Before you head out for Key West snorkeling tours style, take some time to learn about the basic gear you need to stay safe and have a positive experience. Whether you're thinking of snorkeling Key West as a great family-friendly activity to add to your vacation or are a serious snorkeler, the required equipment is the same. Miss any of these key components and you'll regret when you get out to the water.
1: Snorkeling Masks
Snorkeling masks allow you to see the beautiful sights below the surface of the water. They are essential snorkeling equipment but not just any mask will do. Everyone's face is unique, meaning that you have to find one that fits the contours of your face. A proper fitting mask keeps the water out and your vision clear. An ill-fitting mask leaks water in, forcing you to surface to repeatedly dump out the water. Whenever you remove your mask it fogs up, which obscures your vision.
Alternatively, a mask may be shaped incorrectly so that you have to tighten the strap too much to keep out the water. The tension of the straps can give you headaches or be so uncomfortable that you have to take it off. You may get embarrassing indented lines around your eyes from wearing the wrong mask.
A mask that fits right should be so comfortable you don't notice it. Grab a selection of masks and check one at a time. While holding your breath, press a mask gently onto your face and then remove your hands. The right mask will remain molded to your face.
You can't snorkel without a snorkel. A dry snorkel with a splash guard and a large diameter tube are ideal because they keep water out and allow more oxygen in. It's a good idea to make sure the mouth piece feels comfortable before purchasing a snorkel. Beyond that, you can choose between two types: rigid and flexible. Neither is better, but most people find that they prefer one to the other.
3: Snorkeling Fins
Snorkeling fins allow you to glide through the water with ease. Without snorkeling fins, you'll expend significantly more energy to swim than is necessary.
The first step to selecting the right fins is to look for ones that match your shoe size. But shoe size doesn't guarantee a perfect fit. Fins that are too tight will lead to foot cramps. You may have to really struggle to get your feet into the fins, but once you do the arch of your feet shouldn't feel smushed. You don't want snorkeling fins that slip on too easily or they'll definitely slip off in the water.
Fins come in two types: heel strap and full boot. Heel strap fins are designed to fit around dive booties. Most people don't need these and do better with full-boot snorkeling fins that cover their heels.
Many people forget the sunscreen when Key West snorkeling, reasoning that they're underwater and not in direct sun. You can still get very sunburnt and should wear a water-proof sunscreen.
5: Should I Buy or Rent my Snorkeling Gear?
A common question new snorkelers ask themselves is whether to buy or rent snorkeling gear. If you're on a short vacation, it makes sense to save money and rent gear. If you're planning on snorkeling at home or being somewhere for a while, it may be cheaper to buy. Buying your own gear also lets you pick what fits best. Renting gear may stick you with a mouth piece that doesn't feel comfortable or a mask that doesn't quite fit.
6: Snorkeling Vests
Snorkeling vests are an important safety feature. People who don't swim very well can still enjoy snorkeling with a vest that lets them float. Better swimmers can keep their vest deflated, and then blow air into them when they want to take a break and float for a while.
7: Underwater Cameras
Underwater cameras are a must to record a snorkeling adventure. You can't exactly pull out your cell phone underwater and snap a great picture of a school or fish or a turtle.
These are the basic things you need to enjoy snorkeling. The short time you take gathering the right gear will save you time later trying to force the wrong equipment to do what you want.