Difference Between Snorkeling and Scuba Diving | A Comparison Guide

Want to know the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving?

Snorkeling and scuba diving combined, when done in the water, are two completely different activities. What’s the difference between scuba diving and snorkeling? Snorkeling uses masks and snorkels and usually comes close to the surface of the water. Meanwhile, diving goes a long way using a self-contained breathing device, also known as SCUBA diving equipment. 

So, how are they different from each other? Which is better? Why would anyone choose either of them? So without further upheaval, here is the main difference between snorkeling and scuba diving.

Difference between Snorkeling and Scuba diving

SnorkelingScuba Diving
PurposeRecreational, spearfishing, freedivingRecreational, spearfishing, free diving, professional & military operations
Essential EquipmentMask, snorkel, finsScuba mask, dive suit, regulator, compressed gas tank, buoyancy compensator, fins
MethodFace submerged; Hold the breath when diving, take in air through the snorkelWhole-body submerged; Breath directly through a full-face mask attached to the regulator
Duration UnderwaterAs long as you can hold your breath or the top end of the snorkel is above waterUntil tank runs out of gas supply
Threat and RisksDehydration, fleeting boats and watercraft, poisonous underwater life forms, sunburn, hyperventilationDecompression sickness, oxygen toxicity, nitrogen narcosis, marine life, boats
Skill LevelExperienced swimmerTrained and certified scuba diver

Although both branches have recreational purposes and are aimed at observing the ocean’s natural wonders, the biggest difference between scuba diving and Deep Sea diving is the potential for their exploration.

SNUBA has been around since 1988 and shows an estimated six million people a new way to “move beyond snorkeling,” the NSUBA website explains

A snorkel can enjoy fish, marine life and many colorful rocks submerged in the ocean to catch your breath and keep a close eye or to enjoy a snorkel while floating on the surface. Meanwhile, a scuba diver easily goes deeper and stays down longer.

In addition to the Sulfa Fissure of colored corals, fish, sea turtles, and rays, more eels, etc., available to the sun, the diver will also be able to find deep rocks, ship racks, caverns, and walls that cannot be explored in any other way.

Difference between Scuba Diving and Deep Sea Diving

Both need snorkel and diving masks. There is a pair of fins to complete the kit, which allows marine life lovers to use their leg muscles to navigate easily through the water. Some snorkels also complement their equipment with a vest to control body temperature, just like scuba divers. 

It is also recommended to use a sunscreen vest, which can provide a spur to the surface and can be interrupted to get down.

Nevertheless, the essential difference between snorkeling and scuba diving gear is that scuba diving requires additional critical equipment. The pressurized air cylinder is logically the main part of the scuba diving equipment; also, we have to add a regulator, air gauge, and weight belt. We cannot forget the buoyancy control device and the depth gauge or dive computer. Using a dive computer requires some profound knowledge.

  • For snorkeling, all you need is a mask and a snorkel.
  • To dive, you will need to take qualified divers or get help from a nearby instructor in the water.
  • To dive, you go deep. But on the snorkel, you stay on the surface.
  • The breathing technique is different.
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving both have personal risks.
  • Snorkeling vs. scuba diving

It’s worth looking at each of these issues in a little more detail. Don’t go ahead and go on a scuba dive unless you pay attention to the point below or fit yourself with any snorkel!

Difference Between Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

For snorkeling, all you need is a Mask and a Snorkel.

A lot more is required for scuba diving in the manner of expert equipment. For example, to scuba dive, you will usually need diving suits, diving masks, tanks, regulators, fins, and a biceps control device (BCD).

To snorkel, you will usually need a mask and snorkel. You can also wear fins, and are probably recommended if you are snorkeling for a long time or if you want to travel long distances.

To dive, you need to be qualified or need the help of an instructor in the water.

Any scuba diver will tell you that scuba diving requires a qualification in one or the other, such as open water certification. This is because you need to know what to do when using your devices underwater – your devices are your life support system – and scuba diving, as you can imagine, has a set of risks of its own.

