Interviews with Polar Snorkelers

Waterproof Contributor
Published on 13-04-2016

Maureen Cox (68), Australia;Maureen Cox


Are you a scuba diver ?
Yes, I am a warm water diver (18 degrees C. and more) from Perth.

Are you a dry suit diver ?
No, I only dive in a wetsuit ?

Why did you opt for Polar Snorkeling and not Polar Diving ?
Because where I live, it is very hot. For me to do diving on this trip I would have to purchase a drysuit, suitable regulators and I would have to make 20 dry suit dives. All of this would not be viable, just too much work for just one trip.

Did you feel cold while Polar Snorkeling ?
Well, not really. I never wanted to come out of the water because of the cold. When you first put your face in the water it was cold, than it stings a bit but than that goes away.

What did you see while Polar Snorkeling ?
Lots of limpits, little shrimp, kelp, seagrapes (jelly fish), incredible iceberg underwater.

Was it difficult to snorkel with the drysuit ?
I felt my feet were floating on top of the water because of the air in my suit. I had to get used to it a little in the beginning but it was not difficult. Once I had the hang of it, I was all right.

What did you enjoy most about Polar Snorkeling ?
Just being there and achieving what I had set out to do: Being in the Antarctic Waters.

Did you have enough time to do landings and see wildlife on land as well ?
Yes, I could do landings as well. And while snorkelling we could go on land whenever we wanted and enjoy the penguins and seals on land. The combination was great, and I was never cold, not even on land.

To whom would you recommend Polar Snorkeling ?
To anyone who likes to be in the water and likes to come to Antarctica. And if you are a diver or snorkeler just do it, it’s a perfect full concept of land and water experience.

“I would have gone home unhappy if I hadn’t booked the Polar Snorkel Package !”

Lisa Bouwman (26), DutchLisa Bouwman


Are you a scuba diver ?
No I am not a scuba diver.

Have you ever snorkeled before ?
Yes, in tropical waters a long time ago.

Were you cold while Polar Snorkelling ?
No, only my face for a few minutes, but when I was used to the water, it was fine. I was not cold at all in my suit, gloves or boots.

How long were you in the water while snorkeling ?
I was in the water for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

What did you see while Polar Snorkeling ?
Seastars, small shrimps but my highlight were the penguins jumping in- and out of the water and off course an ice-berg under water !

Did you find it difficult to snorkel in the Snorkel Dry Suit ?
At first I had to get used to the buoyancy and to ‘float’ on the water, rather than ‘in’ the water. But I got the hang of it pretty quick.

How would you describe the Polar Snorkel Experience ?
It is a perfect combination of being in the water, playing around ice bergs and enjoying wildlife interaction on land and water.

To whom would you recommend Polar Snorkeling ?
To anyone who like to experience the full concept of land and water in the Polar regions !

Sandy Webb (73), Polar Diver, U.S.A.Sandy Webb

I’m 72 years old.  I’m a small woman…but I’ve just had a fantastic time diving and snorkelling in Antarctica.


All my life I’ve dreamed about Antarctica but now I’ve been, with the added twist that I’ve even been under water there. I’m still a keen diver and have been diving for about 35 many parts of the world.
I dive regularly now in Melbourne, Australia where our winter water temperature gets as low as 9 degrees and there I have learned to dive in a dry suit..with its heavy and cumbersome challenges.

I started my preparations for the trip to Antarctica about 9 months early, and with the help and advice of many friends I tried out new gear and many layers of undergarments…often to their amusement or alarm.

So…how did my diving in Antarctica go? I achieved my goals and had several good dives.  I particularly loved the experience
of diving around an iceberg, with its wonderful shapes and light.

But if I go again, I would prefer to go with a well-known and trusted dive buddy.  Understandably it is often impossible for the dive masters to pair a sole diver with a suitable buddy and this can be at least annoying and at worst quite dangerous.

