An ideal family or group outing is a half day Guided Snorkelling Tour.
Your personal instructor will take you through the first stage of selecting the rental equipment, which is all included in the excursion fee. You will be wearing a full wetsuit, hood, mask, fins & snorkel, booties and snorkelling vest or buoyancy aid with gloves optional. You will learn how to ensure a good fit of all the equipment, in particular the mask and snorkel - there are small sizes specially for children. The wetsuits are thicker than those used for windsurfing but if you have your own, you might prefer to wear that with perhaps an additional wetsuit top or jacket for extra warmth provided by us.
Prerequisites are swimming ability, feeling comfortable in the water and general good health, with a minimum age for children of 6 yrs. Minimum numbers required for the tours are 4 adults or 3 adults + 2 children / 2 adults + 4 children and it is best to book your tour in advance. Youngsters must be accompanied by an adult / guardian or parent. Price for adults is €40 and children €30 aged up to and including 12.
The snorkel tour itself is not strenuous and the instructor will be with you at all times. The best months for snorkelling in West Cork are mid-May to end-September when the water temperature can be between 14 and 17 degrees and the visibility and fish life are at their best.
The snorkelling tour takes place either in a nearby nature reserve called "Lough Hyne" or similar beach / cove location with easy access to shallow water or a boat trip to a nearby island or rocky shore. The choice depends on other reservations, weather conditions and available spaces on a given day. The coastal waters of Ireland were declared a whale & dolphin sanctuary in the 1990's and West Cork is the feeding ground for some large species such as fin, humpback and minke whales. We also have sightings of dolphins, harbour porpoises, sunfish, basking sharks and leatherback turtles during our boat journeys out and an opportunity to swim with seals.
Before entering the water your instructor will teach you how to inflate and deflate your buoyancy aid (snorkelling vest), use of the whistle for emergencies, hand signals to communicate to each other or the shore party and how to breath comfortably through the snorkel mouthpiece and ensure the mask makes a good seal with your face so that it does not leak. Entry and exits from the water depend on each location but you will be briefed on this too.
You then proceed into the water and engage with and interact where safe and possible with marine animals and flora and fauna. Sea life at shallow depths that can be enjoyed by snorkellers include sea weeds and kelp, anemones, shellfish, crustaceans and fish such as blennies, dogfish, starfish, squid, pollack, sand eels, pipefish, scorpion fish and different varieties of wrasse.
Hot drinks are provided when you get back into the boat or onland (Lough Hyne & Barloge). For boat trips it's a good idea to bring a windproof jacket & woolly hat!
If you wish, your instructor can bring along an underwater camera and provide you with your special photographs both below and above the water at a small extra charge. These can then be emailed to you or downloaded onto a disc as a lovely momentum of your unique experience.
See pictures in our photo gallery (album "snorkelling tours").
To get an idea of what divers see underwater, have a look at the YouTube video clip below by Jerome McCormick, shot at the Kedges in August 2010.