The Time I Went Snorkeling…

Turquoise waters, great visibility, not a wave in sight. Sounds like the ideal conditions to go snorkelling, right? That describes the day as I dipped into the waters of Varadero, Cuba. The only thing on my mind was my (not so) little fear of water… You see, I’ve nearly drowned in just about every body of water you could think of.

Snorkeling in Cuba

Ocean? I was about 5 and I really wanted to go in the ocean. (We were in Rio de Janeiro, so could you blame me?!) I remember feeling scared as I went into the water without a parent, and the next thing I remember is waking up on the beach, exhausted, and with no recollection of how I’d gotten back. Apparently, I was toppled over by a wave and someone had to scoop me out of the ocean.

River? I was probably about 10 and had a moment of sheer brilliance. I had gone to the river with some friends, first we were in the shallow end, but then we started going deeper, and deeper, and deeper. The water was now up to our necks and only half of us could swim; I wasn’t one of them. We should have turned around, but we didn’t, we kept going further in even though we were now walking our tippy-toes. Next thing I know, we were all underwater, pulling each other down, fighting for a breath of air. Getting out of that one was nothing short of miraculous.

Lake? Another very close call. I could swim by this point and even had a life-jacket on for precaution, yet during my only dive off the water-trampoline, I managed to take in a whole lot of water. There I was gasping for air as my friend’s face turned to horror when she realized I wasn’t faking it. I stopped breathing that time. I really thought that was the end, again.

So there I was about to go snorkelling with all of that on my mind. Not the most relaxing start to your Cuba holidays. I was really starting to wish I were back on the mainland strolling the streets of Havana instead.

As I walked towards the end of the, they handed me a pair of fins and a snorkel. “In you go!” was all their advice for me.  “Umm, could I get some kind of floating device?” I asked sheepishly. The guy handed me a simple over-the-head life vest while I looked around hoping to spot a pool noodle. There were none around. I carefully slipped into the water, attempted wearing the fins, put the mask over my face, placed the snorkel in my mouth…and started hyperventilating! My feet felt bound by the fins, the mask covered my nose adding to the feeling of breathlessness, and how the heck do people breathe through that tube because I was just swallowing water! I threw half the equipment back on the dock, and with only the mask and my vest to clench onto, I swam behind our group 200 meters out to sea.

Life below the ocean’s surface is incredible!

Seeing the depth below my feet, the bright corals 15 meters below, the angel fish and fish I can only refer to as ‘Nemo’. Being in the water and seeing this life with my own eyes was more beautiful than any National Geographic documentary I have ever watched (and I love National Geographic)! Yes, I was a ridiculous mess out there, flapping my arms around, freaking out every time my mask fogged up, and lagging behind everyone, but it was awesome! I want to do it again!

Have you tried snorkelling?


  • Rob Bloggeries says:

    LOL at snorkeling with a life jacket.

    Probably don’t want to try scuba. I was a qualified lifeguard and had a mini heart attack first time I went deep, true story. Good to see another Canadian traveling…

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Yes, I certainly looked very graceful out there…haha! 😀 I think I have a long way to go before I attempt scuba.

  • Bob Crunch says:

    Great article! I have actually never gone snorkeling but after reading your article I may have to reconsider it.

  • Jenna says:

    I could relate to this! I LOVE snorkeling– it’s one of my favorite things to do when traveling (when I have the chance), but I have some issues with being in deep open water. My dad is a certified scuba diver, and when we were in Bali back in 2002, we went scuba diving with him. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I panicked a couple times, but I also was able to enjoy it (sort of). After that, I decided I won’t ever do it again. I just didn’t feel comfortable. I think getting fully trained beforehand is essential!

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Ahh! I can only imagine what it must be like to go out in the deep. Definitely not the time to have an anxiety attack. I think learning to remain calm is key – though that’s easier said than done…especially underwater! It’s great that you tried it. Not many people can say they’ve gone scuba-diving 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    the best part of your snorkeling experience was having me ‘freeze’ in the water every time a fish came near me 🙂 I dont know if we’re cut out for this kind of adventure, sis! Haha.

  • Tijmen says:

    I have never dived or snorkeled before, definitely curious if I would panic while scuba diving. Since I’m in Thailand at the moment, this would be the time to try it out 🙂

  • Mack Reynolds says:

    for a second there i thought that you weren’t going to go through with it. i’m no pro by any means, but i love snorkeling. i’m glad you enjoyed it despite the anxiety and foggy mask.

    • thatbackpacker says:

      I went through with it! I knew I would really regret it if I chickened out, and the seascape paid off! 😀

  • Suzy says:

    Ha! That picture is great. At least you weren’t afraid to ask for the life jacket. I have only been snorkeling once in Sicily and it was fun to swim around and see what lurks below. I however don’t think I could ever try scuba diving. Maybe I will get over that fear someday.

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  • Zemi Beach says:

    We love scuba diving, we have only done it in Anguilla which has some great dive locations and excellent marine life. Perhaps next time you could try Snuba Diving, its slightly less scary for those not at home in the water

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