside, one of the most interesting things about Shotgun or the Cauldron is the type of unusual manta behavior it encourages. From the current that pumps between the two islands and the surface counter currents created by the underwater topography, mantas have actually figured out how to use these opposing currents to their advantage. Mantas, usually juveniles, will ride the countercurrent up the reef until it changes in the stronger main current further up the channel. They will then join the main current, facing into it with their mouth wide open, siphoning up their planktonic supper while using only the smallest amounts of energy. As the main current pushes them back down the channel, they do a quick dip below the surface which then puts them back into the opposing counter current and takes them back to the top of the channel where they will repeat this cyclical feeding routine for hours. The best part is, as snorkelers, we get to sit and watch the whole process from a sheltered area with no main currents or counter currents to worry about, just peacefully bobbing along as the mantas go round and round.

hard coral reef with manta swimming through blue water

Raja Ampat

over under perspective with reef below and tropical island above

Raja Ampat is famous for a lot of reasons. Its iconic landscape is absolutely breathtaking while it tops the charts in terms of marine biodiversity. The reefs in Raja literally come to the surface, making it a magical place for snorkelers. One of the most unique types of shallow water experiences which makes Raja so special doesn’t actually take place on a reef, but around any one of the wood jetties in front of the local villages.

School of fish swirling around pier pilings

Sawanderek, a quintessential island village in the north of Raja Ampat has one of the most amazing jetties in the area. It’s wood pilings are encrusted in lush soft coral, sea fans, and even a large table coral has magically sprouted out of the vertical beams as if it was a branch on a tree. It may seem unusual to paddle beneath the wooden structure but it’s completely safe, and you’ll be amazed at the fish life that now calls the area home. Giant clams sit motionless on the bottom as large formations of sweetlips and batfish congregate close the structure’s supports. If you’re really lucky, you may even find a dense shoal of silversides and scads using the jetty for protection. If you decide the jetty is not for you, just turn around and you’ll be floating above that iconic terracing reef-scape Raja is known for.

schooling fish around soft coral colony

Everyone has a different experience in mind when they immerse themselves in the ocean. Some may love the idea of putting on thick wetsuits and decorating their BCD’s with knick-knacks they same way one would decorate a Christmas Tree. Others may find peace or freedom of the idea of amicably floating along with nothing more than a plastic tube to breath through. There is no right or wrong in choosing snorkeling over diving or vice-versa, there is just your own personal preference. Diving a bit deeper has its obvious benefits just as spending time in the shallows do. However, if it’s pristine tropical reefs beautifully illuminated by the power of the sun with a solid chance at encountering some of the ocean’s famous residents, there is no better place to spend your time than the shallow reefs of Indonesia.