Snorkeling next to ocean giants like turtles, mantas, whale sharks, and even whales is one of those dreams every snorkeler shares. Whether you’re snorkeling in Belize, Komodo, Raja Ampat, Tonga, or any of our awesome snorkeling destinations, there’s a pretty good chance at least one of these beauties will come say hello. The important thing to remember now though is how to behave when this much anticipated moment happens. Here’s a few tips on what to do and what not to do when we are snorkeling with large marine life. 

Stay Calm 

close up of whale shark and snorkeler

The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. If we start flapping about on the surface, either trying to swim faster or get our buddies attention, then there is a good chance our frantic movements will put off whatever creature has decided to grace us with it’s presence. 

Do Not Swim at the Animal 

No matter how friendly and inquisitive the animal may seem, it’s always a good idea to not swim directly at the animal. Instead, let the animal come to you if it is clear it is going to stay in the area for a bit. If you start swimming an a manta on the surface for example, it’s going to spook and disappear. Even your pet dog or cat—an animal who is familiar with you—would do the same if you ran straight at it. 

Swim Parallel- Slow and Steady 

For creatures that that clearly have no intention of stopping, like a passing whale shark or mola mola, I suggest giving the animal a bit of space, five meters or so, and swim parallel with it in a steady pace. I’ve always found that if I let the the animal see me by swimming next to it the encounters are longer than if I’m swimming behind it.  Try to use long slow fin kicks rather than many short fast ones, this gives off the impression that you are relaxed no threat to the animal. If you are frantically swimming behind the animal it’s going to think you are chasing it and once again it will be gone before you know it. 

Snorkeler Surrounded by Manta Rays


Choosing the right snorkeling fins might sound like a simple subject and shouldn’t involve much real thought. However, if you are unfamiliar with the different pocket types and styles of fins you could very easily end up with the wrong type of fins for your next snorkeling trip. For example, do you choose a full foot short fin or an open heel split fin? Are you snorkeling from the shore or by boat? All of these little nuances in fins make choosing the right ones all the more important.

Where to Snorkel in Belize?

Though Belieze is not a massive country by any means, knowing where to find the best snorkeling could still be a bit of  a tricky thing. Lucky for you, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time snorkeling the country and know just where to go to get the best safari. Belize just happens to have the second largest barrier reef in the world and sits off the east coast of the country. I suppose it won’t   come as a big surprise when I tell you this is where our snorkel safari will be taking place.  To maximize time in the water along with the best snorkeling sites in the one-hundred and ninety mile long barrier reef, we concentrate our time in the Turneffe Atoll and Glover’s Reef which offer the areas best snorkeling sites. 


Upon arrival in Belize City, we will make the quick transfer to the Belize Aggressor III—our  floating home for the next 7 days. The boat will be all ours! Meaning, we have chartered the whole vessel so no need to worry about other groups joining us.

The beauty of traveling by luxury livaboard in comparison to day trips, is that all the time in between snorkel sessions is not spent huddled in the one bit of shade the small day boats offer. Instead, we can lounge around in the conferrable sofas drinking tea and coffee while perusing through the beautiful photos you just took on your last snorkel session. Not to mention with a liveaboard we can comfortably reach the more remote reefs!

What Will We See?

The Belize Barrier Reef is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which protects it from destructive fishing methods and excess tourism, allowing the area to maintain it’s incredible marine biodiversity. With over 65 different species of coral and 500 species of fish, Belize offers something for every snorkeler. As snorkelers we should expect to encounter endless shallow reefs made up of hard and soft corals, sea fans, and sponges. Where larger marine life is concerned, schools of jack fish, reef sharks, turtles, sting rays, and of course lots and lots of beautiful reef fish.

Choosing a camera for snorkeling is a tricky thing, and one you don’t want to get wrong since this will be the instrument you’ll be recording your once in a lifetime moments on. With that in mind, I’ve put together a quick list of cameras I believe to be solid choices for snorkelers. 

Before we get into the cameras though, here are a few camera feature requirements I made sure every camera had in order to make the cut. 

  1.  1) Excellent Image quality in both video and photo modes
  2.  2) Must be simple to use but also offer the user the option of more advanced controls. 
  3.  3) Must be able to custom white balance or offer an adequate “Fish Mode” white balance to retain those natural colors even at depth. 
  4.  4) Housing must offer the option to attach macro or wide angle lenses. 
  5.  5) Must cost $1,200 or less for camera and housing. 


3. GoPro Hero 5-7- Cost: ~$450 for Camera and Housing 

go pro hero 7

Despite their diminutive stature, the GoPro cameras are a solid choice. All models of GoPro since the Hero 5 are now waterproof out of the box—to limited depths—which is a huge bonus just incase your housing floods. Where optics are concerned, they offer remarkable 4K video footage and 12 MP photos. The stock lens is already a super wide fish-eye which is great for underwater reef scenes and large animals, and should we want to make some additions like macro lenses, red filters, and dual handled trays, there is a seemingly never ending supply of aftermarket accessories. If you already have a GoPro and are struggling with it, check out this blog for some of the most common mistakes people make with a GoPro. 

2. Olympus Tough TG-5 Camera-Cost: $750 for Camera and Housing 

olympus tg5 on beach

The Olympus Tough line of cameras have become one of the best all around cameras for those wanting a more traditional compact camera, but want some high end specs. Like the GoPro cameras, the TG-6 is also waterproof in the nude for that added security against floods. It offers high end optics which include UHD 4K videos and 12 MP stills, not to mention a whole host of different modes for shooting underwater. Out of the box it’s ready to go, but should you want to make some additions to the camera down the line as your skills improve there are a number of options such as strobes and wide angle lenses.

1. Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 Mark III- Cost: $1,150

While it’s not the most recent model—the Mark IV is the most recent at the time of this blog—it still is a very advanced and versatile camera in a compact and affordable design. While the Olympus and GoPro are aimed at consumers who want something a bit more intuitive, the RX1000 Mark III is aimed at those who may be more serious about film and photo and want something comparable to their DLSR or mirrorless land camera while not having to shell out big bucks. It offers impressive 20.1 MP stills, however it does lack 4K video. That being said, unless your intending to produce sequences for the new Blue Planet, 4K is still more of a frill than a necessity. It’s HD video is still top notch and absolutely up to date.  While the RX1000 will function great in any of the auto modes, the big difference between this camera and the other two are the manual functions it offers to the user. 

Taking a flame to your new mask might sound like a silly thing to do, but it’s the tried and tested method for keeping your snorkel mask fog free by removing the thin layer of silicon on the glass as a result of the production process. It also works wonders for removing oils or sun screen residue for older masks which again will make your mask foggy. Follow along with this quick video to see how you can safely do it your self. 

Video Key Points

  • Make sure your mask is tempered glass, and not acrylic. Most masks are tempered and will have the text “Tempered” written in small font somewhere on the glass itself.
  • Move the flame over the entire surface of the mask without staying in one spot for too long.
  • If the glass gets too hot to touch remove the flame until it cools down or else you run the risk of damaging the rubber skirt.
  • Fog and soot are normal and can be washed out later with baby shampoo and water.
  • Repeat the burning process if your mask continues to fog up on your snorkel.