How to: Snorkel Port Phillip
What you need
- OR, if you only have a pair of goggles, you can try just holding your breath
See if you can borrow a mask and snorkel from a friend, or you can buy relatively good cheap ones from department stores or fishing tackle shops.
A tempered glass lens is the safest and clearest option. These can be quite inexpensive. Getting a mask with a silicone ‘skirt’ (the bit that fits on your face) is best. It provides a better seal with your skin, compared to PVC or other plastics, and also lasts longer.
Before you take your new mask for a dive, you’ll want to give it a very good scrubbing with a toothbrush and toothpaste. This removes any silicone or other film and helps to avoid fogging problems. Before each snorkel you will want to spray your mask with ‘antifog’, baby shampoo or spit (gross but works great!) then rinse in the sea to prevent your mask fogging up during your snorkel.
Some masks will come with a simple ‘snorkel’ tube and these are fine. Otherwise, just select a simple snorkel. Some come with a purge valve but it isn’t a necessity.
Most cheap masks are a similar size, but people with longer noses or rounder faces may want to test a couple out at a dive shop.
Before you jump in, test the mask by folding the strap out of the way and pressing the mask to your face, making sure no hair is caught between the mask and your skin.
Inhale gently, and if the mask sticks lightly to your face then you have formed a good seal. Any hair that is trapped between the mask and face will prevent a seal from forming, and allow water to leak in.
Once the mask is on your face, fold the strap over the back and tighten via the side straps so that it isn’t too loose or too tight but just right! Pop the snorkel in your mouth, and you are ready to give snorkelling a go!
It is very common for first-time snorkellers to feel nervous or fearful. Remember that it is a very unnatural thing to tell your body to breathe with your face underwater, so you can expect some resistance from your body’s instinctive processes. You can help reduce stress by
- fitting your mask well and preventing it from fogging up
- learning how to clear out your snorkel if water gets in (more on that later)
- choosing a safe and calm environment to start snorkelling, like a pool, bath or sandy beach. If you are at all nervous about the animals and plants you might encounter, then choose a shallow, sandy beach to start on.
Some people find it is easiest to kneel in the shallows, while others are more comfortable standing further in. To begin with, you want to be comfortable so that you can dip your head in and focus solely on getting the hang of breathing with your face underwater.
It’s a strange and sometimes scary sensation, brought on by a fascinating adaptation our bodies have to prevent drowning. Try not to breathe through your nose at all, because this will make your mask fog up.
Often, people who are nervous bite down on the snorkel without realising, giving themselves a headache. Relax and let the snorkel sit in your mouth.
Once you are comfortable in your mask, float in the water with your face down and practise your breathing. Then, when you are ready, you can start swimming around and looking for marine-life!
During your first snorkel, you may not see anything but sand, but don’t be disheartened. The more often you snorkel, the more you will discover. There are many different beautiful green, red and brown seaweeds to behold, as well as seagrasses, and hovering over a patch of these for a while may reveal the presence of a camouflaged fish or slow-moving crab.
Whenever you do see something, try to remember some of its features, so you can try and ID it when you come home. It may seem like you will never recognise these creatures, but it gets much easier with practice and over time you will get better at spotting things and knowing where to look. You will gain a better understanding of the tide times, winds and weather conditions that affect the visibility and comfort of your snorkelling session.
There are many fantastic places to snorkel in Port Phillip Bay, and here we have only selected a few of the easiest and calmest.
When choosing where to go, ask yourself what direction the wind is blowing. The visibility is always best at a beach where the wind is blowing offshore (away from the beach).
The visibility is often best around high tide and if there has been rain or a lot of wind the visibility is likely to be poor.
Here are some favourites of ours and great spots to start out snorkelling.
Jawbone Marine Sanctuary
Clifton Springs Old Pier
Rye Beach Front and Pier
Snorkelling is a freeing, engaging and exciting activity that is accessible to all different types of people, of all ages. The buoyancy of water is the great leveler, allowing people of all different levels of ability and health to float gently with their eyes on another world.
It can be energetic or peaceful, exhilarating or relaxing, and has proven benefits for physical and mental health. Snorkeling is a good method for exercising joints, working out your lungs and heart and increasing your sense of wellbeing and engagement, both through the meditative act of snorkel-breathing and by facilitating a connection to your environment.
Port Phillip Bay is incredibly healthy for a bay surrounded by several million people, and boasts a huge diversity of marine-life. While the Great Barrier Reef is a special place, the waters of southern Australia have far more animals and plants and at least 80% of these are found nowhere else in the world, compared with only 11% of species in the Great Barrier Reef. You owe it to yourself to see some of that life for yourself.
It has been proven that interactions with wildlife impact individuals’ levels of care towards the environment. By bringing yourself (and friends and family) directly in contact with our marine environments through snorkelling, you will become an ambassador for the life beneath the waves.