If you haven’t been snorkel shopping in a while you’ll probably notice a bunch of different options for snorkels you never knew existed! The classic snorkels you are probably most familiar with can now roll up into a little ball while others have purge valves and chambers at the base to collect excess water. Some have silicon accordion-like sections while others boast of their splash-proof or even dry tops! Then there’s the day-glow Darth Vader looking full face mask with a built-in snorkel protruding from the top of it! With all these vastly different options that all essentially serve the same purpose—a tube to breathe through as your face is planted in the water—you may be wondering which one is best for me? Here’s a quick and simple breakdown of the different styles and the intended purposes of each snorkel.

Classic Snorkel

In function, the classic snorkel or J-snorkel as they are often referred to hasn’t really changed much. What’s changed though in a lot of new classic “j” snorkels is the materials used to manufacture them. Many are now made from various polymers which allow for some short-term flexibility in the snorkels. Some can even be folded or rolled up completely for easier packing. These snorkels are not recommended for those who are new to snorkeling as they require a bit more effort to clear the water from. If you are an experienced and confident snorkel who likes to dive down and comfortable clearing the water upon surfacing then these are great snorkels.


  • Simple design
  • Easy to pack
  • Nearly indestructible
  • Low profile/hydrodynamic
  • Most affordable


  • Water needs to be cleared with a big exhale
  • Splashing water enters from the top more easily
  • The rigidity can be uncomfortable for some

Flexible Snorkels with Purge Valves

Snorkels with the flexible rubber or silicon section and accompanying purge valve at the base are some of the most popular among snorkelers now. The flexibility with these types of snorkels can make it a lot more comfortable to hold the snorkel in your mouth as well as providing two points of rotation for you to adjust the snorkel to fit around your head better. The purge valve below the mouthpiece—which is just a little silicon flap that opens one way—helps make clearing the snorkel a lot easier as the water will clear from the top and bottom. You can also lift your head out of the water and any water in the snorkel will just drain out through the bottom. These are great snorkels for people who are just beginning to snorkel and confident in the water to those who are seasoned snorkelers. Freediving or duck diving is not an issue at all with these snorkels and the added purge valve requires less force to fully clear the snorkel upon surfacing.


  • Easy to clear water
  • Flexibility allows for greater comfort
  • Mouthpiece drops away from the face when not in use
  • Affordable


  • The purge can fail if sand gets in it causing it to leak
  • Splashing water can enter through the top easier
  • The flexibility can cause the snorkel to flap around more when swimming fast
  • Extra drag can cause mouth fatigue

Semi-Dry Snorkel

Semi-dry snorkels will often look very similar to the flexible snorkel as they will typically have the flexible rubber section as well as a purge valve, but they will also have an added splash guard on top. Splash guards will come in different various designs, and some will even have moving parts, but the basic idea behind the splash guard is to help prevent any splashing water from entering through the top. The ergonomics and overall fit will be similar or the same as the previously mentioned type of snorkel, but with the added benefit of less water entering through the top of the snorkel when on the surface. These types of snorkels will let water in when fully submerged and may require a bit more force to fully clear the snorkel as the splash guard does add a bit of resistance. For those with larger lung capacities, this is also something to think about as the more obstacles a splash guard has to keep water out it may restrict the airflow a bit. A splash-guard with a larger diameter will allow more airflow and may be better for someone with larger lungs.


  • Flexibility allows for greater comfort
  • Mouthpiece drops away from face when not in use
  • Helps keep splashing water out
  • Can be fully submerged and cleared quite easily
  • Extra drag can cause mouth fatigue


  • Does not keep 100% of the water out
  • Splash guard can add a bit of resistance for breathing and clearing
  • Can be fully submerged and cleared quite easily
  • Extra drag can cause mouth fatigue

Dry Snorkelers

Dry snorkels are some of the most recent types of snorkels on the market and are slightly more complex than any of the other types of snorkels we’ve mentioned, but still very easy to use. These snorkels will typically feature the flexible tube as well as a purge valve at the bottom, but also be fitted with a valve at the top which blocks out all water—even when completely submerged. These snorkels are great for those that want absolutely no water in their snorkel at any time. While these snorkels can be submerged, it’s good to keep in mind that if you do like to dive down deeper than eight to ten feet the tube will collapse with the added pressure and can even suck your tongue into the mouthpiece which is quite uncomfortable. Something else to keep in mind is that many brands or models of dry snorkels have been known to get stuck in the closed position for no reason at all. In the closed position no airflow is possible and can be a bit disconcerting if it happens regularly while snorkeling. Also, because of all the moving parts now involved in the dry valve they are prone to get stuck in either the open or closed position if sand or dried salt builds up between the mechanisms. Before purchasing a dry snorkel it’s a good idea to read the different reviews, even the more expensive brands and models can have issues with the dry valves. 


