So, you’ve finally booked that long-awaited Molokini snorkel trip – and now you can’t wait to don your snorkel and dive into the deep blue.
But you’ve noticed your boat offers something called SNUBA, and you think to yourself, ‘What the heck is that?!’
SNUBA is a shallow water diving system that is like a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving. Like scuba, SNUBA divers breathe through easy-to-use regulators attached to oxygen tanks. But rather than carrying the tank on your back, it floats on an inflatable raft on the surface, and you receive air via a long tube. This way, you have the benefit of staying underwater for longer periods of time. SNUBA divers can reach depths of up to 10-20 feet, and the average dive time lasts about 20-25 minutes.
As you might have guessed, the word SNUBA is derived from the words “snorkel” and “scuba,” – but some people like to joke that it stands for Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Either way, both make sense.
SNUBA was invented in the late 1980s by Michael Stafford as a way to bridge the gap between snorkeling and scuba diving and allow people without scuba certification to explore greater depths. With the help of his brother, Michael developed the SNUBA system and patented the design in 1990. Today, it’s a popular watersport around the world.
SNUBA is not a risk-free activity – no ocean sport is. But over five million dives have been conducted over the last decade, and only a small number of injuries have occurred. Compare that to over 200 snorkeling deaths in the last ten years in Hawaii alone.
Before you SNUBA, you’ll receive a brief, 15-20 minute training from a SNUBA instructor. They will give you a safety rundown and teach you how to breathe comfortably through your regulator. Once you’re in the water, you’ll be under the watchful eye of your guide.
Typically, when you book a SNUBA tour, you only need to bring one thing: a swimsuit (and maybe some reef-safe sunscreen). The rest is provided for you. You’ll be given a mask, fins, a weight belt, and, of course, a regulator and harness. Wetsuits are sometimes provided or offered for rent, as it can get chilly down in the depths.
Who Can SNUBA?
Almost anyone can SNUBA! Some medical conditions can preclude you from being able to dive, but usually, as long as you’re over the age of eight and have previous snorkel experience, you should be good to go.
However, there are a few skills you need to be familiar with before you SNUBA. Strong swimming skills are mandatory, and you should know how to clear your mask underwater and equalize your ears.
Where to SNUBA on Maui?
Maui has one of the highest concentrations of SNUBA operators in the world. And with dazzling coral reefs around the island, it comes as no surprise. There are numerous off-the-boat and off-the-beach SNUBA experiences on Maui, but the best place to dive is Molokini Crater. The crater’s calm conditions and crystal-clear visibility make it an unparalleled SNUBA location.