Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving: How Do They Differ?

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving: How Do They Differ?
Spread the love

Even though snorkeling and scuba diving are two activities that you do in the water, they’re drastically different. One is far more in-depth than the other and requires specific training. The other can be a relaxing experience for beginners who want to see what the ocean has to offer.

If you’re curious about the differences between snorkeling vs. scuba diving, below is an in-depth comparison of the two.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving

A lot of people have a hard time differentiating snorkeling from scuba diving, and for a good reason. After all, both of these activities are done in the water. The truth, however, is that they are very different from one another.

Below, we have differentiated how one is different from the other by looking at various aspects including training, techniques involved, safety concerns, the level of exposure to the elements, how one views marine life, and the costs of practicing each.


The first key difference between the two is training. For snorkeling, it can be recommended to take lessons. However, for scuba diving, it is a requirement. Most resorts won’t allow you to dive without certifications, as it’s a more thorough activity.

This is because while scuba diving, you’re going to be venturing well below the surface of the water. Your only source of oxygen is from your tank and tubes, which means that panicking while scuba diving can be a fatal disaster. Even though these classes can be quite costly, it’s incredibly important that you take them.

When you sign up for scuba diving lessons, there are many things you’ll learn, the first thing being how to breathe calmly. With the help of certified and trained professionals, you’ll learn about the ins and outs of scuba diving, including:

  • Planning dives
  • Choosing the right scuba gear
  • Understanding diving procedures
  • Learning underwater signals
  • Entering and exiting the water
  • Extracting water from your mask
  • Preparing your scuba gear
  • Controlling buoyancy
  • Navigating underwater
  • Safety lessons


Another large difference between snorkeling vs. scuba diving is the techniques you’ll use. As mentioned, while snorkeling, usually your head and nose are the only parts of your body that are underwater. Whereas while scuba diving, your whole body is submerged.

While in scuba gear, you’re not going to be able to simply lift your head above the water to get air. Instead, you’re going to have to wear a dive mask, a regulator, a wetsuit, and an oxygen tank, as well as other finer components. Alternatively, when snorkeling, you simply have to learn how to sharply blast water out of your breathing tube to access oxygen.

Additionally, the swimming components are different as well. Snorkeling simply requires you to float on the surface and gently propel yourself with the help of fins. Scuba diving, on the other hand, requires you to learn how to navigate underwater with all of your equipment and fins.

Safety Concerns

Both of these water activities come with the same general safety concerns such as currents, wave sets, surges, and marine life. However, they also have their own dangers.

Scuba diving requires training for a reason, as you need to consider decompression sickness, refraction, visibility while under the water, oxygen toxicity, and nitrogen narcosis, just to name a few. The main concerns with snorkeling revolve around being unseen by jet skis and boats.

Exposure to the Elements

One of the least common things that people think about while on the water is the sun. When snorkeling, you’re not only in direct view of the harmful rays of the sun, but also the reflection of the sun on the water.

In most cases, you won’t have the protection of a wetsuit, as you would if you were scuba diving. Therefore, your risk of sun exposure is much greater while snorkeling. It is important that you take the necessary steps to make sure you’re protected. Even if you’re interested in getting a tan, you’ll still need sunblock with a high SPF and limit the amount of time you’re on the water.

Exposure to water is another important thing to take note of when you’re scuba diving and snorkeling. As you won’t be diving deeper into the ocean while snorkeling, you have easier access to fresh water to keep yourself hydrated.

On the other hand, while scuba diving, you’ll have to take precautions in terms of eating and drinking before heading out. Additionally, you’ll have to limit your underwater exposure and safely return to the surface to maintain your hydration.

Viewing Marine Life

There are many reasons as to why people pick up scuba diving, whether it’s for their job or for personal interest. There’s no argument that the deeper you are in the water, you’ll be exposed to more marine life.

Snorkeling is a fantastic way to get a bird’s eye view of beautiful reefs and fish that are used to swimming near the surface. Though there are still dangers to consider, they’re relatively easy to avoid with experience.

Unfortunately, scuba diving isn’t as safe as snorkeling, especially with marine life. Since you’ll have the ability to see and interact with sea creatures that the human eye can’t see from the surface, including creatures that are more dangerous, it’s exceptionally important to get the proper training to know how to avoid confrontations with territorial marine life.


As you can guess, scuba diving and snorkeling have two very different spectrums when looking at cost. As scuba diving requires far more equipment and training, you can guarantee that it’s far more of an investment.

With that being said, plenty of people agree that it’s well worth the cost. With scuba diving, you get to see a whole other world in the ocean that you never knew existed. It’s a far more immersive experience where everything is in a new light.

Snorkeling is far less expensive, as you don’t have to worry about training. Also, in most cases, you can purchase snorkeling kits from dive shops that have everything you need. Although it is a soothing experience, it doesn’t give you an in-depth view of the ocean.

Final Thoughts

When deciding between snorkeling vs. scuba diving, there are plenty of things to take into consideration. First, you need to consider how involved you want to get. With the need for classes, certifications, and expensive equipment, scuba diving can be too much of a commitment for some. However, it does give you the most memorable experience.

On the other end of the spectrum, beginners can buy snorkeling gear from their local store and head out on the water.

By taking all of the differences and similarities into account, you can choose which activity best suits your needs. Regardless, it’s important that you do a sufficient amount of research before delving into the open ocean with your friends and family.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Tyler Johnson - June 26, 2019 Reply

That’s good to know that you could go snorkeling for much cheaper as well as not having to train., I would think that would make it much more accessible to people that want to look at the ocean, but not all the time. I’ll have to consider getting some snorkeling gear if I decide to take the family to the beach this year.

Hayato Davis - July 26, 2019 Reply

Hello There! Your blog contains lots of information about Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving. All the information you have shared are very interesting and useful for all scuba diving lovers. Thanks and keep posting!

Shayla Cademis - July 26, 2019 Reply

Thanks for mentioning that snorkeling is a great way to view reefs and fish that generally stay closer to the surface of the ocean. My husband and I are going on a vacation next month to celebrate our anniversary, and we want to really experience everything the ocean has to offer. We’ll have to look for opportunities to snorkel while we’re there!

Ellie Davis - August 28, 2019 Reply

I liked that you mentioned the main difference between snorkeling and diving is that you will be below the surface with a tank and tubes as your only source of oxygen. My husband and I are thinking about whether to snorkeling or scuba dive on our next vacations. I believe that any of those activities will be an awesome memory to tell our friends when we come back.

Leave a Reply: