By Steve Gerrard:
You don’t need to be a diver to enjoy the crystal clear cenotes. These incredible windows to the underground can easily be explored by snorkelers. Proper equipment allows the snorkeler not only to see, swim and breathe in the water, but also provide a level of comfort and confidence, which changes this alien world into a friendly and familiar place. There are four basic pieces of equipment that provides the opportunity to see these extraordinary cenotes; mask, fins, snorkel and buoyancy vest.
THE MASK – you cannot see underwater unless you have some type of air space between your eyes and the water. The eye is designed to see through air because it is less dense than water Goggles were first designed and used but had problems with pressure squeezing around the face causing pain and risk of injury to the eye and surrounding area. By using a bigger air space that includes the nose, it is possible to exhale into the mask and equalize the pressure inside with that from outside. With a flexible and comfortable skirt, the mask provides the clear vision to safely view the underwater world.
The mask should have the following features:
– LENS should be tempered glass or safety glass.
– SKIRT flexible silicone material that will not rot or discolor from the sun. It should have a double seal for better fit and comfort.
– NON-CORROSIVE BAND STRAP must be adjustable and can lock in place. Should also split or be wide enough at the back of the head.
– NOSE POCKET to be used to squeeze the nose for equalizing pressure inside the ears and sinuses.
– MASK FIT there is an incredible amount of different facial contours. So, there are – many masks to choose from to match the mask skirt and your face.
– CORRECTION LENS several options are available. Consult your eye doctor for the best type to correct your vision with your mask.
FINS AND FOOT – propulsion through the water is the next important step. Your range of movement, speed and efficiency (depending on strength and endurance) are dramatically improved when using fins. Fins provide power and enable you to swim greater distances and longer periods of time without getting tired. There are two basic styles, the full- foot and open-heel. The full-foot fins fit like a pair of shoes and come in the same standard sizes as shoes. Open-heel fins come in sizes ranging from x-small, small, medium, large and extra-large sizes and come with an adjustable heel strap that hold the foot in place. These fins are designed to be worn with a wet suit. As with the mask, the materials, designs and features vary. Fins manufactured today are designed with synthetic material with choices from polyurethane, thermoplastic, graphite and composites. These materials make them light in weight and are offered in a variety of colors. Be careful not to expose fins to intense heat as they can warp. Some fins float and some sink. Probably the best characteristic and a good compromise is a fin that is close to being neutrally buoyant. Fin length and flexibility depend on your physical capability and experience level. The larger the surface area of the fin the more water you can push. For most people, good flexibility is easier to handle and provides the snap in your fin stroke to propel you through the water. The choice between open-heel and a full-fit fin will all depend on your interest level. For most casual snorkelers, the full-foot fin is less expensive, lighter to carry and performs the job. For scuba diving, the open-heel fin with adjustable strap is the preferred choice because of the amount of drag and weight necessary to swim through the water. Proper size and fit are important for comfort and performance. Like choosing a mask, finding or using the correct fins for you is a personal decision. Be sure they are comfortable and are appropriate for your size and strength.
THE SNORKEL – A snorkel allows you to keep your face in the water while swimming and enjoying the sights. This provides the snorkeler many hours of relaxation with less exertion and weariness. When selecting a snorkel consider both comfortable fit and low breathing resistance. Mouth pieces vary in size and flexibility. If it does not fit it will cause much discomfort and possible sores. Breathing resistance is influenced by tube length, tube shape, and bore size. The ideal snorkel has a gentle curve, a smooth interior bore, and short tube. If you have a long tube, you create greater resistance and a larger dead space especially difficult for the smaller diver. Some snorkels have one- way drain valves at the bottom of the tube. For some divers, it may be worth trying as they can make it easier to clear the snorkel at the surface. Do not be fooled by snorkels that have fancy gimmicks or devices located at the top as they will probably increase resistance or may cause more problems. Keep it simple.
SNORKEL VEST – This safety tool can control your buoyancy at the surface if you are less buoyant or perhaps become tired. The vest should fit like a bib and provides the snorkeler with the appropriate lift at the surface. The inflated vest minimizes the energy used while swimming, keeps the lungs higher and breathing easier, and keeps the snorkel higher above of the water.