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The Ultimate Guide to SNUBA Diving: All You Need To Know

Island Life
June 21st 2019
The Ultimate Guide to SNUBA Diving: All You Need To Know

What's with the SNUBA craze?

SNUBA, a genius combination between scuba diving and snorkeling that makes it possible to enjoy the best of the undersea world. Two words to describe it? Pure magic. That is precisely what you'll find once you decide to set out on a SNUBA expedition.

Sandals resorts that offer SNUBA diving: Sandals Royal Bahamian (the Bahamas), Sandals Negril, Sandals Ochi (Jamaica), Sandals Regency la Toc, Sandals Grande St. Lucian and Sandals Halcyon Beach (Saint Lucia).

From Hawaii, to the Florida Keys, all the way to the Bahamas, SNUBA diving is known and loved by vacationers. It is, in a sense, a gateway from snorkeling, right on through to scuba diving, without getting thrown off the deep-end prematurely. It should be noted that SNUBA cannot be considered scuba diving training, though some people find that this easy transition helps prepare them mentally for scuba diving. SNUBA doesn't always have to lead up to scuba diving though, as it does well on its own, and offers you the chance to see much more than you would on a typical snorkeling tour.

In this article on the Sandals Blog:

How SNUBA diving was invented
The SNUBA raft
SNUBA and scuba, the difference?
SNUBA versus snorkeling
Pros and cons of SNUBA diving
Know before you go
Snuba Safety?
Essential SNUBA skills
SNUBA diving equipment
SNUBA tours in the Caribbean

A group of SNUBA divers

How SNUBA diving was invented

A group of PADI instructors got together in the late 80s (1988 by way of some accounts), and decided to plan out an avenue that would push the limits of snorkeling. Thus, SNUBA diving was born, and later perfected into what it is today. SNUBA, an experience that incorporates snorkeling gear, a floating raft, breathing apparatus, and compressed oxygen, makes it possible for you to breathe freely as you explore the magic of the undersea world!

The SNUBA raft

SNUBA diving rafts are generally made of high-quality inflatable fabric, with fully welded seams and can hold up to two air cylinders, depending on the make and model. The air cylinders are placed for convenience and ease of change in a recessed compartment. SNUBA rafts often come in either the 'Standard' or 'Quad' models, which provide air for two, and four divers. The SNUBA raft is great for support before divers get into the underwater action.

Three SNUBA rafts on beach

What is the difference between SNUBA and scuba diving?

SNUBA is similar to scuba diving in the sense that it allows you to navigate the ocean's depths while still being able to breathe. It is not a rite of passage to scuba diving, but can help give you a feel of the scuba diving experience. SNUBA diving and scuba diving are still worlds apart though, particularly as you don't need to get a scuba diving certification to participate in SNUBA. Even for skilled scuba divers, SNUBA offers a simplified and relaxing adventure, complete with a feel that is comparable to scuba. Simply put, Snuba allows you to get into the water more quickly than you would for a scuba diving expedition.

Couple Scuba diving

Picture: Scuba diving involves an oxygen tank that has to be attached to your back, with SNUBA diving you breathe through a tube attached to a floating raft.

SNUBA versus snorkeling

For anyone who wants to experience the ocean snorkeling can be an amazing place to begin you journey, but SNUBA undeniably has the edge when the two are compared. This is because SNUBA diving, in general, is more in-depth and liberating than snorkeling. It allows you to dive deeper and experience more, with the convenience of a breathing apparatus, which means you don't need to rush to the surface because you're out of breath. This makes it possible to be completely immersed in the experience and swim about freely, while still being connected to the raft, which adds an element of safety (or comfort).

Couple snorkeling

Picture: Snorkeling involves breathing air through a snorkel, this limits the depth you can go underwater. SNUBA diving allows you to go deeper and still be able to breathe.

