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Freediving VS Snorkelling: What is the difference?

Snorkelling vs Freediving: What is the difference, banner image

Are you captivated by the underwater world, yearning to explore the ocean and all of its magic firsthand?

If so, you might find yourself pondering the age-old question: freediving or snorkelling?

While both activities offer exhilarating experiences in the underwater realm, they differ significantly in technique, equipment, and depth of immersion.

Let's dive deeper into the contrasts between freediving and snorkeling, helping you understand the difference, and choose that is best for you!

Delving into Snorkelling

Snokelling the USAT Liberty Shipwreck

(Amy snorkelling the USAT Liberty Wreck, Amed, Bali)

Snorkelling, a popular recreational activity enjoyed by individuals of all ages, provides a glimpse into the vibrant underwater world without the need for extensive training or specialised equipment.

It serves as an accessible entry point for those curious about marine life and aquatic environments.

Technique: Snorkelling involves floating on the surface of the water while breathing through a snorkel, allowing participants to observe marine life from above. While less physically demanding than freediving, snorkelling still requires basic swimming skills and comfort in the water.

Equipment: Snorkellers rely on a few key pieces of equipment, including a mask, snorkel, and fins. These items facilitate breathing, visibility, and mobility, enabling snorkelers to navigate shallow waters and observe marine ecosystems up close.

Depth: Snorkelling typically occurs near the water's surface, limiting participants to shallow depths ranging from a few feet to around 10m.

However, anything beyond 3m is starting to go into freediving territory, and without proper understanding on the physiology of breath holding and diving, then there are some risks that arise.

While snorkelers may encounter an abundance of marine life in shallow reefs and coastal areas, they lack the freedom to explore deeper underwater realms.

Understanding Freediving

Bushrangers Bay Freediving adventure

(Deep Sensations Freedivings, Freedive Shellharbour Retreat)

Freediving, an ancient practice dating back thousands of years to various cultures, holds a rich history steeped in tradition and exploration. From the Japanese Ama divers to the Ancient Greeks, Polynesian pearl gatherers, and even ancient Russians, freediving has served as a vital means of sustenance, trade, and cultural expression.

Ama Divers: In Japan, the Ama, meaning "sea women," have practiced freediving for over 2,000 years, diving without breathing apparatus to harvest pearls, seaweed, and shellfish from the ocean floor. Their remarkable breath-holding abilities and deep connection to the sea are legendary.

Ancient Greeks: Ancient Greek texts and mythology abound with references to freediving, with stories of sponge divers and underwater exploration dating back to antiquity. The Greek philosopher Aristotle even documented observations of breath-hold diving in his writings on natural history.

Polynesian Pearl Gatherers: Across the Pacific Islands, Polynesian cultures have long relied on freediving techniques to collect pearls and other marine resources from the ocean depths. These skilled divers, known for their exceptional breath-holding capabilities and intimate knowledge of the marine environment, passed down their traditions through generations.

Ancient Russians: In ancient Russia, freediving played a crucial role in fishing and gathering resources from freshwater lakes and rivers. Despite the harsh conditions of the northern climate, Russian divers honed their skills to navigate icy waters and sustain their communities.

Legendary Feats: One remarkable narrative stands out—a local sponge diver named Haggi, who, in 1992-3, undertook a daring mission to recover the lost anchor of the Italian light cruiser Santa Margarita in the depths of the bay of Pigadia on the island of Karpathos. Despite lacking modern equipment and with depths exceeding 70 meters, Haggi's series of breath-hold dives between 60 and 80 meters led to the successful recovery of the anchor at 77 meters. Astonished Italian Naval doctors examined Haggi, revealing his astonishing underwater breath-holding ability of 6 minutes and 40 seconds, despite ear impairments. However, his breath-holding capability on land was drastically limited - lass than 1 minute.

Technique: Freedivers employ specialised breathing and relaxation techniques to reduce CO2, metabolism, heart rate and mange oxygen usage.

They descend gracefully into the depths, conserving energy and maintaining relaxation to extend their time underwater.

Equipment: Unlike scuba diving, freediving requires minimal equipment. A mask, snorkel, fins, and a wetsuit are typically sufficient for most recreational freediving excursions. Some advanced freedivers may utilise additional gear, such as weight belts, nose clips, lenyards or monofins, to enhance their performance.

Depth: Freediving offers the possibility of exploring greater depths than snorkeling, with skilled freedivers capable of descending well below 100 feet on a single breath. This allows for immersive encounters with marine life and underwater landscapes inaccessible to snorkelers.

If you are interested in learning more about freediving, join one of our SSI or Molchanovs Freediving Courses.

Freediving is not all about depth!

Blowing bubblerings in Jervis Bay

(Curtis Tredway blowing bubble rings in Jervis Bay)

Freediving is not all about chasing depth and pushing limits; it's about enjoying breath-holding in water.

This versatile activity offers diverse avenues for exploration. Some enjoy connecting with the ocean's tranquility, while others excel in dynamic (distance underwater) swims or static apnea.

Freediving intersects with underwater photography, spearfishing, and even builds confidence in other water sports.

Whether diving deep or exploring other facets, freediving offers a rich tapestry of experiences for personal growth and exploration.

Start your freediving journey today. Deep Sensations Freediving offers beginner and advanced freediving courses across Sydney, Shellharbour, Wollongong, and the Central Coast.

Choosing Your Aquatic Adventure

Leopard shark photographed freediving Byron Bay

(Leopard shark, captured by Curtis Tredway, whilst on Freedive Byron Bay, Julian Rocks Retreat)

When deciding between freediving and snorkelling, consider your comfort level in the water, your desire for immersion, and your interest in mastering advanced techniques.

Freediving appeals to those seeking a deeper connection with the underwater world, offering the opportunity to push personal boundaries, enhance breath-holding capabilities, and experience profound moments of tranquility beneath the waves. If you're drawn to the challenge of breath-hold diving and the allure of exploring greater depths, freediving may be the perfect fit for you.

Snorkelling, on the other hand, caters to individuals seeking a leisurely introduction to underwater exploration. It's ideal for families, beginners, and casual ocean enthusiasts looking to marvel at colourful coral reefs, playful fish, and other marine wonders from the surface. If you prefer a more relaxed and accessible aquatic experience, snorkeling provides an excellent avenue for discovery and enjoyment.

Ready to Dive Into The World of Freediving?

Freediving Shellharbours Gravel Loader with Deep Sensations Freediving

(Group shot of Deep Sensations Freedivers, at Shellharbour Gravel Loader)

Whether you're intrigued by the art of freediving or eager to embark on a snorkelling adventure, Deep Sensations Freediving offers courses and retreats tailored to your interests and skill level.

Sign up for our Level 1 Freediving Course to learn essential techniques, safety protocols, and breath-holding strategies under the guidance of experienced instructors. Discover the joy of exploring the ocean's depths with confidence and skill.


Freediving and snorkelling offer distinct yet equally captivating opportunities to explore the wonders of the underwater world. Whether you're drawn to the challenge of breath-hold diving or the simplicity of snorkelling, there's no shortage of adventure awaiting beneath the waves. So, take the plunge, embrace the unknown, and embark on your next aquatic adventure with Deep Sensations Freediving.

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