Snorkeling and diving are one of the few ways to become completely immersed in the actual habitat of wild creatures, to become a part of their lives and world.
Viewing wildlife from a hide or watching quietly at a distance are soul-nourishing ways to encounter nature but there is something even more connected about being in water, the element of marine life itself.
This is the third in my Things to Do At The Beach series.
Start Your Kids Goggling Young!
Teaching young children to snorkel and engage with marine wildlife from an early age is a great way to encourage respect for the wild and a love of adventure, though it can be pretty chilly in our northern UK waters. ‘Goggling’ is an easy way to break them in gently. whilst staying relatively warm
So what on earth is Goggling?
Well first, the back-story; why I think all children should learn to snorkel (and goggle!)
My own first snorkeling experience wasn’t until I was 26, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
Learning to Breathe
Confidently donning snorkel and mask and not caring about the ungainly nature of the fins (flippers to the uninitiated) I waddled and flapped into the warm sea, morphing seamlessly into a mermaid en route. Well, in my head anyway.
Unfortunately, as soon as my face went below the surface, my breathing stopped!
“But of course,” eyes said to brain, “nobody can breathe underwater.” The mask and snorkel were clearly not computing.
It was a wild adventure fail of epic, humiliating and frustrating proportion. Manly perseverance merely rendered me breathless and claustrophobic. Occasional fish rewarded my farcical flounderings so I spluttered aimlessly in the shallows trying to appear un-phased and confident to any amused sunbathers who might have noticed my peril. Ariel I was not.
Suddenly from nowhere, and inches from my face, a small yellowy-green stingray with stunning blue spots glided past (the imaginatively named Bluespotted Stingray!!)
I gasped (read ‘breathed’) and flicked a fin to follow this magnificent little creature. Half an hour later it was apparent that breathing had occurred! Nature’s teaching in action.
What an experience. Who knows what other fish I saw, but that little stingray was unforgettable and without him I may not have subsequently learnt to dive.
It has since been a great privilege to have snorkeled around the world, unfailingly blown away by the sheer beauty of the underwater habitat and the richness of its inhabitants.
Particular highlights include the charismatic Clownfish in Thailand, brooding Mexican barracudas and giant parrot fish, beautiful cuttlefish and squid, nurse sharks and manta rays in Belize and my favourite tropical fish, the juvenile Yellow Tailed Damselfish, which are not yellow-tailed when young but midnight blue, almost tangibly velvety, with turquoise neon spots.
Being trailed by Ramoras was interesting too; quite a sensation on a non-wetsuited body to have little fish attempt to chew off your bacteria and dead skin!
[Note the lack of cold water locations in the above list. An all-weather camper I may be but where water is concerned I am woefully tropical-blooded!]
Snorkelling with turtles is the most magical of underwater adventures, experienced regularly whilst living in Mexico and most memorably on our wedding morning in the Seychelles when Wild Daddy and I snorkelled before the main event – Mother Nature’s perfect wedding gift!
All these are the reasons I want Caroline to learn to snorkel.
What is Goggling?
It’s ingenius! Caroline dreamed up the idea for underwater marine observation without the effort nor, more importantly, the cold (especially if wearing a wetsuit);
Simply wear swimming goggles or a snorkel mask, sprawl on an inflatable with head over the side and order Wild Parent to move said inflatable at one’s whim!
Wild Parents eh? Who’d be one?!
The first time we tried it Caroline was so ecstatic to see crabs walking on the seabed and the odd fish swim past that I’d have happily dragged her around on the dinghy all day.
PLEASE try Goggling, it’s great fun for everyone!!
When using any inflatable in the open sea rather than rockpools there are important safety guidelines to consider. Read my beach safety guide and rip tide survival guide for comprehensive life-saving information, always check local tide times, coastguard warnings and the weather forecast and use a long length of rope to ensure the inflatable can’t drift too far away from the dutiful wild parent.
Top Tips for Goggling
- Avoid claustrophobia – some children get claustrophobic wearing dark snorkel masks so look at spending a little more and buy a clear or lighter silicone mask frame
- Mask better than goggles – having tried goggling with both, I prefer using a proper snorkel and mask as you can stay face-under as long as you like
- Breathing – having goggled in just swim goggles I found the cold water took my breath away so I couldn’t stay under for long. Breathe out while under water to help regulate breath
Get the Gear
Click photos to find the best prices on Amazon for goggles, silicone snorkels and masks, sets with fins and even a full-face mask with a Go-Pro mount!
KIDS SNORKEL & MASK KIDS SNORKEL & FIN SET
But you MUST try goggling. Go on, you’ll love it!
Sign up to Kids of the Wild to receive all my posts by email, and follow Things to Do at the Beach for kids entertainment ideas in the school holidays. And did you know kids can learn scuba diving from age 8? Learn more in Troy Mayne’s guest post on kids’ diving.