1. Relax and move slowly. Marine life is less threatened by a relaxed snorkeler. Swimming slowly is not only more comfortable for you, but also is less likely to intimidate the wildlife we have all come to observe. Many creatures are extremely sensitive to vibrations in the water, and in fact depend on this sense for their survival. Quick motions of snorkelers are easily perceived as potential threats by many fish and invertebrates. No matter how strong you are, humans simply cannot out-swim animals such as whales, rays, turtles, fish and squid. Although the impulse may be to pursue these animals for a closer look, this will only scare them away. The relaxed snorkeler will find that aquatic mammals (including your snorkeling buddy), fish, and invertebrates will continue their natural behavior, while allowing you to approach them much more intimately.
2. Minimize contact with the reef. Learning to control our movements and position in the water benefits our own comfort and safety as well as the health of the reef. Both are important! Reefs are constructed primarily by colonies of coral animals called polyps. By secreting a limestone skeleton, covered with a thin veneer of living tissue, over many years these slow growing creatures essentially create their own geology. Although the limestone is durable, the soft-bodied polyps can easily be damaged by contact with hands, fins etc. While the loss of one polyp does not appear to be such a big problem, this spot will be more susceptible to infections and can cause further mortality on the colony. Besides the impact on the coral, accidentally bumping into the reef can also harm you. Coral will easily cut through your soft skin, especially after you have spent some time in the water. Cuts in general, and coral cuts in particular, will heal slowly in the tropics, and are more susceptible to infection. For the mutual benefit of the reef and ourselves, we believe it is both prudent and responsible to master the skills needed to minimize accidental close encounters with coral.
3. Live and let live. Living space on the reef is very scarce. Every little niche is or will be occupied soon by an organism of some type. Empty shells are a valuable part of the ecosystem, and they get recycled many times. Besides the obvious environmental concerns, some “live shells” can be quite dangerous. Some of the most beautiful (cone shells for example) contain animals that are highly toxic and when “captured” can cause serious problems. We discourage any shell collecting.
4. Leave nothing but bubbles. Littering under water is just as inappropriate as it is on land. We always collect any visible trash during our outings.
5. Do not feed the fish. While dispersing “food” in the water seems an easy way to attract large numbers of fish, it will often attract just certain species that usually chase other species away. Clearly, this alters the natural behavior (and diet) of fish we have come to observe. We discourage feeding the fish. Using the guidelines above should enhance the snorkeling experience for you and the reef.