Snorkeling is a popular activity enjoyed by many travelers while exploring underwater environments. A concern that arises is whether it is safe to snorkel after a flight. Fortunately, snorkeling does not pose any significant risks related to flying.

Unlike scuba diving, snorkeling does not involve the use of compressed air, eliminating the risk of decompression sickness. This makes it safe to snorkel before or after a flight without any specific waiting time. As simple as swimming, snorkeling allows for a seamless transition between air travel and underwater exploration.

Understanding the Basics of Snorkeling and Flying

Snorkeling involves using a snorkel mask, snorkel, and sometimes a flotation device to explore shallow water without the need for compressed air equipment. Flying, on the other hand, entails traveling by air in a pressurized environment. Combining the activities raises safety concerns for some people, who wonder if it is safe to snorkel after a flight.

After flying, you can safely go snorkeling without any risk of decompression sickness, as snorkelers breathe non-pressurized air. Unlike scuba diving, snorkeling does not involve significant pressure changes, and it is generally safe to snorkel before or after flying. Just ensure that your gear is in good working order and you are well-rested and hydrated for the best experience.

Decompression Sickness: What to Know

Decompression sickness (DCS) is a condition that occurs when a rapid decrease in pressure surrounding the body takes place, typically affecting scuba divers who ascend too quickly. Symptoms can include nausea and paralysis. However, snorkeling, unlike scuba diving and freediving, does not involve inhaling compressed air, thus reducing the risk of DCS.

Preventing Decompression Sickness

To further minimize the risk of DCS after a flight, snorkelers can follow the Divers Alert Network (DAN) guidelines. Key practices include staying hydrated, snorkeling in calm waters, and ensuring overall good health before participating in the activity.

The Role of Nitrogen in Diving

Nitrogen is an inert gas, comprising 78.09% of air volume. When diving, the body absorbs nitrogen from the compressed air breathed underwater. As a diver descends, increased pressure causes nitrogen to dissolve into their blood and tissues.

If pressure decreases too rapidly, such as during a swift ascent, nitrogen can form bubbles in the bloodstream and tissues. This may lead to decompression sickness. However, snorkeling typically poses a lower risk, as lesser nitrogen is absorbed compared to scuba diving. Thus, snorkeling after flying is generally considered safe as long as a reasonable time has elapsed after the flight to regain normal body equilibrium.

Understanding Surface Intervals

Surface intervals refer to the time spent on the surface between snorkeling or scuba diving sessions. For snorkeling, surface intervals are typically not an issue since compressed air is not inhaled during the activity. It is safe to go snorkeling after a flight as there is no risk of decompression sickness.

For scuba diving, adhering to surface intervals and understanding no-decompression limits become crucial. Divers must follow these guidelines to avoid decompression sickness caused by decompression-related issues. In contrast, snorkeling doesn’t require such strict measures and allows individuals to enjoy the activity right after a flight.

Importance of Hydration in Diving

Hydration plays a crucial role in ensuring a safe snorkeling experience after flying. Adequate hydration helps maintain proper body functions and prevents dehydration-related issues.

It’s essential to drink sufficient water before and after snorkeling to replenish lost fluids. Dehydration can increase health risks, such as muscle cramps and fatigue, which may hinder snorkelers' performance. Moreover, staying hydrated can help prevent the formation of microbubbles in the bloodstream, reducing the risk of decompression sickness.

Practical Tips for Snorkeling After Flying

Yes, it’s safe to snorkel after flying. Snorkeling doesn’t involve inhaling compressed air, so there’s no risk of decompression sickness like scuba diving. Here are a few practical tips for snorkeling after flying:

  • Rest: Allow your body to recover from the flight and adjust to the new environment before engaging in any water activity.
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated before and during snorkeling sessions.
  • Exercise caution: Avoid strenuous activities like intense swimming, duck diving, or free diving soon after a flight.
  • Location: Choose calm and shallow water areas for snorkeling, preferably where you can touch the ocean bottom safely.

What about snorkeling after long flights?

It has been discovered that there is a risk of death in snorkeling after long flights, such as transpacific flights to Hawaii. It is advised to wait two to three days after extended air travel and to avoid snorkels with constricted airways. Deaths are related to low blood oxygen levels with lungs having a buildup of fluid (pulmonary edema). At particular risk are those with heart conditions.


Snorkeling after a flight is generally considered safe. Unlike scuba diving, snorkeling does not involve inhaling compressed air, so there is no risk of decompression sickness. To make the experience even safer, it’s advisable to snorkel in calm waters, ensure you are in good health, stay hydrated, and be cautious of sun exposure. In summary, snorkeling can be enjoyed without any significant waiting time after flying, as long as the necessary precautions are taken for a safe and enjoyable experience.