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And the winner of our competition to win a pair of Mares X-One Fins and Marea Mask and Snorkel set is…

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We’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who entered our very first competition on Worldwide Snorkel Adventures to win a pair of Mares X-One Fins and Marea Mask and Snorkel set from our good friends at Mares.

Lots of you entered… but there can, of course, be only one winner!

And that winner is…

  • Ken Taylor from the UK

Congratulations Ken – your prize will be on its way to you soon!

Not a winner this time? Don’t worry – there are plenty of other competitions running on worldwidesnorkeladventures.com right now. To see what other awesome prizes you could be in with a chance of winning, click here!

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First Time Family Snorkel in Ireland

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This summer Mike and I were fortunate enough to have some family visiting, including our niece Norah, after not seeing each other since pre-pandemic times.  We were lucky to get some lovely weather and of course that meant heading to the coast!

Our niece is a good swimmer and would like to learn to scuba dive one day.  We mentioned that snorkeling was a really good start for getting used to using a mask and fins and also great fun.  Having gotten her equipment for the trip, Norah practised in the pool before her arrival and was excited to try things out in the ocean.

We live within a 90 minute drive of several lovely bits of shoreline on the west coast of Ireland, and chose to start off our adventures at Dunmoran Strand in County Sligo.  Here there is a sandy beach bordered by rocky shore, with shallow calm waters.  A great starting point for snorkeling in the sea for the first time! Norah kitted up remarkably quickly as I struggled into my wetsuit, but we were soon in the shallows ready to go.  We had an initial swim to get a feel of it and then gave Norah some tips on clearing her mask, snorkel and some finning techniques and we were off exploring the rocks.  Almost immediately we came across some large colourful jellyfish and swam carefully around to observe them without any contact.  After a good 45 minutes of seeing wrasse, crabs, sand eels and anemones we returned to the beach to dry off and warm up with huge smiles.

A few days later we headed out to the tidal swimming pool at Rosses Point, near Sligo.  Here by the yacht club is a man-made pool that opens out into the sea.  From the pool you can follow the coast and snorkel the rocks to the right side with an easy entry and exit at the pool.  Care must be taken NOT to swim out of the pool to the left, as the aptly named “Dead Man’s Point” has some fierce currents.  Arriving on a cooler, breezy day, we checked Norah was up for the challenge of snorkeling in a slight swell and we headed out right along the rocks.  Norah coped brilliantly with the slightly tougher conditions and was soon zooming around spotting crabs all over the place.  We even got to see a small dogfish dart out from between the rocks and out into the kelp.  We took care to watch the waves and make sure we turned round early to get back to the tidal pool before we got chilled or tired and spent a happy last few minutes jumping off the poolside at the deep end before heading home.

For our last trip we went to Old Head Beach in County Mayo, which has a Blueway Snorkel Trail. As depicted on an informative sign by the car park, the trail starts from the left side of the pier, following a rocky coastline in sheltered, shallow water away from local boat traffic.  On our visit the sun was out again and the waters were an inviting, almost tropical blue.  As we swam around and through the thick kelp we spotted plenty of wrasse, a couple of large compass jellyfish, a pipe fish and a flying gurnard.  Norah perfected her duck diving and we had an enjoyable time dropping our snorkels for her to retrieve from the sandy bottom.

We had some excellent snorkels and though sadly the family had to return home, it was a great visit.

After our adventures, we asked Norah a few questions to get her perspective:

What was your favourite thing?

Snorkeling with jellyfish and not getting stung!

What was the biggest challenge?

The salt stinging my eyes when the mask leaked a bit.

Where was your favourite snorkel spot?

Old Head had the most colourful water, Rosses Point had lots of crabs and we saw a tiny shark!

What new skill did you learn that you found most useful?

Putting toothpaste on a new mask to stop it fogging up.

What are you most proud of?

Snorkeling in the ocean for the first time and coping with waves and some current.

Do you want to go snorkeling again?

Yes!

Mike and I love the water and to be able to share this activity with our niece was brilliant. Ireland has a great system of established snorkel trails called The Blueway (https://diving.ie/blueway/).  These Blueway trails can be snorkeled or kayaked and are safe routes with maps and above water signage on the points of interest.  The west coast of Ireland really is a great place for some snorkel adventures!

For more information on water activities in Ireland check out: www.discoverireland.ie/things-to-do/on-the-water

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8 great places to go snorkeling with seals and sea lions

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Snorkeling with seals is one of the most fun underwater experiences of all. These charismatic and curious animals are renowned for coming close to snorkelers, nibbling their fins and creating perfect photographic opportunities. Whether you want to snorkel in Antarctica’s brisk waters with leopard seals, relax in Mexico’s warm waters with sea lions, or take a road trip along Australia’s eastern coast to several top seal swim destinations, you can. Whatever your preference or location, there is a seal or sea lion hotspot just right for you. Read on to find out more.

