Want to go exploring the underwater world? You have two options for discovering the incredible life waiting under the sea – either scuba diving or snorkelling. Snorkelling gives you a comfortable 2D, bird’s eye view of what’s going on from above, while scuba diving takes you up close and personal on a 3D whirlwind adventure. That said, they’re two very different activities that have different requirements, pros, and cons.

If you’re not sure whether scuba diving or snorkelling is right for you, we’ve created this article to compare the difference between the two. So, scuba diving versus snorkelling… here we go!

First thing’s first, let’s take a closer look at both snorkelling and scuba diving to see how they work and what they involve.

What is snorkelling?

Snorkelling is the easiest and most accessible way to discover what’s hidden below the sea. Typically, you’ll be floating along the surface of the water, and all you’ll need is a snorkel mask to allow you to breathe. You can still dive below the surface to get a closer look at certain fish and beautiful coral, but snorkelling won’t take you as deep underwater as scuba diving. On the other hand, people of all ages and physical fitness can snorkel.

What is scuba diving?

Scuba diving involves going deep below the water’s surface, using air tanks to allow you to breathe underwater. With scuba diving you are able to explore every nook and cranny under the sea and feel like you are a part of the ecosystem, experiencing the reef from within it. Scuba diving is more hands-on than snorkelling, but for that reason it needs more equipment, training, and better physical fitness.

Now let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages that each water sport has to offer…

Advantages of snorkelling over scuba diving

Here’s where snorkelling has an edge over scuba diving. If you’re looking for reasons why you should snorkel rather than scuba dive, here they are:

1. Anybody can snorkel

As we mentioned earlier, snorkelling requires nothing more than a snorkel mask. People of all ages and physical fitness can snorkel – all the activity requires is that you are able to float along the water’s surface. Even kids can snorkel!

2. You can do it anywhere

Snorkelling isn’t a heavy-duty water sport that requires tonnes of equipment and preparation. A snorkel mask is small and easy to pack into your bag and take on adventures anywhere, anytime. You can go for a short, quick dip at a whim, without having to worry about safety precautions, gas tanks, and other scuba preparation.

3. It’s more affordable & accessible

If you’re looking for an activity that can be quickly and cheaply picked up, snorkelling is your best bet. You’ll find snorkel masks available at a range of prices (although the very cheap ones may be lacking in quality), and you can easily rent snorkel equipment from many beaches. There’s no fancy, expensive training required, and all you’ll need to invest in is a good snorkel mask.

4. It’s safer than scuba diving

Since you’re floating along the water’s edge, snorkelling is not as risky of a water sport as scuba diving. You won’t have to suffer huge amounts of water pressure or worry about the air in your gas tank and all your equipment functioning. Any pesky issues – like water leaking into your mask – are quickly and easily solved with little risk.

Advantages of scuba diving over snorkelling

While snorkelling has its numerous set of benefits, so does scuba diving. If you’re looking for reasons why you should scuba dive rather than snorkel, here they are:

1. You can discover more

To put it simply, scuba diving will always offer a more immersive underwater experience than snorkelling. You are able to go deeper underwater and get up-close and personal with anything you find interesting. There’s a myth out there that scuba divers can ‘see more’ because they’re able to go deeper underwater, but that’s not necessarily true. You can discover just as much from the water’s surface as you can from below, but scuba diving definitely lets you get closer and view things from different angles.

2. You get to explore outer reefs, away from rough water

The most pristine, untouched reefs are those that are far out and away from the coast. Unfortunately, that’s also where the sea water is at its roughest, and snorkelling can be a bit difficult or dangerous. Here, scuba divers have an advantage as they can escape the rough water surface by diving deep below where it’s calm. For that reason, they’re better able to explore outer reefs and discover untouched sea life, without dealing with rough water.

3. You get to experience night dives

Some famous snorkelling & scuba diving destinations have tourist operators organising night dives, where you have the opportunity to float around with giant manta rays and other sea life at night time. Unfortunately, many of these night dives – which are amazing experiences that allow you to venture into the life of certain creatures – are only available for scuba divers.

Disadvantages of snorkelling over scuba diving

There are a few things that scuba diving offers that you just won’t get with snorkelling. These include:

1. You’re confined to the water’s surface level

While there’s plenty you’re able to see while floating along the water’s edge, you do also miss out on viewing animals and coral life from different angles. Sure, you can freedive and get a closer look at many things, but if you’re wanting to explore a reef or crevice that’s deep underwater then snorkelling won’t be the activity for you.

2. There are certain reefs you can’t explore

If you’re an avid underwater adventurer who wants to discover every amazing reef in this world, then snorkelling won’t be enough. There are some incredible reefs that are way out in the middle of the ocean and inaccessible (or too dangerous) for snorkellers. To discover these reefs, you’ll need to be a scuba diver – and a pro scuba diver at that. So if your ideal goal is to be off exploring remote reefs, you’d best get scuba diving!

Disadvantages of scuba diving over snorkelling

Sure, you can get closer and deeper to sea and coral life while scuba diving, but the water sport also presents a number of disadvantages when compared to snorkelling. If you’re looking for reasons why diving isn’t as great as snorkelling, here they are:

1. You need a certification

This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage as a certification will make sure you know everything there is to know about scuba diving before heading underwater, but it’s still a con for some people. You can’t just simply go out and scuba dive, you need to have a certification from PADI or NAUI beforehand. You can’t even rent or buy dive equipment without your certification, so you’d better start saving for that open-water course…

2. It requires a lot of equipment

You can’t just head out with a dive mask and get into it. With scuba diving, you’ve got to manage a whole lot of heavy equipment, including gas cylinders, regulators, buoyancy control devices, wet or drysuits, fins, as well as your dive mask. All of this equipment is rather expensive to buy or rent, but scuba material is hardy and durable and will last you a long time. That said, with all that equipment, you can’t just pack your scuba gear anywhere.

3. There’s a lot of preparation involved

If you’re looking for a spontaneous activity to do on road trips & family holidays, scuba diving is not the one. There’s a lot of preparation involved before heading out on a scuba diving adventure, and it’s not something that can be done on a whim. You have to make a dive plan, know your deepest length, and prepare all your equipment before setting off. Failing to do the right preparation isn’t just a minor problem, it can be life-threatening.

4. Scuba diving is more risky than snorkelling

Human beings just aren’t meant to be deep underwater, and there’s a lot to manage when scuba diving. Sure, your equipment is there to make sure you’re safe, but you have to constantly be aware and present while diving to avoid ascending or descending too quickly. There are a lot of factors involved, and failing to pay attention can be dangerous. You have to factor in risks like malfunctioning equipment, pulmonary embolisms, oxygen toxicity, nitrogen narcosis, and more – none of which exist when snorkelling.

Snorkelling vs scuba diving

Both snorkelling and scuba diving are a gateway to exploring the magnificent scenery waiting underwater, but they’re two very different experiences. If you’re looking for a fun, light, and affordable activity that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, without having to constantly stay focused and pay attention, then snorkelling is for you. But if you’re serious about that exploration and want to go deep below the water’s surface, explore far away outer reefs, and have a lot of money to invest in the experience – then you should look into scuba diving.

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