It consists of a pressurized gas tank filled with air nitro enriched with extra oxygen: 36% oxygen and less nitrogen to reduce decay. 

What’s more, scuba diving in a group is generally safe. There is safety in numbers, and both snorkeling and diving should be done with at least one other person.

Snorkeling is usually less risky when it comes to going solo. While scuba diving requires the backup and guidance of instructors, you can go snorkeling without any training. However, if you want to dive underwater, it is worth learning how to control your breathing.

To dive, you go deep – and for a snorkel, you stay on the surface.

As mentioned, the main difference between scuba diving and snorkeling is that one is deeper than the other! When considering snorkeling vs. scuba diving, you need to consider whether you want to stay on the surface (snorkeling), or dive under scandal in the water (scuba diving). 

According to Trip Advisor’s 2019 Traveler’s Choice Awards, snorkeling in Iceland’s Silfra Fisher is one of the top 5 things to do on earth! 

The choice is yours. Many people prefer to go scuba diving because they are usually found more in marine life. There is also the fact that scuba diving produces a feeling of weightlessness which is, trust me, the mind is vaguely incredible! However, both snorkeling/diving gives you the best opportunity to see coral and enjoy the vast open water in general.

If you are not in the mood for deep diving right now, it would be best to start with snorkeling and work your way through the ocean. As suggested, you will need to take some training to explore the depths.

The method of breathing is different.

The way you breathe is the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving, which means you need to learn a handful of techniques if you intend to try them at any time.

The open water course only takes days to days, and this minor blue planet is your ticket to more than 70% of what we call home. 

With snorkeling, you will need to return to the surface frequently to get the water out. This is a safe way to make sure you always have air. However, if you want to go on a snorkeling dive, there are a few practices you can use to further your breathing journey a bit. You will always have to seize your breath.

You should never catch your breath with scuba diving but continue the breathing air provided by the tank. You are completely submerged and have a diving mask and regulator. You can use it for breathing safely underwater.

Both snorkeling and scuba diving carry individual risks.

Then no matter how you go into the water, there are always dangers as scuba diving is an extrem sport.

Using the wrong devices or techniques is likely to end up with scuba diving problems for a long time. There is also the fact that if you do not keep an eye on your dive limits, you will suffer from decompression sickness. This is why training and qualifying are essential so you can become a competent scuba diver.

As mentioned, it is also essential for a few people to go diving with you. As many people live around you, you will be safe if something goes wrong. I wouldn’t recommend you explore the dive site with a large group of 30 divers, but you know what I mean!

Snorkeling carries very different risks. In this case, you run the risk of running craft boats if they cannot find you. In severe cases, you may also find that you are at risk of sunburn or dehydration, or keep away from your group or the boat with the flow. 

So, as always, you must prepare before you snorkel, and you should be aware of your surroundings and environmental conditions. Remember that this can change quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Snorkeling or Scuba Diving Better?

A snorkeler can enjoy the fish, marine life and many colorful reefs submerging in shallow waters to take a closer look holding a breath, or simply from floating at the surface looking down while breathing through the snorkel. Meanwhile, a scuba diver easily goes much deeper and stays down there much longer.

Is scuba diving and snorkeling the same thing?

No, it isn’t. Snorkeling lets you enjoy the underwater world from the surface of the water and hold your breath for a closer look. Scuba diving is a sport that requires certification, good health and is more expensive than snorkeling.

Do snorkels make you breathe underwater?

The answer is YES. A snorkel tube attached to a full face mask will allow you to breathe underwater. It connects to the mask on top and is designed so that it provides air inside the mask, but it keeps water out. Thus, to breathe well underwater, you should use a full-face snorkel mask. Learn how do snorkels work underwater.

However, wearing a flat scuba or snorkeling mask will make you look 34% bigger and 25% closer when you are underwater, so you will see cool things anyway. 


Now, you will have gotten a brief overview of the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving, as much as you want to know. Look at them and make your decision, then go on the type of marine life that suits you. Enjoy!

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