Pros and cons of SNUBA diving

The pros

  • No need to come up for air during your SNUBA diving expedition
  • Not as complicated as scuba diving and does not require previous experience
  • No heavy equipment to carry as with scuba
  • More fun than snorkeling

The cons

  • SNUBA diving may not be available at your destination of choice. Find out in advance.
  • Usually this is not an issue, but viewing can be limited depending on the diving location. Do some research to ensure you sign up with a company familiar with the best SNUBA locations at your destination of choice.

Expert Tip: Ask you tour company to make special arrangements if you prefer private SNUBA sessions as opposed to being part of a group.

snuba equipment gear watersports

Photo credit: Robert Alford/

Know before you go

  • In the start of the SNUBA diving session you'll get to practice your breathing techniques by holding onto the raft, which basically acts like a pool surface while you're in the water (10 mins).
  • Your safety briefing may happen at the dive site (15-30 mins).
  • Equipment outfitting will usually be done on the beach, or on the boat ahead of the expedition (5-10 minutes).
  • Aside from your diving mask, fins, and regulator, you'll also be fitted with a SNUBA harness, which keeps the air hose and regulator in a comfortable positon.

Ultimate Guide To Snuba Kid Underwater

Photo credit: Andy B. Casagrande

  • You'll have a weight belt which allows you to easily swim under the surface.
  • Children as young as eight can participate in SNUBA tours! Some tour companies make it possible for even four to seven year olds to join their families by 'Power Snorkeling' near the surface using a mask and regulator.
  • You'll explore the ocean with your tour group (25-30 minutes).
  • You'll have a debriefing session once your SNUBA tour is over, where you'll be able to share and listen to feedback from other participants of the tour (5 mins).
  • Overall, you're in for an adventure which may span at least two hours.

bluestriped snapper tropical coral reef

Photo credit: Richard Whitcombe/

Getting to the SNUBA dive site

In some cases you'll take a boat out to a designated SNUBA dive site, or you'll start out straight from the beach. If you're on a boat, all you'll need to do is climb down the ladder, get into the water, and grab onto the SNUBA raft. If you're on the beach, your tour instructors may have you take a kayak in some instances, out to the Snuba raft once you're all suited up.

Nassau Grouper

Photo credit: Drew Mc Arthur/

You must know how to swim to SNUBA dive

In order to enjoy the benefits of SNUBA diving, it is important that you know how to swim. If you don't, perhaps this is a good time and reason to learn!

As SNUBA dives take you nearly 20-feet deep, basic swim skills are a must. Not to mention that it helps to be comfortable in the water to make the most of the experience.

How deep can you go when SNUBA diving?

SNUBA diver silhouette

Photo credit: Erin Donalson/

Keeping in mind that the air hose which is attached to the SNUBA raft carries the oxygen, you can dive to a maximum depth of 20 feet (6 metres), which is the length of the hose, during your SNUBA expedition. Not everyone decides to go that deep however, as you can enjoy the benefits and sightings SNUBA makes available even from a more shallow vantage.

Keep in mind that your guide will be with you every step of the way to help you navigate this experience. As you can only go so deep during a SNUBA dive, it is easy to return to the surface to ask questions, or just to take a breath of fresh air.

Avoid touching the marine life

To be a good SNUBA diver, one of the most important things to note is that you should always avoid touching marine life, particularly coral reefs. You can however, take lots of photos for cool memories later!

How safe is SNUBA diving?

SNUBA instructor instructing SNUBA students

All instructors are certified to ensure every SNUBA dive is as safe as possible. Ahead of any SNUBA experience, participants are briefed on what to expect during the expedition, and what marine life they can expect to see, based on their location. Extended safety briefings are a feature of all SNUBA tours, and most touch on the following:

If you are still concerned about how safe SNUBA is, consider this; The SNUBA system is designed with safety in mind, and the guides are trained to ensure your safety and wellbeing at all times!

Essential SNUBA skills

Woman SNUBA diving over reef

Breathing through the regulator

Breathing through the regular is understandably different from regular breathing (hey, you're underwater!) and may take some getting used to. Just keep breathing long, deep breaths, which you may find add to the therapeutic feel of the experience.

Don't worry; you'll get the hang of it!

