2012 is here and we're back with the first, First Friday Wild Post of the year! Jess Spate is a keen photographer who has been diving for over a decade, so who better to ask about delving into the depths of Zanzibar and beyond!
A few days spent exploring the underwater environment can make a great addition to almost any coastal holiday. You don't have to be a licenced scuba diver with all your own equipment. If you can swim, you can snorkel, and these days almost every seaside resort town has its own dive and snorkel gear hire shop. Here are ten tips to help you make the most of your time underwater:
1. Wear sunscreen! When snorkelling it's easy to get absorbed in a fascinating world of fish, corals, seaweed and sand. Even in warm water you won't feel the onset of sunburn, so make sure that the whole family is wearing water-resistant sunscreen. Top it up every time you come out for a break. UV-proof rash vests can also be really helpful, especially for kids.
2. Use the buddy system. Divers and snorkelers should always stick together. Figure out who will buddy up with who before getting in the water.
3. Take a camera. Waterproof disposable film cameras are easy to find. They are ideal for handing to the kids so they can take some underwater snaps, but more serious underwater photographers will want to invest in a submersible camera housing before leaving home. Waterproof housings are available for most digital compacts and with a good one you can take your everyday camera into the water without risking damage. You'll still be able to use the zoom, flash, and other basic camera functions as normal.
4. Think about security. Either arrange to leave your wallet, phone, and passport in a secure location close to the beach or invest in adry-bag with a wrist strap and take them with you. There is nothing worse than being left behind on dry land minding the valuables while everyone else gets to swim!
5. Take advantage of local knowledge. The only way to find the best dive and snorkel spots is to ask. Tour operators and dive shops will know where to go on any given day of the year and what to look for.
6. Pay attention to warning signs. Some beaches look perfectly friendly but are subject to hidden currents, strong tidal pulls, and other dangers. If you see a sign on the beach and don't know what it means, find out before dipping a toe in the water.
7. Going on a boat tour? Take sunglasses and a hat to combat the glare off the water.
8. Look but don't touch. It can be very tempting to reach out and touch that beautiful anemone or delicate spiny urchin, but some sea creatures can deliver a nasty sting. Make sure kids understand the rules! Standing up in the water is a particular danger point. Wearing sandals or neoprene shoes will make sure feet don't get hurt by sharp rocks or defensive sea creatures.
9. Do a little preparation before leaving home. Even a gentle ocean swell can be intimidating. Unless you swim regularly, it's a good idea to take a few trips to the local pool before going on holiday. It'll help make sure you feel confident and can enjoy yourself in the water.
10. Drink plenty of water in between dives. In hot sun it's easy to get dehydrated, and even the most carefully snorkeler will probably end up swallowing a little salt water, which will deplete the body's reserves even more. Acidic liquids like orange juice can cause motion sickness so they are best avoided but make sure you get enough to drink.
Jess Spate is an avid diver and snorkeler. She grew up visiting the beaches and rocky coves on the South East coast of Australia and now lives in Europe, where the water is much colder! And, now she writes for Mozaik Underwater Cameras. You can also dive with us and the Great White sharks on the Cape so get ready for one of the biggest thrills in Africa! Alternatively, chill on the shores of Zanzibar as part of an overlanding expedition, the tropical waters home to an abundant number of marine life...