An accomplished, well travelled writer and reviewer, Michele resides in Brisbane. Witty and highly articulate, her rivetting reviews show life through the eyes of a highly Gifted Adult viewing a world where she has an IQ in the top 1% of that world.
Published April 25th 2012
"I'd like to be under the sea in an octopus' garden in the shade."
Snorkelling may seem like a simple kids' activity done with stuff you got from Crazy Clarke's but it is not. It is a serious and potentally hazardous activity and it can claim lives. Fifty eight Australian snorkellers or divers had funerals between 1998 - 2005. That's two school class rooms. An inquiry led to the introduction in January 2012 of the fifty five page, 'Recreational Diving and Snorkelling Code of Practice.' This means that places offering such activities have to clean their acts up now because a code of practice when breached is admissible in court.
I don't understand any parent giving a child snorkel gear so they can float face down somewhere hopefully using a specific breathing technique some adults can't get. If you are somewhere like the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling is an incredible experience. If you've never done it before go with a tour group. You will be instructed. You will be watched.
You need some basic gear. A wet suit keeps you warm and aids flotation. A weight belt depends on fiddly factors such as whether your buoyancy is positive or negative. Forgo one. Test the fit of the mask by putting it over your face unstrapped. Take a breath. If it clings to your face unheld, beaut. A snorkel should be attached. Don't call them 'flippers', they are 'fins' and you need a pair. A little trick I picked up is to wear them with socks.
You need to be able to see out of an unfogged pair of goggles. There's some gorgeous stuff on a reef. It may sound bogan but even the Special Forces do this: spit in each side of your goggles then rinse them in the water. It works a treat plus Kate Winslet did a spitting scene in Titanic. If you are entering the water from the shore, when your fins are on, walk backwards. If you are jumping from rocks, wait for a tidal surge, lean your head forward and leap away from the rocks to clear them.
A tour group is likely to head off in a boat manned by at least one qualified and experienced instructor. A head count and time of entry will be recorded. You will be paired in buddies and look out for each other. Breath hold divers, like me will be noted. Prior to submerging your face, practice breathing through your mouth, nice calm regular breaths. Then get into it. Look at the pretty fish. Look at that reef the Crown of Thorns Starfish is eating. Don't swim over to a Box Jelly Fish or a Blue Ringed Octopus for a better look. Be prepared to see white tipped reef sharks. This is not a crisis situation. They live there and they move gracefully. They have fish on tap. They don't want your leg.
If you are going to breath hold dive, with your snorkel out of your mouth, take no more than four deep breaths then snorkel in and hold. You submerge by folding your body in half and extending your legs so you are vertically upside down and your fins vanish beneath the surface. You are descending and water exerts pressure. Equalise by holding the nose piece and blowing. I gradually release my held breath. After swimming around the depths you run out of breath. At the point where you realise you need air you still have to swim to the surface. Try to get the timing right because if you pass out, you won't surface. Clear your snorkel by blowing water out out of it like a whale or taking it out of your mouth.
Keep an eye on your dive buddy. It's good if the snorkel is in their mouth but note other signs of life present. The guy in the boat has put up a flag which indicates divers present. You don't need propellors coming through. The guy has binoculars and is monitoring things. Don't give him a joyful, touristy wave- that's an emergency signal he has to respond to. If he points at you and you are okay, give a thumbs up.
An emergency will be responded to. Try not to be one. The aim is for everyone to be safely back in the boat and for the exit head count to equal exactly the entrance head count. All good. You'll just love a hot shower and a coffee in dry clothes. A fashion tip: in the photo I have coloured ribbons in my hair. Stand out in a crowd and stay safe.