  • Keeps all water out
  • Flexibility allows for greater comfort
  • Mouthpiece drops away from face when not in use
  • Purge valve allows water to exit through the bottom easily


  • The dry valve can get stuck in the open or closed position
  • Snorkels with smaller dry valves can be more restrictive for breathing
  • More expensive than other types of snorkels.

Full Face Mask

The full face masks are the most complex as they combine both the mask and snorkel in one design that fully covers the face. Prior to purchasing one of these though you need to be made aware that not all brands and models are safe. In the past, there have been a number of deaths linked to these types of masks as a result of drowning and also co2 poisoning. Buying cheap off-brand versions are not recommended and not allowed on our snorkel safaris. With that in mind, if you get one of the approved models and it fits properly they can be great as you just breathe as you would on land with a much larger field of view. The snorkels protruding from the top are dry snorkels so no water is allowed in. Full face masks are great for those that are nervous bout snorkeling and really not comfortable with the traditional mask as snorkel set up. Full face masks are not recommended for those that like to dive down. Also, really make sure that prior to buying a full face mask you try it on to make sure it fits your face perfectly, any leaks can flood the entire mask which is less than ideal. 

Internationally Approved Models 

SEAC: SEAC offers a number of models of full face masks, all of which are safe and approved for snorkeling.

Head/Ocean Reef: Similar to SEAC these brands are also tested and approved for snorkeling.


  • Large field of view
  • Breathing is more natural without a snorkel in the mouth
  • Can be a more comfortable fit
  • Snorkel keeps all water out


  • Large and not ideal to pack
  • Leaks can be very disruptive and potentially dangerous
  • Not ideal for duck diving
  • Dry valve can get stuck in the open or closed position with a build-up of sand and salt
  • Most expensive type of snorkel/mask

First of all, this is not a blog on what to pack for a snorkeling safari, that information is here. This blog is all about how to pack for a snorkeling adventure with us. It may sound like a simple enough subject—just toss in a week’s worth of tropical clothes and your snorkel and mask into a bag and off you go—but with the varying restrictions between your international and any domestic flights we may need to take to reach our ultimate destination, it’s a good idea to pack with a bit of a plan.

International Flight

Your main international flight from your home country to any one of the countries where the tour will be held is fairly straight forward. Just make sure you are within the weight restrictions for both checked and hand-carry bags and all should be well. With that in mind though, do also keep in mind the weight requirements for any upcoming domestic flights you may have once in the country our snorkel safari is in. For exa

mple, if our domestic flight from Bali or Jakarta to Komodo only allows for a maximum of 30kg for our checked luggage and 7kg of hand-carry baggage, you wouldn’t want to have a total luggage weight exceeding 37kgs even if your international flight allows for more than this.

Air asia baggage guide

Domestic Flights

For some of our snorkeling safaris we will be taking one or several domestic flights, particularly in Indonesia. So, it’s a good idea to adjust your packing a bit once you landed in the designated country. First of all, many of our domestic flights will be on smaller planes that will have more restrictions on hand cary luggage size and weights than a large international flight. For most domestic flights the hand-carry maximum weight is 7kg. Along with that, some of the overhead storage compartments are quite narrow so if you have a larger hand-carry bag it’s a good idea to confirm with us or the domestic carrier what their luggage size restrictions are.

Outside of luggage size and weight restrictions, it’s also a good idea to really plan what you pack in both your checked bag as well as your hand cary bag. Our Wakatobi safari, for example, involves a private charter flight from Bali to Wakatobi resort where our checked bags will be dropped of at our rooms several hours after we arrive at the resort. So, with situations like this in mind, it’s a good idea to pack an essential toiletry kit, a spare change of clothes, any medication, glasses, or prescription goggles, and any personal electronics you may need like a laptop or camera in your hand-carry bag. Something else to consider bringing is a power bank to keep your mobile devices charged during flights and car/boat rides.

carry on essentials

You may also find that for some domestic flights the regulations for what items can be carried on and what needs to be checked are more stringent, so we’ve included a generalized list of what items should go where. Please note, this is not an official list of what can be checked and what can not, just a generalized list of items often overlooked by guests.

