What is the best time of day to go snorkelling?

How do you pick a good day for snorkelling? You need to consider several factors including tides, wind speed and direction and even the weather leading up to your snorkelling day.

Unfortunately, choosing when to go snorkelling is a bit trickier than just waiting for a sunny day. Below are a few things to consider when you are deciding when to do your next snorkel.

We’ll also look at a few tools that can help you decide if it is worth getting your snorkelling gear out or whether to find your surf board or go for a beach walk instead!

Disclosure: Please Note That Some Links In This Post May Be Affiliate Links, And At No Additional Cost To You, We Earn A Small Commission If You Make A Purchase. Commissions Go Toward Maintaining The Snorkel Spots Website.

Sunny Days
Sunny Days

Sunny skies

Ideally you want to snorkel on a sunny day. Nothing beats natural light for bringing a reef to life. Overcast days are okay but you certainly won’t see the colour you do if it is sunny. You can also spot marine life more easily if the light is good.

What about a torch? You could try a torch to brighten things up on a gloomy day, but you need an expensive one to make a difference during the day.


Generally, wind is not the friend of a snorkeller. Try to snorkel on a calm day or when there are light winds. If you don’t live near the water, check the forecast for where you want to snorkel as wind conditions near the coast can differ to those inland.

As general guide, once a wind is greater than 10-15kph or 5 to 8 knots, snorkelling could be hard work. We’ll discuss this more shortly, but wind can cause waves, swell and reduce visibility.

But wind doesn’t always spell then end of your snorkel. In fact, if the breeze is coming off the land, snorkelling conditions can be quite good because there are fewer waves.

For example, in our home state of South Australia, a south westerly wind comes off the water which means we will probably stay home. But if there is an easterly or south easterly, we will still get the snorkelling gear out.

It pays to understand how your favourite snorkelling spots are affected by wind from different directions. So, when the breeze is from the right quarter, you can snorkel with better visibility and fewer waves.


Waves are one problem created by wind. Waves can cause water to get in your snorkel and make swimming difficult. Waves can also stir up the bottom and reduce visibility.

You want to be snorkelling when waves are less than 1m. You can find out this information from TV weather reports and weather apps.

When the wind is coming off the land, waves can be a bit smaller, especially close to shore.


Another side effect of wind is ocean swells. As opposed to waves which are caused by local winds, swells are produced by wind some distance away.

You should always check the swell conditions before you snorkel too. A swell of less than 1 metre is best. More than this and you will find yourself moving up and down a lot.

Swell conditions can also be found on weather apps.

Low Tide at Coral Bay
Low Tide at Coral Bay


Tides are the daily movement of water and knowing the tide conditions and how they affect your snorkel spot is crucial. Some snorkels can only be done with the tide above or below a certain level.

If tides are less important for your snorkel spot, a low tide can be good for getting closer to marine life however visibility is often better at high tide as the incoming water can be cleaner.

Tidal movement can also create rips and currents so get local advice to see if this affects your snorkel spot. Snorkelling at a change of tide (slack water) can be a good option to minimise the influence of tidal movement.

Depending on where you live, you might also be able to choose a day when there is a smaller difference between high and low tide.


Some snorkelling spots are incredibly popular. While it is great to see so many people enjoying a snorkel, it can ruin the experience. Visibility can be reduced, and you can spend more time looking out for people than marine life – not fun!

Sometimes you just need to snorkel somewhere when you are there, but if you have the luxury of being flexible, avoiding school holidays or weekends can see you also avoid the worst of the crowds.

You could also try snorkelling earlier in the day to avoid the midday rush.

Time of Day

We mentioned earlier that a sunny day is ideal and snorkelling in the middle of the day provides excellent light.

When the sun is lower in the sky it tends to pick up more sediment in the water and if you are snorkelling into the sun, it can be hard to see anything at all.

If we have to choose one end of the day to snorkel, we go earlier. Not only does this help avoid crowds, but for many locations there is less wind in the mornings than the afternoon.

Also keep in mind that shark activity is greater at dawn and dusk – an important consideration at some snorkel spots.

Previous Weather

Another thing to consider is the weather leading up to your snorkelling day. The day you want to go for a snorkel might be calm and sunny, but if the couple of days leading up to it were windy , conditions might not be ideal.

If you have a string of calm days, that can produce excellent snorkelling conditions at your favourite snorkel spot.

Learning to Read the Conditions

Now that you know what conditions to watch for, how do you get the information?

Fortunately, there are stacks of free apps that give you all the information you need to decide if it is worth getting out your mask and fins.

Your national Bureau of Meteorology app is a good place to start. In Australia, the BOM Weather app is excellent. For coastal locations you can easily find out wind direction, wave and swell height and tide information.

But there are plenty of other apps to explore. Popular ones include Willy Weather, Windy and Windfinder.

In summary…

Between trying to get the right tide, wave and wind conditions, it is sometimes hard to snorkel when you want. You often need to snorkel when time permits!

If there is one thing we have at the top of our list, it is the wind. If it is coming from an unfavourable direction and too strong, we give it a miss.

But in the end, if you are on holidays away from home, you just need to give it a go (so long as it is safe).

On a gloomy, breezy day at Port Victoria Jetty, we nearly didn’t get in. We dragged ourselves into the water and ended up snorkelling with a dolphin for an hour. You never know what you will see!

Steve Klein
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