The UK public rediscovered the value of a good walk over lockdown, so why not combine a gentle hike with a snorkel, asks Andy Torbet
I’ve always equated snorkelling with walking, or more accurately, trekking. It’s non-technical, uses minimal kit and at a physical and mental level is a form of gentle exercise. Simply, it gets you into the great outdoors to appreciate the wildlife and landscapes. Since the two are analogous, the next step is obviously to combine them – hiking and snorkelling must be natural bedfellows. All the same, mixing these surface and sub-surface saunters does come with a few considerations.
Compared to all other forms of diving, snorkelling is the most lightweight, a welcome attribute when you’ve got to carry your own gear. That said, consider not just the distance but the terrain across which you’ll have to carry your kit. A 10-mile round trip along a level, well-trodden path might prove easier than a two-miler up and down a pathless, steep, boggy hillside.
It could be you have a specific site in mind, but it will take a few shorter trips to build up to it. I recommend making use of a rucksack rather than the net sacks we often use to stow our mask, fins and snorkel. It will also make the terrestrial phase of the day more comfortable.
When it comes to weight you must consider what equipment to pack in your sack. Do you really need a weight belt? If so, because you’ve a specific underwater goal in mind like seeing the Mosquito aircraft in Red Tarn at around 5-6 metres, do you take a thinner wetsuit? The reduced neoprene will require less weight to compensate for its buoyancy, but it will be colder. It’s a game of compromise.
Of course, you could choose a site best suited to non-weighted snorkellers, which removes the need for a belt altogether. Duck-diving is, after all, not compulsory. The shallow edges of lakes and many rivers lend themselves well to surface-specific snorkels. A few years ago, myself and friends snorkelled 20 miles of the River Severn and then about the same on the River Dart. We never had a weight belt between us.
Clockwise: At Red Tarn; Andy under the Dart; Aqua-rambling on the Dart
Choosing your dive site
When it comes to choosing your site, the big advantage of access-by-hiking is its ability to open up places no one else can reach (other than perhaps by helicopter) which means you may often be the first to dive there. Mountain lakes, pools tucked deep inside heavily wooded gorges, stretches of river far from roads or parts of the shoreline near coastal paths are all open to the snorkel-rambler. If you’re feeling particularly fit and adventurous, you could even pack some camping gear.
Maybe snorkel and walk a section of river with an overnight camping spot on the bank. Now is the time to make your plans. As divers we are aware of the impact of weather. But rain and winds that may not trouble us in the water can make the rest of the day a chilly chore. Consider stowing your clothes in reliable dry bags when you stash them on shore. So even if it rains when you’re out snorkelling, you can start the return walk nice and dry.
Walking, like snorkelling, brings all the benefits of gentle, low intensity exercise. However, unlike a snorkel, which seldom last for more than an hour, we can maintain a walk all day. Combine the two and you’ve got a way of exercising longer, seeing more and spending more time in, and under, the UK’s landscape.
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If any of you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Drop a note to me through the editor’s email at SCUBA or on my social media below:
Article by Andy Torbet for SCUBA magazine, Issue 122, January 2022. For more membership benefits, visit bsac.com/benefits.
Image Credits: Dan Bolt