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Sean Chinn’s Snorkel Journeys: Part 7 – Me and water

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In this ongoing series regular contributor and worldwide snorkel adventurer Sean Chinn shares his snorkel journeys.

Part 7: Me and water – It’s an obsession

For someone born into a big city smack in the middle of England, it’s not expected for you to become obsessed with swimming and visiting wild places to enjoy the water. However I was very fortunate that I was introduced to swimming very early. I was also extremely lucky that my grandad had a pool he built in his back garden for us to enjoy throughout the summer. I had swimming lessons from an early age and you couldn’t keep me out the water when on holiday (I don’t do too well with heat). So it was inevitable I would transition to a life in the ocean at some point.

Lionfish on the house reef in Sharm el Sheikh during a 4-5 hour snorkel.

I would take any opportunity I could to be in the water snorkelling when on trips abroad. Especially where there is amazing wildlife to witness. Once I took up underwater photography back in 2013 this became an addiction. This showed on a particular trip to Sharm el Sheikh in the November of that year. After 5 great days of diving on my first trip to Egypt. We had a free day of no diving before our flight the following day. Most of the group decided to head down to the beach and house reef. We all got in for a snorkel and was enjoying our time around the beautiful shallow reef full of colour and life. While others in the group got out I carried on exploring. It wasn’t until I got out and some of the group were shocked and asked if I’d been in the water all that time and did I realise how long I’d been in there. We worked out that I must have been in the water for 4 and a half hours snorkelling around.

A tiny nudibranch taken while snorkelling at night time in Anilao, Philippines.

There was more in water action on a day trip out of Nassau to Ship Channel Cay in 2014. With stingrays and sharks in the shallows I never left the water the whole time we were there. However it wasn’t until 2015 I truly realised how obsessed I’d got when I upset my girlfriend. We were stopping in Anilao, Philippines for a few days where I had 4 dives booked in but no night dives. We were stopping on the coast and while eating dinner one night I noticed some lights in the water and thought it looked shallow. So the next night after dinner I planned to go snorkelling for a bit at night and the missus waited up by the restaurant. 2 and a half hours later I got out the water to a hostile reception once I returned to the room. I just completely lose myself in the water and become engrossed in the wonders I find.

A manatee family in the shallows of Crystal River, Florida. 

I always take my opportunities when travelling and 2016 was no different. I was visiting Bahamas on a shark infested liveaboard. The boat would leave from Palm Beach, Florida, so I decided to book an extra few days to explore the underwater action in Florida. My dedication to see as much as I could saw me book an overnight stay around Crystal River for a day snorkelling with the manatees. After 3 dives in Jupiter in the day I drove around 4 and a half hours north to Crystal River. I was tired but the next day in the water with these cute but large marine mammals was amazing. So friendly and docile it was great to see their loving nature all huddled together. I had no time to rest after though and drove 5 hours back south to Palm Beach in preparation for my liveaboard the next day.

While I could go on with more examples of my addiction to going in the water with wildlife at any opportunity. Times like in Aqaba where I could have relaxed on surface intervals but went under the pier or to the M42 Duster. Or in the water with Mantas until 1.30am in the Maldives. Well, I’m sure you get the picture now. Snorkelling makes it so easy to enjoy these amazing moments around the world.

Under the jetty at Berenice Beach Club was full of life on a surface interval snorkel.


Find out more about Sean, his photography and his trips at: www.greatwhitesean.com

Sean Chinn’s diving adventures started in a freezing cold quarry back in January 2011. Maybe the reason he wasn't instantly hooked! However, after an amazing trip to Indonesia in 2013, he realised he needed to see more of the underwater world. With no photography background, he enlisted some help in developing both his diving and photo skills. This kickstarted his adventures which have become something of an addiction. Seeing and photographing wildlife is Sean’s real passion in snorkelling and diving but he is always keen to try new ideas.

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Ten Sensational Spots to Snorkel or Learn to Dive!

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A guest blog by PADI

Snorkeling has long been a beloved way to explore the underwater world. With vibrant coral gardens, large schools of fish and a vast underwater topography to explore, snorkel excursions are a great way to experience both your own backyard and create memorable holiday memories to last a lifetime.

But often these sensational snorkel spots are an equally a great place to make your first ocean dives. Whether you participate in a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience or take the PADI Open Water Diver course to become a certified diver, you’ll be guided by a trained PADI® Professional who will be looking out for you the entire time as you take your first breaths under the ocean. This experience allows you to have an intimate connection with the location you are exploring as, oftentimes, you will have the opportunity to see even more marine life than you would from the surface of the water.

To help you plan your next ocean adventure— whether it be down the road or on your next overseas adventure (whenever that may be!) —we have rounded up ten sensational spots where you can both snorkel and learn to scuba dive!

  1. Kohala Coast, Kaanapali, Maui, USA

Not only does Hawaii come with beautiful scenery above water, but the island chain equally boasts some of the most incredible underwater landscapes in America. One of the best places to experience this is along the Kohala Coast in Kaanapali, Maui—whose calm and clear waters make it a favorite spot amongst snorkelers. But it makes for an equally exceptional scuba experience, where you will get to do either do a boat or shore dive and get amongst the turtles, tropical fish and dramatic underwater landscapes.  

