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scuba diving vs snorkeling

Getting your feet wet and in touch with those Nemos of the world is a blast. Neptune’s or Poseidon’s kingdom – whichever your pantheon is –  is full of exhilarating underwater experiences. And the best two ways to really get an eye-full and hands-on practice are snorkeling and scuba diving. These activities are enjoyed by millions of individuals worldwide, but they differ in many ways. It’s critical to understand these differences, these sometimes small or sometimes huge differences, in order to choose the right activity for you. In this article, we will compare snorkeling vs scuba diving, explain what each activity is, their differences, and similarities, and which one is better suited for you.

What is Snorkeling? 

Snorkeling is a sport, a leisure activity that involves swimming on the surface of the water while breathing through a plastic tube that extends above the water’s surface. The snorkel, as this apparatus is called, allows the person to breathe without having to come up for air. Added to the contraption, we’ll find a mask — attached to it so folks can see underwater. Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity that can be enjoyed by folks of all ages and skill levels, making it an excellent option for families and beginners.

The history of snorkeling is vast, strange, and complex. Snorkeling has been around for centuries, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who used hollow reeds to breathe while swimming underwater. They perfected the sport mostly for fishing purposes. Still, the modern form of snorkeling that we know today was mostly developed in the early 20th century.

And it all, more or less started out in the 1920s —  a Frenchman named Maxime Forjot invented the first modern snorkel tube, which allowed his clients to breathe while swimming face down on the surface of the water. The snorkel quickly gained popularity among swimmers and beachgoers, as it allowed them to explore the underwater world without the need for bulky diving equipment. But this was a niche market and a boutique product. 

The Yanks, in the 1930s, copied the design and began the first mass production of snorkels by the U.S. Divers Company. Suddenly, it was more accessible to the general public. Snorkeling became a popular recreational activity, especially in tropical destinations where the clear water and abundant marine life provided an ideal setting for snorkeling.

Tech, tools, and industry practices – like advances in materials and manufacturing – made snorkeling gear lighter, more durable, and more comfortable to wear. The introduction of the full-face mask in the 1970s further improved the snorkeling experience, providing better visibility and allowing users to breathe through their nose as well as their mouth.

snorkeling and scuba diving similarities

What is Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving, on the other hand, is an underwater activity that involves wearing specialized equipment that allows the diver to breathe underwater. It’s snorkeling on steroids and it needs certification and training in order for the average user to enjoy it.

The equipment includes a scuba tank filled with compressed air, a regulator, a buoyancy control device, and other pieces of equipment that are necessary for diving — it’s bulky, and somewhat dangerous but worth every thrill-seeking moment. Scuba diving allows divers to explore deeper underwater and get closer to marine life than snorkeling.

The whole enchilada of scuba diving is relatively short compared to other forms of deep-sea exploration and Atlantean recreation. The first self-contained underwater breathing apparatus  – SCUBA) – was invented by Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau in 1943. Before that, divers used cumbersome surface-supply diving equipment, which limited their range and mobility underwater.

The invention of the SCUBA gear revolutionized underwater exploration. It was a game changer that turned the world on its head. It enabled divers to stay underwater for longer periods and explore greater depths — and poke more stuff. Cousteau and Gagnan’s invention quickly gained popularity, and soon scuba diving became a popular sport and hobby.

In the early days of scuba diving, there were no formal training programs or safety standards, and many divers were injured or killed due to lack of experience and safety precautions — the activity is brought with danger the deeper you get. In the 1950s, organizations such as the National Association of Underwater Instructors  – NAUI – and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors  – PADI –  were formed to promote safe diving practices and establish certification programs for divers. They quickly created guidelines, routines, and educational seminars – as well as certifications – for the activity. 

As scuba diving technology continued to improve, divers were able to explore deeper and more challenging environments, such as shipwrecks and underwater caves. In the 1960s and 1970s, technical diving emerged as a specialized form of scuba diving, requiring specialized equipment and training to safely explore extreme depths.

Differences between Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and scuba diving differ in many ways, including the equipment used, the depth and time limits, and the techniques used for each activity — they are two different ways of getting up close and personal with Mother Nature’s vast oceans and rivers. The truth is that they share the same obsession and some of the devices but the techniques and requirements are completely different.

Let’s dive into the murky differences between both. 


Snorkeling requires only a mask, snorkel, and fins. That’s all, and sometimes the fins are optional. Scuba diving, meanwhile, demands specialized equipment such as a regulator, scuba tank, buoyancy control device, and other diving gear — and all that gear needs to be top-notch and specially maintained and cared for. 

The depth and time limits

Snorkeling is limited to the surface, while scuba diving allows divers to explore depths of up to 130 feet or more — depending on the diver’s certification and proficiency. Snorkeling also has no time limits, while scuba diving has strict time limits that are measured out by different factors.


Snorkeling is a straightforward activity that requires minimal training — all you need to know is how to swim and great through a whole. It’s rather self-explanatory. Scuba diving requires specialized training to learn the proper techniques, safety procedures, and equipment use.
scuba diver

Similarities between Scuba Diving and Snorkeling 

Scuba and snorkeling share a passion and a desire — both activities allow people to explore the underwater world, observe marine life, and enjoy the ocean’s beauty. But that is basically it. The equipment is different, the educational level is measured in miles, and the complexity of scuba – compared to snorkeling – is vast.

The best analogy is that snorkeling is checkers, while scuba is chess. Both share the same board, but that’s where the similarities end. 

Is Scuba Diving Easier than Snorkeling?

Is scuba diving easier than snorkeling? Depends on several factors. 

For beginners, snorkeling is generally simpler and easier to get into, to learn — it requires less specialized equipment and training. It’s less complex. It’s less stressful. Snorkeling is also less physically demanding than scuba diving and allows for more freedom of movement in the water. 

When picking between snorkeling and scuba diving, it’s essential to consider your physical fitness, comfort level in the water, and overall experience — it’s also incredibly important to take classes on both practically Scuba diving. Beginners will ultimately prefer snorkeling because it’s a snap to learn, while experienced divers may prefer scuba diving for its opportunities to explore deeper underwater.

Snorkeling Vs Scuba Diving

So, which is better, snorkeling or scuba diving? It ultimately depends on a lot of factors — even experienced scuba divers, the type the Navy hires for savages, sometimes prefer to strap on a snorkeling kit than all that bulky gear. It’s not just what is easier, but what the situation demands. Both allow you to rub elbows with the sea and all its beauty — so it comes down to taste, comfort levels, and well budget too. Why the latter? Because one thing we never touched on is the fact that Scuba diving is an expensive activity, while snorkeling and buying proper gear is relatively cheap.