Here’s 5 reasons why I’ve had a great year leading snorkel tours for Snorkel Venture. Below you’ll find a collection of my favorite photos and video segments of my year in 2019.

5. The Reefs

reflection of coral reef on the surface

Just about every one of our tours we spend a lot of time around reefs and the life that buzzes around these phenomenal underwater structures. Regardless if it’s Raja Ampat, Alor, Komodo, or Belize there’s nothing like exploring the world’s most pristine reefs.

4. Komodo’s Mangroves

Mangroves viewed from underwater

Before I joined Snorkel Venture I used to work on a liveaboard that transitioned between the Raja Ampat and Komodo seasons as they are opposite of each other. In the five years on board, I dreamt of exploring the mangroves that fringed several of the islands in Komodo, but I was just never able to do so as it was a diving boat and the mangroves can only be snorkeled. One I joined Snorkel Venture, and with the help of our friends and Komodo resort we were finally able to make into the mangroves on several of our Komodo Snorkel Venture safaris, and the reward of doing so was well worth the long wait.

3. Local Communities

Indonesian children sitting in house

Alor is an extremely special location as it’s still really quite off the beaten track as far as tourism is concerned. Not only are the reefs exceptional, but the coastal villages still function more or less as they always have prior to technological advancements. One of the most amazing and unique things to witness in Alor, outside of the mind blowing marine life, are the local fishermen who fish with hand made wooden spears and wood goggles. These well seasoned fishermen will dive down to incredible depths on a single breath to hunt right in front of us. Upon surfacing they graciously display their catch and hand made gear, clearly proud of their unique abilities and pleased with our interest in them.

2. Blue Water Surprises

two whale sharks feeding on the surface

Our snorkel safaris typically run anywhere from a week to just over two, depending on the itinerary.  In this time we spend the majority of the day on the water, either snorkeling, moving between sites on the comfortable boats, or just sipping cocktails on any one of the resort’s beaches. Regardless of the tour, when you spend that much time with your eyes focused on the liquid blue horizon you’re bound to witness some amazing surprises, outside of the typical reef inhabitants. Some of the big surprises that came out of the blue in 2019 include super pods of dolphins, blue whales, giant ocean sun fish, mantas, whale sharks, and dugongs.

1. A Manta Tornado

Mantas are pretty routine in Komodo. They are all over the park, and on certain sites you can see anywhere from a couple to several dozen in a single snorkel. However, on a snorkeling safari to Komodo in September we were all bombarded by about forty of these gentle giants as they frantically flapped and spiraled through the water in an adrenaline fueled courtship ‘dance.’

Manta rays congregating in Komodo National Park

A Quick Video Showcasing Just Some of the 2019 Season Highlights

Wondering what we mean by critters? Basically, we and everyone else in the snorkel and dive community are applying the broad generalization of “critters” to all the weird and wonderful creatures like frog fish, nudibranchs, octopus, scorpion fish, and moray eels. There’s no real qualification for something to be labeled as a critter, they are basically anything that is small, spends most of it’s time hiding in the reef, and just doesn’t look your traditional fish.

squid in black water

What’s fascinating about these critters is that there are so many different species within just a single genus. Take octopus for example, in North Sulawesi (critter capital of the world) there are at least ten different species of octopus. Some of these octopus species are hairy, some are as small as your finger nail, some have fluorescent blue spots all over them, and some have the ability to mimic the shape and behavior of other marine creatures like the jellyfish or even sea snakes. Within the frogfish family there are at least  another ten unique species, and three-thousand different species of nudibranchs. Basically every type of critter will have many many different variations and it becomes like a scavenger hunt to find them all.

As you first begin your critter crusade it may seem a bit frustrating in just being able to find them as most of them are very well camouflaged. Your local guides will always assist though as their eyes are well tuned at deciphering what is reef and what is actually a living animal. As you begin to noticing the shapes, patterns, and the habitats of the different species you’ll quickly catch on and start to rely less and less on the guides to find critters for you. For a lot of people this ‘hunt’ soon becomes an obsession and it actually becomes difficult to pry your eyes from the reef. That excitement you experienced as a kid on easter as you scoured your house and garden for those brightly colored eggs will no doubt be brought back every time you hit the water.

glassy sweeper fish swimming over orange crinoid and leaf scorpion fish


Now, critters are found all over the world, even in the temperate and frozen seas. However, there is one place in particular which offers the most critter dense coast lines of anywhere in the world, and that’s Lembeh Strait. This small tropical island off North Sulawesi seems to offer the perfect habitat for just about all of these wonderful benthic creatures. If you look through any tropical fish book you would have a hard time finding an Indo-Pacific ‘critter’ that does not have the “Location Found” as “Lembeh Straight” or “North Sulawesi”. To get a better idea of just how many critters can be found here in Lembeh, check out the Critter Log from one of our host resorts for our North Sulawesi tour, Lembeh Reosrt.

Purple and yellow nudibranch

From the time you click the “Book Tour” button for your desired Snorkel Venture safari to the time you actually head to the airport can seem like ages, particularly if you’ve booked a tour a year or two out! Rather than just sit there twiddling your thumbs as you wait for that much anticipated date, there’s a lot you can to prepare for the tour which will not only help relieve some of those sudden snorkeling urges, but also help you get more out of the tour itself.

4. Research

books on marine life and Indonesia

Ok, so you’ve just booked a tour to a distant island you barely knew existed and presumably you’ve done a bit of basic research about the area, but that’s probably the extent of it if you are like most of us. However, the areas we offer tours to are truly fascinating places, whether it be historical, political, geological, food, or the marine life, there is just so much cool stuff to know about these unique areas. In doing this ‘research’ it will not only help pass the time but it will no doubt help you enjoy the tour more, not to mention you’ll be able to say things like “did you know Indonesia has the same flag as Monaco?” What I’m about to say next may sound a bit like a mom or dad trying to be hip but, research is cool!

3. Gear

It’s always a good idea to double check all your snorkel and travel gear before you take off. You might know you have a snorkel and mask in the closet but is the rubber skirt around the mask still in good shape or has it dried out and starting to crack? Also, does that wetsuit still fit? As someone who runs these trips for a living I can say that the guests who did a bit of gear prep beforehand are the ones who were comfortable in the water from day one, as opposed to those who just tossed some gear in a bag assuming everything still fit and was working properly. If you need tips on gear, we are more than happy to help!


2. Camera

Underwater cameras are so much more affordable now with amazing underwater shooting capabilities for both photo and video in one compact design. If you have an older camera with a clunky housing  you’re not quite sure still keeps the water out, it might be a good move to check out some of the new camera tech as you don’t want to miss out on capturing those magical underwater moments! Here’s a list of some of our favorite cameras for taking underwater. Along with that, taking your camera in pool or pond and practicing with it will benefit you infinitely on the tour as you won’t be wondering what mode to switch to or what button does what when that first manta or turtle swims by!

1. Practice

snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef

In joining these trip you’re not only traveling a long way but also spending a considerable amount of money to do so. In order to make the most of these tours we want you to hit the ground running, or hit the water snorkeling rather. If it’s been a while since your last snorkel, it’s a good idea to keep your snorkeling skills polished. Some things to work on could just be being comfortable using your mask and snorkel properly, equalizing your ears if you want to duck dive, and then how to improve your breath hold time and depth. Also, we do a lot of snorkeling on our tours, and while it will always be in relaxing and manageable conditions, snorkeling is a physical activity so keeping your swimming endurance up is very much recommended.