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


GoPro cameras have become probably the most popular camera for snorkeling, and for a number or solid reasons. Their small size is perfect for traveling, not to mention all GoPro’s from the Hero 5 on are waterproof to certain depths without a housing. That being said, it’s wise to use a housing for added security. Even though the GoPro’s are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand they pack a serious punch where image quality is concerned-both in the film and photo department as they offer 4K footage and a solid 12 megapixel photo with RAW format capabilities. However, despite all of these stellar specs and intuitive design—I see a lot of people struggling with their GoPro cameras in a variety of areas. So, to hopefully alleviate some of these camera issues to make your snorkeling experience better, I’ve put together a quick list of the most common problems I see with simple remedies.  Here we go. 

I never edit my footage because I always have too much

If you’re one of those people who strap the GoPro on your wrist and swim around with your arm constantly extended like Mega man while the camera records the entirety of the snorkel session…herein lies your problem. It’s a good idea to fall into the habit of pressing record only when you want to film something. Just by doing this you will then have a series of short clips which are easy to scroll though so you can find the exact moment you are looking for, rather than scrubbing through hours of dizzying footage. 

Everything I film looks so small and far away

All GoPro’s are equipped with a very wide fish eye lens which causes this effect. This is a good thing though as a really wide lens is the best for underwater imaging, so long as we keep one simple thing in mind. Get closer! We need to get close to our subjects-as close a physically possible without damaging the reef or bothering the subject. This will improve the overall clarity of your image as we are now shooting though less water while filling the frame with the subject. The GoPro lens is best for large subjects like turtles-mantas-and reefcapes. Shy subjects who prefer to keep their distance are not ideal subjects to concentrate on, take a mental photo and move on. 

The colors keep changing when I’m filming

This is a white balance issue and is a result of the Auto White Balance (AWB) trying to figure out what white balance setting is best for the constantly changing light underwater. The best thing to do is to turn off the AWB so it’s set to a single color temperature. 

My red filter makes everything looks super red and turns the water purple.

The reason for this is because you are using a red filter that is too strong, or too red. We use stronger red filters when we go deeper to compensate for the lack of red. However, since we are snorkeling and our subjects in the shallows we need just a bit of red. Switching to a lighter shade of red—something that will work up to five meters or fifteen feet in depth—will alleviate any unappealing colors and bring out the natural colors of our subjects.

My videos and photos are always very shaky and blurry.

To create more steady videos and sharp photos takes a bit of practice, and possibly some simple accessories. As snorkelers we are constantly being moved around by the waves on the surface—no matter how flat the water may seem so we need to be extra aware of this. When you see something you want to film or photograph try to duck dive down a bit, even a meter will make a huge difference. Another thing that will help will be to ditch the selfie stick and mount your camera on a tray with a single or double handle. After all, when is the last time we saw a professional camera operator using a selfie stick in the field? 

Komodo is famous for a lot of things—most notably it’s giant carnivorous lizards—which rule the uninhabited islands. As tourism started to grow in Indonesia people quickly learned that the Komodo Dragons were not the only thing unique to the area—and that it in fact had some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world. Diving and snorkeling became even more popular than the large terrestrial reptiles and now people are coming from all over the world to witness Komodo’ underwater splendor. After spending years diving and snorkeling Komodo, we’ve put together a quick list of what we believe to be Komodo’s best snorkeling sites. 

#5 Turtle CityTwo green sea turtles with black background

As you may have guessed, the site known as Turtle City is riddled with sea-turtles. The shallow protected hard coral reef has become a natural sanctuary for the large green sea-turtles and as snorkelers we can casually float above them as they go about their naps and enjoy the many cleaning stations where small cleaner fish peck off any parasites and algae from their shells. 

