One of our great travel joys is snorkeling off the beach or better yet, snorkeling right off our room! We are avid snorkelers and have written much about why we love snorkeling so much in the past.
However, the one thing we are not crazy about is having to get up at dawn to get into a tour boat with potentially dozens of other people to be ferried around to various snorkeling destinations where our time is not our own. This diminishes the experience and freedom of snorkeling for us to a large degree. Therefore, when we can choose a travel destination that provides the possibility for snorkeling off the beach, we will do it every time.
When you have easy access to your snorkel location right off the beach, it is easy to gear up and also to have a place to return to for a rest, shower, bathroom break or food break in complete comfort. These amenities are available on some boats to some extent, but rarely match the comfort of being back on land. In budget boats, the “amenities” of seating, food, bathrooms and showers are more like devious tortures. I am sure that many of you will agree! Also, if you are in a mixed group with inexperienced snorkelers, you will be held back in what you can see and do to accommodate these novices. This is not cool for people who want to do and see everything!
Snorkeling off the beach, pier or your own room provides all the freedom and comfort that any water-lover could want. If you are staying beachfront, this is even better, since you will have easy access to your own room when you want it. In the Maldives, we love water bungalows, since you can literally go into the water right off your private deck. This is true snorkeling paradise and one of the main reasons why we love the Maldives so much as a travel destination!
One thing we have learned for sure… You can not judge a book by its cover when it comes to the quality of a snorkeling destination off the beach. We have seen some places that looked so promising, but did not deliver. Despite corals, rocks and great conditions, these places either lacked fish or had some other impediment to a really great experience. Meanwhile, other places did not look like snorkeling would even be possible or particularly enjoyable, but delivered great times that warm our hearts with fond memories.
Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka was one such place. The beach area was so small and seemed to be more for swimming than snorkeling, but once in the water, OMG! What a paradise of eels, BIG friendly turtles and a gigantic diversity of fish of all types, sizes and temperaments. It was magical! The best part about Hikkaduwa was that we were staying right in front of this section of beach, which made it possible for us to go into the water multiple times of day and get out if it became crowded or we just wanted a rest. Adventure + Comfort = Our perfect style!
People often ask us whether the cost of over-water bungalows is worth it in expensive destinations like Maldives, Malaysia and the South Pacific. We always provide the same answer: Yes and No. If you are going to lay on the sand of the beach, hang out at the pool and eat all day and night, then save your money and stay cheaper on land. However, if you want to be in the water snorkeling, free diving and swimming around the clock, then you will really enjoy the comfort provided by your own water bungalow. If you are not sure, then split your next trip to stay a few days on the beach and a few days over-water and see which experience you enjoy more. For some people, the novelty of overwater accommodation wears off quick, while for others (like us), the benefits just keep on giving…
If you are looking for great locations to snorkel off the beach, try searching various travel forums specifying that you want to snorkel off the sand. One of the tricks that we use works well, but not perfectly is to use Google Maps (satellite view) or Google Earth to check out possible vacation destinations. You can often spot reefs and rocky areas in the water on their maps. A reef or rocky area is much more likely to provide a hospital environment for snorkeling and if it is swimmable from land, you will be golden. Doing this same thing can save you from wasted trips into the water if you are not sure where the best reef locations reside. Another benefit is that you can accurately judge the swimming distances, which is really important if you are not a strong swimmer. For us, a kilometer off shore is no problem. We are just getting started at this distance… Best of luck!
Enjoy our beach snorkeling video!
What type of snorkeling do you prefer? Where was your best experience?