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Coral is mesmerizing. It looks like stone, but it's actually a living animal. But it's very fragile. This is why you always hear people saying that you should never touch coral. Let's look at some other do's and don't when going snorkeling around coral reefs.
  1. Safety first! Never go out at sea alone. Always snorkel with at least one other person, a buddy. This way you can keep an eye on each other in case anything goes wrong. It's also highly recommended to wear a buoyancy device whilst snorkeling. Not only could this well safe you from trouble, but it also makes it easier to stay at the surface of the water, thus reducing the odds of bumping into the coral or accidentally kicking the coral.

  2. Make sure that your snorkeling gear fits properly and is put on properly. Oftentimes it's the need for readjusting mask, snorkel or flippers that leads to damaging the coral below, because in most cases you'll need some solid footing. Ensure your mask won't fog up, adjust your snorkel to your personal preference and use flippers that fit comfortably, do not come off inadvertently and are not too tight. Ideally, you test all of this in shallower water that doesn't have corals below.

  3. Do not ever touch the corals. Corals are pretty and it might be tempting to poke them a little, but do note that many coral species are covered in thin layer of mucous that protects them from bacteria. Some coral species employ toxins or irritants that can cause severe reactions when it comes in contact with bare skin. Should you get tired, just turn face-up at the surface of the water and float calmly by balancing with your outstretched arms. You do need to take out your snorkel once you're turning face-up, but you can keep on your mask.

  4. Do not snorkel in rough seas or if the current is strong. Not only is this potentially dangerous, but you'll likely also need to constantly thrash around to keep your orientation or so as to not drift off. The thrashing risks damaging the coral garden that you're hovering over.

  5. Only snorkel in water when the tide allows for it. If the water level is too low, you will eventually come into contact with the coral below, possibly damaging it, or even causing branches to snap off altogether. Ensure there's at least 2 meters of water between the surface of the water and the highest coral point below.

  6. Do not feed the fishes. It makes for a great photo opportunity when fishes swim all around you, but please note that feeding the fish with bread and other unnatural foods will actually lessen the fishes' urge to forage. As a result, they become undernourished, since they don't get the nutrients they need from their usual diet. The fish then become suceptible to disease. You may think you're helping the fish by providing them with free food, but unfortunately, feeding the fish slowly kills them.

  7. If you sea a turtle or a dolphjin, please refrain from chasing. The idea is to remain an observer. Anything you do that causes a change in behaviour of the creatures below is potentially a source of stress. Try to blend into the environment that you're in, so the creatures you're there to observe csan go about their normal lives.

  8. Do not leave anything behind. It's good to stay hydrated when on a snorkeling excursion, so bringing a bottle of water is prudent. But please do not litter. It takes dozens of years for plastic bags and bottles to disintegrate and be groken down. Before that happens, it's often ingested by dolphins, turtles and fish. In some cases, plastic remnants get lodged in dolphins' blowholes or turtles nostrils whilst these take a gulp of air at the surface of the sea. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to foresee that these hapless creatures than die an excruciating death. In short, always collect all plastic after a snorkel outing and take it with you for proper disposal.

For more information on our coral reefs and the state they are in, contact www.reefcheck.org

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