First Time Snorkeling…in Belize

I was a little scared for my first time snorkeling. The thought of just hanging out in the water for any length longer than 10 minutes is a little daunting to me. I can swim and I can tread water…but am I a strong swimmer? No.

I feel a bit like a fish out of water...but in the water...when I'm in the ocean. Click To Tweet

Having never been snorkeling I saw it as a challenge yet one I wanted to face head on. I heard Belize was one of the best places to snorkel because it’s a barrier reef area in the Caribbean sea. The thought of not attempting to snorkel there was more troubling than conquering my fear of my potential inability to tread water and swim for 45 minutes without a “land” or boat break. As soon as we arrived to our hotel, Almond Beach Resort in Hopkins, we signed up for the next morning’s snorkeling excursion.

First time snorkeling travel article blog post in Belize by Sometimes Home.

Morning Preparations

I was anxious that morning as we stood on the shore with the excursion group; I personally took a swimsuit coverup for the boat (the sun was strong), a hair-tie to keep my hair pulled off my face during the boat ride and swim, and lots of sunblock. We were fitted for our snorkeling gear – a mask consisting of goggles and a mouth piece as well as flippers – and I could feel the nerves surfacing as I generously applied 50 SPF sunscreen to my fair skin.

Boat Loading and a Revelation

We got on the boat and our captain explained a bit about the morning: we would go out about a 30-40 minute boat ride towards South Water Caye and complete two 45-minute snorkel sessions with an island break and snacks and water in between. He then asked, “Who is not a strong swimmer?” No one raised their hand but my safety in the ocean was more important than any pride I may have had: “Me,” I answered…and what do you know, I wasn’t the only one! The next words he spoke pleasantly shocked me. He said we could use LIFE VESTS in the water.

Jaw-dropped. We could?! But how could we swim?!

He showed us instead of putting the life vest around our upper body you clip it around your waist. Voila! You’re able to move your torso in and out of the water to snorkel and see the creatures below the surface! I was so relieved and felt my anxiety immediately float away.

Snorkel Time!

The life vest solution coupled with the comfort the guides were incredibly experienced and keeping an eye on us made me free to enjoy the experience. I found I loved paddling over towards the guide while in the water as he pointed out some really cool things beneath us including nurse sharks, string rays (HUGE ones too!), Loggerhead sea turtles, parrotfish, sea cucumbers and really cool coral.

The rest of the morning was a breeze and a wonderful experience. I learned the following that day:

  • Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and a team trying to keep you safe. Pride should not stand in the way!
  • If you want to, you will and can – I would have been upset if we didn’t go snorkeling and regret sucks (and isn’t really something in my vocabulary). Turns out, it was much easier than I thought.
  • If you think you applied enough sunscreen, enough times, you’re wrong. We applied 50 SPF twice in 4 hours and were still very burned afterwards; we didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. If you’ve never been snorkeling I cannot stress this enough – consider wearing a rash guard with your swimsuit to protect your skin even more. We had no idea the sun was so strong and dealt with sun burns for the next few days.

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What’s your best snorkeling tip?

Caribbean Sea barrier reef first-time snorkeling trip by travel blogger Sometimes Home. Photo by Mikkel Paige.