Photo Credit: PADI

  1. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Be delighted by one of Australia’s most beloved underwater gems—the Great Barrier Reef. Featuring a rainbow of colorful coral gardens and hundreds of tropical fish species, there is plenty to explore here. It is an ideal spot for groups that want varied experiences as tour operators can cater for those that want to snorkel, those that want to learn to dive and those that are already PADI certified. And when you’re not in the water you will get an enriching reef talk where the experts, who will take you though ways in which you can play a part in conserving the reef system.

  1. Sharks Bay, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt

For those that don’t want to spend the whole day out on a boat but still want to have a memorable experience on the Red Sea, Sharks Bay in Sharm-El-Sheikh is a great option. With stunning house reefs and wrecks in a marine protected area, the colorful underwater experience is beloved by both those that snorkel or do a discover scuba through the area. The boat ride to the house reef is a short one and the memories will certainly last you a lifetime.

Photo Credit: PADI

  1. Poor Knights Island, Northland, New Zealand

Have the perfect day out at one of New Zealand’s first marine reserves. Dubbed by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, Poor Knights Island offers something for everyone. You can easily spend hours swimming through the dense kelp forests and archways full of fish! And in between snorkels you can sign yourself up for a PADI Discover Scuba® Diving experience, where the chances are high you will encounter nudibranchs, long-tailed stingrays, devil rays, sea turtles and even an occasional orca!

  1. Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

With unique marine life and spectacular underwater topography, Stingray City in Grand Cayman is a stunning spot to explore the ocean. It is famous for the large of stingrays that come through in search of a meal and offers water enthusiasts a special encounter with them. Those lucky enough may even get a kiss on the lips from these friendly sea creatures. Whether you are snorkeling or doing a discover scuba experience here, make sure you also have your camera in hand, as this spot is extremely photogenic and you’ll want a keepsake of you and your new underwater friends.

Photo Credit: PADI

  1. Great Astrolabe Reef, Kadavu, Fiji

One of the most intimate places to snorkel and also have your first diving experience is in the Great Astrolabe Reef. A few seconds underwater and you will quickly discover why Fiji is regarded as the soft coral capital of the world. It is a great spot to have your “Finding Nemo” moment and chances are high that you will also see manta rays and resident white tip reef sharks while you’re in the crystal-clear warm waters. With only small groups exploring the reef at a time, it is the perfect spot to have a special moment amidst the pristine nature.

  1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida, USA

With this state fully re-open for business (at the time of writing), ditch the crowded amusement parks and beaches for Florida’s underwater park at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was the first of its kind in America! What makes this an equally great place to snorkel and learn to dive are the shallow waters that have an immense landscape for you to explore. You’ll see abundant sea life with over 650 types of fish, 40 types of living coral the famed 12-foot submerged statue of Jesus.

  1. The Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta

Whether you are snorkeling or diving for the first time in Malta, taking a giant stride into their blue hole is a must-do bucket list item. It’s no surprise this is a favorite spot amongst ocean lovers, as Jacques Cousteau rated this spot one of the best in all of Europe. Be amazed as you watch the natural light rays bounce off the beautiful reef—illuminating the unique topography of the area. For those that try a dive here, it will certainly set standards high for future dives to come!

Photo Credit: Manuel Bustelo

  1. Robberg Nature Reserve, Plettenburg Bay, South Africa

What’s cooler than snorkeling with seals? Diving with them! Plettenburg Bay in the Western Cape is home to some of the friendliest seals who are keen to play all day long. Sign up to snorkel with them for the day during an ocean excursion or do a discover scuba experience— where you learn to dive in the pool first and then head to the ocean to find your furry friends! Either way, it is only a short boat ride out to find the seals, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to play with them in their natural habitat.

  1. Crag-y-Mor, Wales, United Kingdom

Explore the cooler (literally) places in Wales by going on an underwater snorkeling or diving adventure! There are both half-day snorkeling and diving trips that give you a new perspective of the coastline—where both seals and historical ruins are in abundance. While there are magical marine life encounters in these waters all year long, summer offers a chance to see the water sparkle from both moon and blue jellyfish. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll swim passed walls that are covered in red sea squirts!

Photo Credit: PADI

Ready to dive in? Visit padi.com or contact a PADI Dive Center or Resort to start planning your snorkel or scuba trip!

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Photo Gallery: Snorkeling in Abaco in The Bahamas

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Abaco in The Bahamas, has a lot to offer both keen snorkelers and divers, with beautiful coral reefs, historic wrecks, stunning caves as well as plenty of marine life (including their own swimming pigs). All this in clear, blue, warm, water surrounding a tropical Caribbean paradise.

Just after our visit Abaco was hit by a powerful hurricane that caused devastation. As the islanders were recovering from this the COVID19 pandemic caused travel chaos, but now, after an incredibly challenging time, Abaco is getting back on its feet and it is will worth visiting.

We spent a day out snorkeling with Brendal’s Dive Centre, based on Green Turtle Cay, and got to enjoy encounters with swimming pigs, as well as Nurse Sharks, sea turtles and rays swimming over a healthy sea grass habitat.

For more information about snorkeling in The Bahamas, visit the tourism website by clicking here.

Accommodation: Bluff House

Snorkeling: Brendal’s Dive Centre

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