Snorkelling is one of the best ways to take in the spectacular underwater views of the Marine Park, and to come face-to-face with its captivating marine life.

At times, however, some snorkellers may get a little too close to the life below and subsequently stress marine animals or crush and break corals. Most damage occurs as a result of those who are unable to maintain good control in the water (for example, through fighting a current, or trying to get a closer look, or taking photographs).

By promoting responsible snorkelling practices, you’re helping to ensure that future snorkellers will see spectacular views. 

Responsible Reef Practices

In general

  • Include snorkelling best practices in operational procedures and manuals.
  • Brief your clients thoroughly before they enter the water – include information on the correct use of equipment, snorkelling areas, potential hazards, rules, appropriate behaviour, and information on local marine life. Keep briefing clear and simple such as ‘Avoid touching coral, not only could you damage it but some may hurt you’.
  • Review your briefings regularly to ensure the information is up-to-date.
  • Enhance your clients’ reef snorkelling experience by providing onboard interpretation (such as posters, brochures, displays, talks, presentations, and videos) on snorkelling, marine life and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage values.
  • Be aware of your clients’ countries of origin and, where possible, provide written interpretive material in appropriate languages.
  • Keep snorkel group sizes small.
  • Monitor wildlife and coral cover at your snorkelling sites to detect any environmental changes.
  • Conduct environmental risk assessments for all sites.

More details on planning your snorkelling program.

Instruct your clients to

  • Practise at first over sand patches and away from the coral:
    • Get comfortable with buoyancy control and finning techniques
    • Be mindful of their fins to avoid accidentally hitting the coral or stirring up sand.
  • Snorkel carefully near the Reef:
    • Move slowly and deliberately in the water, relax and take their time, remain horizontal in the water, and refrain from standing up
    • Avoid snorkelling into areas where the water is less than one metre deep
    • Avoid touching the walls of semi-confined areas (for example, small swim throughs and overhangs), never squeeze through a small area
    • Use rest stations or other flotation aids (for example, float lines, mermaid lines, swimming noodles, and flotation vests) if they need to rest while snorkelling
    • Avoid leaning on, holding onto, or touching any part of the reef or moving animals.
  • Be mindful of all marine life:
    • Avoid making sudden or loud noises underwater.
    • Avoid chasing or attempting to ride or grab free-swimming animals (such as turtles, whales, and sea snakes). Avoid blocking their path or making them change direction.
    • Avoid touching or relocating any animals or plants – even consider not wearing gloves as an incentive not to touch.
    • Stay more than one metre away from giant clams.
    • Avoid feeding fish.
    • Avoid collecting any shells or ‘souvenirs’.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must not damage, collect or otherwise ‘take’ or 'possess' coral, including dead coral, and 'take' protected shell species (that is giant triton shell, helmet shell, giant clam) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.
    Note: ‘Take’ includes removing, gathering, killing or interfering with, or attempting to take. 'Possess' means to have custody or control of. There may be special arrangements for Traditional Owners.
  • You must not approach closer than 30 metres to a whale or dolphin if you are in the water. If a whale or dolphin approaches you while you are in the water, move slowly away, do not touch or swim towards it.
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