Getting back to the surface

To get back to the surface while SNUBA diving, you'll need to use the hose to pull your body upwards, with 'hand-over-hand' movements. This helps to control ascents and descents, which can be important when navigating over reef systems.

Important hand signals

Hand signals make it easy to communicate while underwater. Some of the important signals you will learn during your SNUBA diving tour are how to indicate you're ready to go back to the surface, how to draw another SNUBA diver's attention to something you've seen, and how to alert others of potential dangers.

SNUBA divers giving OK signal


Simple skills like equalizing can be important during a SNUBA diving session. All you need to do is squeeze your nose and blow outward gently as you descend. This should help your ears feel a little more comfortable while diving.

Recovering your regulator

It may seem unlikely that you're going to misplace the very thing that keeps you breathing under water. Stranger things have happened. In the event that you do, there are various ways you can go about recovering your regulator. If it falls out in front of you while SNUBA diving, you'll simply need to reach out, place it back into your mouth, and clear it of water by blowing forcefully into it. If your regulator falls out behind you, or you aren't quite sure where it is, you may just want to return to the surface briefly to get it back in place, making sure to breathe the air out of your lungs as you make your way to the surface.

Female diver giving OK signal

Mask clearing

Water getting into your diving mask is a common occurrence during SNUBA diving expeditions. You can minimize the chances of this happening by ensuring your mask is strapped on right - tight enough to stay put, but not so tight that you're uncomfortable. If water gets into your mask anyway, you can simply follow these PADI endorsed steps to clear your mask.

  1. Press the top of your mask firmly against your face
  2. Blow through your nose and tilt your head back
  3. The air forces the water out of the bottom of the mask, so you should be ready to continue your exploration in no time!

If this doesn't work, you can simply return to the surface to empty the water out of your mask.

Ascents and descents

The weight belt makes it easy to descend and maintain the correct depth while SNUBA diving, but you can also use your arms and legs to control buoyancy. The most important thing to remember is that you can easily ascend back to the surface by using 'hand to hand' movements to propel your body in the direction of the surface.


  • Don't touch the corals, and don't take any with you even if they appear dead.
  • Keep your breathing regulator in at all times.
  • Be at one with nature, do not harass the sea creatures.
  • Wear reef-friendly sunscreen.
  • Always listen to your tour guide.
  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings and of other participants.
  • Please note that SNUBA is not recommended for women who are pregnant.

Hawksbill Turtle

Photo credit: Andrey Armyagov/

SNUBA diving equipment

  • Diving Mask & Fins - The mask and fins used in the SNUBA diving experience are the same which are used for snorkeling.
  • Weight belt - The weight of each belt is determined by certified SNUBA guides. Weight belts are optional, but recommended, particularly for divers who prefer to stick to 'power snorkeling' on the surface near the raft.
  • Harness and regulator - Air is delivered to the regulator system's mouth piece through a 20-foot hose, or airline. This airline is secured to you by a harness strapped to your body. The ailine is also connected to the compressed air cylinders on the raft, which will float above on the water's surface.
  • The raft - The SNUBA raft keeps air tanks floating, and an air pressure gauge on the raft, which is monitored by one of the guides, makes certain the group has plenty of air. All the regulator hoses are connected to a raft so that it will be easier for your SNUBA group to stay together.

snuba equipment gear ready for watersports

Photo credit: Robert Alford/

What you'll need to bring...

  • Change of clothes
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Camera (optional)
  • Water shoes (optional)
  • No jewelry that you are afraid of losing

SNUBA tours in the Caribbean

SNUBA diving is great fun while on the sunny shores of the Caribbean. If you're in the Bahamas, there are exciting SNUBA Tours in Nassau which cost US$162.53 per person. There are also SNUBA Tours in Saint Lucia, SNUBA Tours in Negril, and SNUBA Tours in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Unless you ask for an extended tour, the actual underwater exploration may be over in about 30 minutes.

Insider Tip: Try Islands Routes for SNUBA Tours in the Caribbean!

healthy coral reef

Photo credit: Richard Whitcombe/

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