A Different Day Out With The Kids

25 June 2013
We all know the scenario, it's the school holidays, the vacation abroad is just a distant memory and the kids are bored, the cinema's too expensive, the zoo has been done, bowling doesn't last long enough.

But wait, remember the hours the kids whiled away at the beach on holiday as they snorkeled in the surf oohing and ahhhing at the marine world?

The mask and snorkel that brought so much joy for them and so much peace for you for those 2 short weeks in the 'Med' can work their magic again as snorkeling around the UK's coastline can be exciting, fun and educational and the best bit is there are no long queues and once you have the right equipment (which you might already have) it's free to do - so what are you waiting for?! Break out the mask and Snorkel and head for the nearest coast!

Ok What Equipment Do I need?

A mask and snorkel set - this is both your viewing pane into the underwater world and the access to air we breath, these can be picked up relatively cheaply (5) in big sports stores like Decathalon and Sportsdirect or even in some of the big supermarkets.

Fins (flippers)- Fins are great for propulsion and require less effort than normal kicking, they are not however an essential so if your budget doesn't stretch to it this is the thing to lose.

Exposure Suit (wet suit) - Unfortunately even at the height of summer the seas around the UK never quite reach the temperatures you find in places like the Red Sea or the Mediterranean. Whilst July, August and September offer the warmest sea temperatures if you are going to have prolonged exposure or immersion in our waters you will want a wet suit to stave off the cold. Even a thin shortie type wetsuit will suffice and these can be picked up for under 10 in supermarkets, sports stores and we have now even seen them at service stations?!?

Ok so we have the equipment where is best to go?

The UK is surrounded by water and you are never too far from a beach. Technically speaking snorkeling is possible from any beach in the UK. There are however some tips to bear in mind in order to enhance your UK snorkeling experiences.

1) Avoid Large Sandy Beaches - Avoid snorkeling on beaches which simply consist of huge swathes of sand. These large sweeping sandy beaches rarely offer interesting underwater features and marine life is often too spread out to find.

2) Do look out for natural or man made structures - The best places to snorkel are often around natural or man made structures such as rocky outcrops, cliff walls or even around the base of piers as you tend to find that marine life swarm to these outposts.

3) Tides - Give consideration to the tides. The UK is blessed with tidal seas which account for the variety and beauty of our marine life, but as water levels drop at a given site you may find that the area you were due to snorkel is now baking in the sun. Likewise when the water level rises you may find that the same area is too deep to view from the surface. Each site has its own optimal time to snorkel according to the tides. As a rule of thumb somewhere in between low and high tide is usually ok. But that is not always the case. You can check tides times for any given site on websites such as Tide Times

4) Visibility - you may have noticed that at some beaches the water can appear brown or murky and you wouldn't want to dip a toe in to it let alone submerge your face. Despite common misconceptions the water is not in fact likely to be 'dirty' in the classic sense rather sediment and sand has probably been kicked up by the action of wave and current so that it sits in suspension in the water giving it its 'dirty' appearance. Whilst this doesn't pose any obvious health risk it does mean that you aren't going to be able to see a whole lot whilst snorkeling. Unfortunately there is no definitive way of predicting bad visibility and a site that had crystal clear water one day may be completely murky the next, but by snorkeling after a period of calm weather with low wind you will usually increase your chances of avoiding bad 'viz'.

5) Be Safe - Snorkeling is great fun but swimming in open water always poses potential hazards. You must assess your children's abilities and where appropriate consider a life jacket for them. You are the adult here and must make sure that the area your snorkeling is safe. Avoid snorkeling near boat slips or in areas frequented by boats or jet skis. Consider depth - snorkeling involves being on the surface and viewing the world below so there is no need to go deep. Currents always pose a risk and each beach, cove or bay will have its own system so if possible seek advice from a lifeguard before committing yourselves.

For inspiration on where is best to Snorkel see our Snorkel Guides