1) Baja California, Mexico

The Sea of Cortez in Baja California is renowned for its fantastic snorkeling, with thriving marine life and vibrant coral reefs in sheltered waters. La Paz, the tranquil capital of Baja California, is fringed by the Sea of Cortez and has a colony of over 200 California sea lions at Los Islotes. It is one of the most popular places to go swimming with sea lions in Mexico. You can also swim with these charming animals at Cabo Pulmo’s Isla San Pedro. Either way, the sea lions are present all year, though you can spot playful pups if you visit in September.

Species: California sea lions.

 2) Kaikoura, New Zealand

Backed by snow-capped mountains in winter and washed by bright azure waters in summer, Kaikoura is a stunning place to snorkel with seals. Kaikoura’s lush kelp forests are busy with diverse marine life, including plenty of New Zealand fur seals. The nearby continental shelf has created a biodiversity hotspot, where whales, dolphins, sharks and fish life also thrive; making Kaikoura very popular for snorkeling and diving in New Zealand.

Species: New Zealand fur seals.

 3) Antarctica

If you want to explore the world’s last untouched wilderness and swim with an iconic apex predator, visit Antarctica. Hop on a cruise boat, wrap up warm, and you will discover a world of  clear blue waters with jaw-dropping underwater ice formations. There is an abundance of marine life to see, including impressive leopard seals and up to five other species of seal: Ross, Weddell, crabeater, fur and elephant seals.

Species: Leopard seals.

 4) United Kingdom

Visit the United Kingdom and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to swimming with seals. This easily-accessible destination is home to some of the best-known places to snorkel with seals and is perfect for a summer getaway.

The Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast are renowned for their puffins and have a population of around 5000 Atlantic grey seals, which you can snorkel with. Sitting in the Bristol Channel off Devon, Lundy Island is a Marine Conservation Zone with a thriving grey seal population and offers summer snorkeling safaris with these beautiful seals. If you want to spend your days lazing on soft white sand beaches and snorkeling with seals, don’t miss a trip to St Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly.

Species: Atlantic grey seals.

 5) Western Cape, South Africa

False Bay in the Western Cape, with its rich waters and curving coastline, is a paradise for marine life large and small. It is frequented by numerous whales, sharks, dolphins, orca, thousands of seabirds, and tens of thousands of Cape fur seals. Take a 20-minute boat ride to storm-washed Seal Island to watch the seals frolicking in the water, leaping in the waves and evading the clutches of broadnose sevengill sharks.

If you want to snorkel with these acrobatic animals, you can do so at Duiker Island in Hout Bay and from Simon’s Town in False Bay. These seals are known for coming close to snorkelers, checking you out as they pass by, so make sure you take your camera. Afterwards, you can enjoy the fantastic food, wine and culture that Cape Town is known for.

Species: Cape fur seals.

 6) Hornby Island, Canada

People flock to Hornby Island’s shores every winter to go swimming with Steller sea lions. These huge sea lions can weigh up to 2,500 pounds and are an impressive sight in the clear cool waters off Hornby Island. Stay on Hornby Island and you can swim with these sea lions, as well as California sea lions during winter and Harbour seals year-round. Known as the ‘Little Hawaii’ of Canada, Hornby Island is also known for its glorious white sand beaches and excellent diving.

Species: Steller sea lions, Harbour seals, California sea lions.

 7) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos diving is a bucket list activity for any underwater naturalist, but you don’t need to be a certified diver to make the most of this incredible destination. There are countless wildlife spotting opportunities above water and these remote islands offer world-class snorkeling as well.

Rich in nutrients, the waters off these famous oceanic islands are teeming with life and offer an experience like no other. You can snorkel with both Galapagos sea lions and seals there, plus huge shoals of fish, sea turtles, sharks and more.

Species: Galapagos fur seals, Galapagos sea lions.

 8) Australia

When it comes to year-round sunshine destinations with wildlife experiences for the whole family, it’s hard to beat Australia. There are idyllic destinations strewn along the eastern coast, where you can swim with seals and enjoy world-class snorkeling, so plan a road trip and enjoy!

Montague Island in New South Wales hosts both Australian and New Zealand fur seals and has a colony of little penguins as well. Take a trip to the island to explore the lighthouse, visit the island’s significant Aboriginal sites, and snorkel with fur seals in clear turquoise waters.

Head north to Jervis Bay to swim with Australian fur seals and humpback whales in sheltered waters. September to October is the peak season for swimming with the whales and the fur seals are resident all year.

Continue on to Sydney to enjoy the surf culture and beaches of this famous Australian city, then hop on a flight to Cairns to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef. This enormous reef system might not have seals, but with over 1500 fish species and one-third of the world’s soft corals, it is an unmissable highlight of any Australia vacation.

Species: Australian fur seals, New Zealand fur seals.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

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