What is Snorkeling? A Beginner’s Guide

|October 18, 2019
Wailana is a writer & editor from Hawaii, and loves exploring new horizons. Her work has appeared in Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, among others.

Snorkeling in Iceland is one of the most rewarding activities you can do year-round at Silfra Fissure. It’s totally safe and almost anyone can do it.

Snorkeling in Iceland is one of the most rewarding activities you can do year-round at Silfra Fissure. It’s totally safe and almost anyone can do it.

Before you jump in the water, though, there are a few basic things you need to know before you try to snorkel.

If you’re a total beginner, this guide on what is snorkeling will be really useful to you. You’ll learn the four essentials to get you snorkeling like a boss:

What is Snorkeling, Anyway?

Snorkeling is one of those things that you either know a lot about it, or can’t tell the difference between snorkeling and scuba. To get you started, we’ve broken it down for you:

Snorkeling meaning: Snorkeling is an underwater activity that involves a breathing tube. A mask is a common add-on so you can actually see underwater. It’s designed so you can explore underwater canyons and vivid green moss without having to worry about breathing — it’s all sorted out for you.

Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure Iceland - March 2016 (HD)

Plus, it’s so simple — almost anyone can do it. All you need is a mask and snorkel tube, then it’s time to hit the water.

In Iceland, snorkeling is mainly done at Silfra Fissure. Silfra is a water-filled crack between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Nowhere else on Earth can you snorkel between two continental plates!

Silfra Fissure was recently named as one of the top activities in the world by TripAdvisor.

So now you know what is snorkeling, here are a few great ways to get the most out of the fun:

What you need to know before Snorkeling

So yeah, almost anyone can try snorkeling. But to make the most of it, you should get some basic preparation under your belt.


Learn how to swim. Though you don’t really need to swim at Silfra Fissure, because the glacier water gently guides you along its current, it never hurts to know how to swim!

Master the art of freestyle, as that kicking technique will be your best friend while you’re snorkeling. Iceland’s swimming pools are great places to practice.

Knowing how to swim means you’re just more flexible, mobile, and safer in the water.

Learn how to breathe

Breathing through a tube is not exactly like normal breathing! You’ll have to get used to getting less air than usual. You’ll need to keep your breath at a steady pace. Practice keeping your breath calm and stable.

You can try breathing at home. Make sure you’re in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Then take a large breath, and imagine filling your lungs up with air.

Picture filling up your diaphragm (in the middle of your torso), then chest, then the top of your torso. Your lungs are more likely to be filled up to capacity. This will help train your lungs to expand with air properly.

Conserve your energy

Moving through water, as you probably know, can also be a challenge if you’re not used to it. Snorkeling can take a lot out of you. While you’re swimming, you will use muscles you might not have used before. Kicking around in fins can also be a bit difficult if you’ve never done it before.

Of course, don’t kick around too hard, or you might risk damaging the underwater nature. Stay eco-friendly!

The important thing to remember is to stay relaxed, and keep your body and breath steady and calm.

The slower you go, the more fun you’ll have and the better experience you’ll have overall.


Snorkeling at Silfra is something absolute beginners can do. It’s so safe and easy, and needs no preparation!

But if you DO want to practice to be a bit more comfortable in the water, we get it. The best way is to head to your local pool and take a few practice swims. Bring your snorkel mask and tube and try breathing. You’ll want to keep your arms still while your feet does most of the work, propelling you forward.

While you’re snorkeling, you might get water in your tube. Simply blow hard and clear out all the water.

You might also get air in your mask. Simply press your mask against your face, blow out through your nose.

If you feel pressure in your ears, simply pinch your nose slightly and blow out. It will equalize the pressure and make you more comfortable in the water.

Snorkeling Gear – What is a Dry Snorkel?

When you book a snorkel tour with us, we provide all the gear you need to snorkel.

Snorkeling equipment

Snorkeling Equipment: There are 3 types of snorkels – basic, semi-dry and dry snorkel.

  • A basic snorkel is a basic breathing tube that forms a J at the mouthpiece. 
  • A semi-dry snorkel is a basic snorkel that has a simple splash guard at the top of the snorkel.
  • A dry snorkel is a basic snorkel with a dry top feature that prevents water from entering the opening.

Your mouthpiece should be made of silicon. It should not move as your jaws relax.

As you put your mouthpiece in place, the tip of the snorkel should be over the crown of your head when facing down in the water. This way, the tip of the snorkel reaches its highest point and avoids water splash.

How to put on a dry suit? Guide from Dive Silfra Iceland

At Silfra, we’ll outfit you with your snorkel mask and tube, as well as an undersuit, dry suit, hood and gloves, and fins.

Please bring: To keep yourself warm in the 2 degrees Celsius, please wear some thin thermals and warm socks as your base layer, under your toasty dry suit!

Snorkeling Do’s & Don’ts

DO Listen to your instructor

Before any snorkel tour, you’ll usually get a safety briefing. Follow your instructor’s guidelines as closely as possible. They know the surroundings and safety issues intimately.

DO Always be aware of your surroundings

We know Silfra is gorgeous and you should definitely take in the whole magical experience. Just be careful not to stray too close to the rocks that you might scrape against them. There is usually enough space, but it’s a good rule to keep in mind, just in case.

DO Defog your mask

Make sure you defog your mask so the gear won’t fog up while you’re snorkeling due to the sudden temperate change. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Baby shampoo
  • Anti-fog from a dive store
  • Old-fashioned spit in the mask and rub around, wash it out and all ready to go!

DON’T strap the mask over your ears

The mask straps should go above your eyes, not over your ears. Make sure there aren’t any twists on the straps.

Snorkeling is one of the best things to do in the water, and one of the top year-round activities in Iceland!

Ready to try snorkeling? Why not book your first snorkeling tour in Silfra today?


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