#4 Batu Bolongcolorful reef and reef fish

Batu Bolong is a small rock island in the middle of Komodo National Park where all sort of marine life congregate. It hosts one of the most immaculate and diverse reefs in the park and come just a few centimeters from the surface. Living within the reef is a massive colony of orange anthias who explode from the reef in a brilliant flurry. Larger marine life like tunas, giant trevallies, and the occasional pod of dolphin are all things that can be seen on this magical site. 

#3 Tatawa Besar

If you like drifting over reef and just watching everything go by—you’ll love Tatawa Besar. This elongated island is the perfect drift for snorkelers as it’s fringed by another bustling shallow reef home to all sorts of fish like sweet lips, crocodile fish and cuttle fish while mantas and eagle rays are not uncommon encounters either. 

#2 Manta Pointmany mantas feeding on the surface

Manta point is probably one of the most famous sites in Komodo thanks to it’s resident fleet of mantas who use the dozens of cleaning stations on a daily basis. In the mornings when the water is flat, and with a decent current, (don’t worry you just drift with it) the mantas come to the surface to feed on the plankton which is trapped in the shallow water all around the drifting snorkelers. 

#1 China Shophard coral reef with manta swimming through blue water

China shop is sort of a hidden secret, but in our opinion one of the best spots for snorkelers. The shallow reef is in pristine conditions and extends for hundreds of meters in either direction, and it can offer everything Komodo is famous for in one snorkel session. Mantas frequently feed in the channel at the edge of the site while many turtles live in it’s outstanding reef along with any other reef creature you could wish for. Oh, it also happens to be the same site where one lucky diver had one of the most unusual underwater encounters in recent history when a mega-mouth shark swam right over their head a few years back! 


VIDEO: See how amazing these sites are in this short video.

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. 

I have been very lucky to explore a huge variety of snorkel spots in asia – ranging from sparkling reef systems of all colors of the rainbow, to mangroves and drop offs into the deep blue. Snorkeling in Asia has so many remarkable options it is a real challenge knowing where to go and making sure you get the most out of your holiday abroad, so I have decided to list my top three favorite destinations to help you make the right decision on where to go next with Snorkel Venture:

Snorkel Venture guest group photo

  1. Komodo – Indonesia

In a tiny corner of east Indonesia, cutting through the glassy waters of the Flores Sea the Komodo resorts is a hidden island gem, a well-kept secret that offers some of the best quality snorkel spots in asia. Everything can be found here – Manta Rays, reef sharks, schooling pelagics and weird and wonderful critters.

Split shot of Komodo reef and Komodo island

The local islands are curious and home to the legendary Komodo Dragon. The Komodo Resort is a sensational place to relax and drink a cold beer after a day in the water.

Our 9-day group snorkeling tour takes in the absolute best of what the Komodo Resort has to offer.

2.Wakatobi – Indonesia

Wakatobi is slap bang in the middle of the coral triangle – an area famed for having some of the highest numbers of coral and fish species found anywhere else on the planet. Wakatobi is located on Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia’s tropical north and is an easy one-hour charter flight from Jakarta, the capital of the country.

aerial view of wakatobi resort

The countless number of snorkeling sites is mouthwatering; you are able to flexibly explore and snorkel all day (and even at night) until your heart is content. Combining the experience with the comfort and luxuries of an outstanding resort makes this combination an absolute must if you have not been here before.

Join us on our 9-day group snorkeling tour to Wakatobi in November 2019 for one of the best snorkel spots in asia.

  1. Vava’u – Tonga

Tonga is one of the friendliest places I have ever visited – greeted by beaming smiles and a warmth I haven’t experience anywhere else. Pigs and chickens roam the streets, palm trees line white sand beaches and the low key villages give it a real Robinson Crusoe-esque feeling.

two humpback whales floating over reef

The waters surrounding these tranquil isles is home to humpback whales which come into the shallow lagoons to calve at certain times of the year. Coinciding your trip to do a whale swim is an unforgettable experience and definitely ranks as something to do before you die.

Our 15-day snorkeling tour to Tonga and Fiji is a perfect way to explore this part of the world and to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with humpback whales.