Liquids: All liquid items over 100ml need to go in your CHECKED BAG

Aerosols: Things like shaving cream and aerosol deodorant or sun cream also need to go in your CHECKED BAG.

Tripods: All tripods and selfie sticks—basically anything stick-shaped—need to go in your CHECKED BAG.

Prescription Masks/Glasses & Medication: Any medication or prescription masks/goggles/glasses should go in your HAND CARY.

Batteries: All batteries, including power banks, need to be in your HAND CARRY bag. We strongly suggest keeping your batteries together in one container rather than scattered about in your bag, just in case the gate agent needs to see them.

Choosing to join a snorkel safari that is hosted by a liveaboard as opposed to a land-based resort, or vise versa can be a tough choice, particularly if your only snorkeling safaris have been with one of the two options, or neither! Resorts can be great as they don’t rock with the waves and the amount of space you get is so much more. However, on a boat you wake up in a new location each day and get to explore so much further in the area. Not to mention the novelty of being on a luxury vessel in the middle of paradise. To help you get the clearest picture possible of what each style of snorkel safari is like we’ve broken it down into a few key points.


Space is one of the biggest differences between resorts and liveaboards. At a resort you have a spacious bungalow with its own veranda and large bathroom. Then there are the resort grounds which offer beautiful landscaping, pools, bars, a restaurant, spa, and quite often a private beach with a house reef.

aerial view of misool resort

The liveaboard option does offer significantly less space than a resort, but you will by no means feel cramped, especially with the elite group of liveaboards we operate with. The boats we use range in size from just over one-hundred feet in length to one-hundred and seventy feet and offer 3-4 different decks to spread out on. The boats all feature large galleys for dining, saloons with big wrap-around sofas, sun decks, camera rooms, and large gearing up stations. Some of the larger boats even have a Jacuzzi and rooftop bar. The cabins will all be furnished with comfortable beds, some may be bunked, but all will be equipped with a private ensuite bathroom with hot water and of course air conditioning.

cabin on coralia liveaboard


Snorkeling via liveaboard and resort in the very same location can be a completely different experience depending on which one you choose. One is not necessarily better than the other, just different. Raja Ampat is the perfect example for this as Raja is a massive area and no matter how centrally located the resort you’d never be able to see all of Raja, no matter how long you spent there. However, with a liveaboard in Raja you do have the option of being able to experience a bit of everything. Not everything, but a bit of everything, as Raja is HUUGE and even with a liveaboard you’d have to spend a few years exploring it to see it all.

Aerial view of Raja Ampat Islands

With a liveaboard in Raja you can spend a few days in the north, a few days in the center, and a few days in the south, whereas with a resort you will be snorkeling in either the north or the south. Now, that’s not a bad thing at all as both the resorts in the north and south of Raja have more than enough sites to keep us snorkelers entertained for months. Not to mention the resort’s extensive knowledge of their “neighborhood” will surely yield some exceptional surprises you wouldn’t otherwise have on a liveaboard.

One last point I’d like to make here is that when you are snorkeling from a liveaboard, you naturally end up spending nearly all your time on the water, this constant exposure does often lead to nice surprises like a whale shark or manta appearing next to the boat which then turns into thrilling impromptu snorkel session. That being said, most resorts have a house reef and end up being the guests favorite places to snorkel-no matter which house reef-as they can really get to know that reef after a few days and find all the cool things they might otherwise miss in a single snorkel session.

snorkeler with whale shark feeding

Rocking in Rolling

Yes, boats do rock a bit, and if the weather suddenly kicks up it can be a bit bumpy for an hour or so until the captain can get us into a protected bay, but in general you really don’t notice the gentle motion of the ocean after the first-night onboard.  In fact, most people find the gentle undulating motion soothing. For those that are very prone to seasickness, there are some excellent patches, pressure point wrist bands, and seasickness pills you can take which will quite literally cure you of it for the duration of the trip.

Amira Liveaboard sailing

Final Thoughts

Prior to joining Snorkel Venture I spend five years living and working as an underwater photographer on a liveaboard, and since 2018 when I joined Snorkel Venture I’ve spent the majority of that time traveling around the world and snorkeling from resorts. At the end of the day I would never say snorkeling from one is better than the other, not at all. Liveaboards offer that romantic feeling of exploring a tropical paradise by way of a luxury vessel complete with Jacuzzi and masseuse, whereas a resort offers that quintessential island oasis vibe with a happy hour and infinity pool. Each presents a completely different experience out of the water, but both absolutely offer incredible snorkeling.

