Snorkelling: Safety & Conservation

Ensure that your snorkelling is safe while protecting Tobago's fragile coral reefs

Health & Safety

As long as common sense is applied, snorkelling is perfectly safe. However, we do recommend that all snorkelers follow this advice:

  • Always swim within you capabilities. Unless you’re particularly fit, you could tire easily and have difficulty returning to shore. Don’t forget the effects of tides and currents.
  • Never swim or snorkel alone. Only snorkel with a ‘buddy’ so that you can help each other if either gets into difficulty.
  • Practice your skills in shallow water. Learn how to clear water from your snorkel and put your mask on while treading water.
  • Always apply a high-factor sun lotion and reapply it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Please see our notes in ‘Conservation’ below.
  • Reef researchWear a dark T-shirt to give additional protection from the sun. Light coloured t-shirts give very little protection when wet and might actually increase the intensity of the burn. Your back, shoulders and legs are going to take the brunt of the sun.
  • See the Hazardous Marine Life article in our diving section for details of ‘nasties’ to look out for. Sea urchins are a particular hazard to snorkelers in shallow water, as are jellyfish. The small translucent jellyfish do not sting.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean, unless you want to get thumped by the waves. Do not underestimate the effect of being ‘downed’ by strong breaking surf. Duck or dive under breaking waves before they reach you, to avoid suffering their full force.
  • Be particularly careful of the effects of surge (waves) or the tide and current when swimming near rocks and headlands. Being thrust onto coral-encrusted rocks can cause serious and intensely painful injuries.
  • Never swim against the current – swim diagonally across it.
  • Do not go snorkelling (or swimming) after a heavy meal. Allow at least an hour to avoid any risk of getting of cramps.


Like other marine environments, Tobago’s reefs are an extremely delicate ecosystem. It takes only seconds for an uncaring, ignorant swimmer to ruin hundreds of years of natural growth.

  • Please, please observe the golden rule – LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH. A single touch can kill or damage coral that has taken hundreds of year to grow. Also remember that even a tiny coral cut can be highly infectious and painful and ruin several days of your holiday.
  • Maintain a comfortable distance from the reef, taking into account surge or currents that might force you closer.
  • Sea TurtleKnow where your fins are. Keep leg kicking to the minimum and ensure that you do not kick up sand which can smother tiny organisms.
  • Never touch, handle or feed marine life except under expert guidance.
  • Never chase or try to ride marine life.
  • Do NOT use gloves or reef shoes.
  • Never discard rubbish – plastics, in particular, can smother and kill marine life. Turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them.
  • Use biodegradable suntan lotion. The effect of thousands of visitors jumping into the sea covered in oil-based lotion is like a tanker running aground. We recommend the once-a-day UltraSun products.

Tobago Satellite Map

Enjoy interactive satellite maps of Tobago. If you have Google Earth download the map here. If not, click the map below to view in a browser window.

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Page Updated: 18 Aug 17