My comfort and feelings of control above the water would have been greatly improved by having access to a smaller tank than the huge ones (12ltr) that were standard offering, although again I can understand why these are the ones provided.  And, because I did not have a buddy,  I needed more support and guidance on the back deck and in the zodiac, especially on the early dives before the systems became routine.

After five dives I decided to snorkel, and the freedom and pleasures of this were an amazing contrast to the diving.  My first snorkel was in the crystal clear waters around the wreck of the Governor.  I did not in any way regret not diving there, as there was so much to see from the surface where the light was good.  My second snorkel was at Hydrurga (Leopard Seal) Rocks.  Here the skimming Wilson’s Storm Petrels that came quite close were fun to watch.  It was also good to be able to see all the action on the beach and to spot when a seal was coming into the water and heading our way. It was also fun to bump heads on ice flows and really get a feel for the extraordinary adventure we were having….

“Thank you Waterproof “—   Sandy Webb

Kyle Couillard (27), U.S.A.Kyle Couillard

Are you a Diver ?
Yes, I am

Are you a Dry Suit Diver ?

Why did you opt for Polar Snorkeling and not Polar Diving ?
I booked this trip relatively last minute and it would have very difficult to obtain the necessary experience in order to dive such conditions. Also at the time, the cost of purchasing the appropriate gear in addition to the trip itself was a bit a more than I could bear.

Have you snorkelled or dived in cold water before ?
I have been diving in the northeast US but nothing as cold as the polar regions.

Were you cold while Polar Snorkeling ?
I was very nervous about this before my departure. I did not want to commit to buying a Drysuit undergarment for fear that I wouldn’t get enough use out of it at home so I bought a couple layers of heavy weight thermal tops and bottoms, fleece pants and top, thick wool socks and a lightweight puff jacket. I was not cold at all in the water and during on shore activities I was actually very warm. The only thing that got cold during the Snorkeling was my face for the first 5 minutes of each snorkel. Once your face adjusts to the water ( aka gets numb ) everything is fine.

What did you see while Polar Snorkeling ?
I was able to get in the water with two humpback whales and a crabeater seal on this trip. The whales were the highlight. Aside from the big stuff, there were a couple of dive sites that had very intersting macro life. One dive in particular had a really interesting red kelp-like bed that was absolutely crawling with krill and snails. It was really cool. And then of course the obvious: ice. Small floaty bits, massive icebergs, crystal clear ice, snowy white ice….all of it was very interesting to see underwater.

Was it difficult to snorkel with the Polar Snorkel Suit ?
For the most part, no. The only problem I encountered was that in the drysuit, I was overwhelmingly buoyant. Even after removing most of the air from my suit, it was impossible to dive under the surface. In my opinion, being weighted and therefore having the ability to free-dive would be something that would improve the overall experience. Other than that, it was great.

Do you think you need Snorkel experience before participating in Polar Snorkeling ?

What did you enjoy most about Polar Snorkeling ?
For me, I am all about the big animal encounters so being able to get in the water with a couple humpbacks was my favourite experience. Also, the group of schnorkelers ( as our guide would call it) was a very fun, adventurous group which made the trip that much more pleasant.

Did you have enough time to do landings and see wildlife on land as well ?
Yes, in retrospect I actually think that choosing snorkeling over diving gives you the opportunity to maximize both on land and in the water experiences. For the most part, the snorkeling itinerary was the same as the regular zodiac groups. We got to go ashore for a good amount of time and experience the landings to the fullest. We also always saved time for snorkeling on our zodiac cruises. For me, the best part of being a part of the snorkeling group was the fact that I was always suited up in the drysuit. In essence, if we ever came across any wildlife while we were zodiac cruising the opportunity was there to get in the water. The anticipation of being able to have a big animal encounter at a moments notice kept me vigilant in my wildlife spotting and constantly excited.

To whom would you recommend Polar Snorkeling ?
Anyone with a passion for the sea and desire for a new experiences.


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