Happy couple snorkeling a reef in Komodo

Just about every camera nowadays has both a video and photo function, which provides us with a ton of opportunities for creatively capturing the underwater world. With so many options though, it can be a bit overwhelming when a unique underwater moment presents itself to you completely out of the blue. What do I do!? Should I film it or photograph it? As someone who spends a lot of time switching between video and photo, I’d like to share a few quick tips that have helped me decide whether I’m going to capture the moment with the camera’s video mode or the photo mode.

 1.  What is your ultimate goal?

If you know how to use editing software and plan to make a little highlight reel from your snorkeling adventure, then filming would be the way forward. Similarly, if your intent is to have a collection of photos to share with friends or to hang on your wall, you’d want to stick with the photo mode. This is a really important thing to think about as I know a lot of people who just film everything they see because in a lot of ways filming is easier and can be more gratifying at the moment, but then they find they don’t know how to edit videos or just don’t have the time to and then they end up with hours of footage just sitting on their hard drive.

Snorkeler photographing schooling fish

2.  A bit of Both

A lot of the underwater encounters we have can last for a while, which means you can do a bit of filming as well as photography. Remember to prioritize which of the two mediums is more important to you at the end of the day and start with that one.

3.  Video for fleeting moments

I always keep my camera set to video mode when I don’t have anything in particular to point my camera at. The reason being is that should a manta or whale shark suddenly turn up and I have only a couple of moments to capture the encounter, video is the fastest and most efficient way to do so as you can essentially point and shoot.

It’s not uncommon to have hesitations or even a phobia of deep water. Not being able to see the bottom can throw even the most experienced snorkelers. I know that every time I jump in the open blue water to try and swim with a pod of dolphins or whale sharks and there is nothing but blue water below me I have to make a slight adjustment to my mental state and just remind myself that floating in the blue is no different to floating just above a reef. I know, easier said than done since phobias such as this are irrational and your typical pragmatism on land goes right out the window the moment you lose sight of the bottom. This fear doesn’t always have to control us though, and if we take the proper approach that involves both mentally and physically preparing ourselves, we can hopefully find ourselves confident and comfortable snorkeling in deep water. Here are a few steps that we have found to be helpful.

Become Accustomed to the Environment

Learning about the ocean is a great first step in helping control your deep water phobia. In understanding what is actually going on below you as you snorkel should then help curb any unwarranted fears by cultivating a positive state of mind about the ocean and deep water.

My Octopus Teacher

There are some really amazing underwater documentary movies and series which do an amazing job of capturing the beauty and reality of the underwater world. Some of the best ones are My Octopus Teacher, BBC Blue Planet I & II, BBC Planet Earth,  and Oceans. I highly suggest NOT watching NatGeo’s Shark Week or Sharkfest as they really tend to only sensationalize the fear based around sharks and shark attacks and not the reality of a shark’s normal response to snorkelers, which is to either ignore us or swim away. You are more likely to be injured by your toilet than by a shark by huge margin.

Slowly Introduce Yourself to the Environment

Snorkeler with life ring

Rather than just plunge yourself into the open blue water, I highly recommend starting off by slowly introducing yourself to it by letting yourself get accustomed to the shallow reefs and sandy bays first. If your phobia is quite strong, the shallow end of a pool is best and then work your way up to larger bodies of water. As you progress to deeper waters you may want to use an inflatable snorkel vest, a life jacket, or even additional flotation ring to give yourself an added layer of comfort. Also, don’t forget to do this with a snorkel buddy who’s already very comfortable in the water.

Mental Game Plan

Cow fish swimming right up to the camera with snorkeler behind

Even as your confidence with the water grows, it’s a great idea to have a mental game plan just incase that irrational fear does start to creep back in. Before each snorkel session make a little plan to help calm yourself down and regain control of your emotions. What I mean by this is, the moment you start to feel the panic coming back you need to give your brain something else to do, like count to one-hundred, identifying ten different species of fish, or just concentrating on a steady rhythm of breathing. It helps if you pick just one thing as too many different options can lead back to a non-focused state of mind and then the fear comes back. For me, I focus on listening to every inhale and exhale to keep them as steady and relaxed as possible. As I do this, I slowly swim back to a more comfortable depth until I feel like I’m back in control again.