What Colors Not to Wear Snorkeling – A Comprehensive Guide

When planning a snorkeling adventure, selecting the right colors to wear is crucial for both safety and the enjoyment of your experience. Wearing bright colors is often discouraged as they can attract sharks and disrupt the natural behavior of sea life. On the other hand, certain brighter colors, like yellow or orange, can enhance visibility to fellow snorkelers or boat traffic. It’s important to consider how colors are absorbed at different rates underwater, affecting how sea creatures perceive them. Moreover, underwater photographers often seek a colorful reef environment, but wearing distinctive patterns or bright colors and patterns could interfere with marine wildlife.

Understanding the Visibility of Colors Underwater

Underwater, the visibility of colors changes significantly with depth. An underwater camera can capture stunning images but will require a dive torch to illuminate the true colors of the underwater world. Snorkelers should be aware that as they descend, colors may appear differently than they do on the surface, impacting their ability to appreciate the marine environment and potentially their safety.

How Water Depth and Light Affect Color Perception

The depth of water and the amount of light available play critical roles in how we perceive color while snorkeling. Spearfishing freedivers often wear camouflage to blend into their surroundings, taking advantage of the natural light conditions and the way water depth influences visibility. This strategy can be informative for snorkelers considering what colors to wear underwater.

The Science of Color Loss with Depth

As scuba divers know, water absorbs light, causing colors to fade with depth. This phenomenon is due to the selective absorption and scattering of sunlight as it passes through water. Red wavelengths are absorbed first, followed by orange and yellow, leaving blues and greens to penetrate the deepest, which is why these colors remain visible at greater depths.

what colors not to wear snorkeling

Most Visible Colors for Safety and Visibility

While the risk of shark attacks is low, wearing bright colors underwater can increase visibility to rescuers and fellow snorkelers but may also be attractive to sharks. Choosing contrasting colors that stand out against the aquatic backdrop without unduly increasing the risk of a shark encounter is important.


Choosing the right colors for your snorkeling gear can have several benefits. Vibrant colors like yellow or orange can be easily spotted against the blue sea, making it easier for others to see you, which is particularly useful in emergencies or areas with heavy boat traffic. Additionally, bright colors can be cheerful and enhance the snorkeling experience, making it easier to keep track of your group.


However, there are downsides to wearing bright colors. They can sometimes attract unwanted attention from sea life, potentially leading to dangerous encounters. Furthermore, bright colors might not be ideal for those seeking to observe marine life without disturbing it, as creatures could be repelled or behave unnaturally.

The Impact of Colors on Marine Life

Bright-colored attire can significantly impact marine life, as many aquatic animals are drawn to or repelled by certain colors and patterns. This can affect the behavior of fish and other organisms, influencing the snorkeling experience.

Attraction or Repulsion: Colors That Affect Sea Creatures

Just like spearfishing freedivers wear camouflage to blend in with their environment, snorkelers should consider colors that will minimize their impact on sea creatures. The goal is to observe without causing distress or altering the natural behavior of marine life.

Can Fish See Colors?

There’s a common misconception that all fish, including sharks, can see colors. However, studies suggest that sharks are colorblind, indicating that their attraction to certain objects may not be due to color but rather to contrast and movement. This insight is important for snorkelers when choosing their gear.

Shark Behavior and Color Attraction

According to data from the International Shark Attack File, there is no definitive evidence linking the color of swimwear to shark behavior. However, snorkelers should still exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings to minimize the risk of an encounter.

Debunking Myths: Are Sharks Drawn to Bright Colors?

When diving or swimming, there’s a prevalent myth that sharks are particularly attracted to bright colors. However, scientific studies have found that sharks are color blind and that it is the contrast, rather than the color itself, that may lead to a shark encounter. Snorkelers should be mindful of wearing contrasting swimwear that could potentially attract sharks.

what colors not to wear snorkeling

Snorkeling Safety and Color Choices

Appropriate color choices can help protect your skin from the sun’s rays, allow you to swim more efficiently, and ensure that your gear fits properly. This is especially true when snorkeling in Hawaii, where the clear waters and abundant marine life demand careful consideration of your attire.

Recommended Colors for Snorkeling Gear

When selecting snorkeling gear, consider colors like yellow or orange for your buoyancy aids. These wetsuit colors provide extreme discomfort for marine predators, and snorkeling fins that contrast with their surroundings. These choices help ensure that snorkeling equipment, including the breathing tube and snorkeling fins, is visible and that you can enjoy wearing fins without blending into the environment too much.

Snorkeling Mask Visibility Factors

Visibility is a key factor when choosing snorkeling masks. Selecting a mask that offers a clear view and fits comfortably is essential. A mask with a color that contrasts with the underwater environment can help others spot you more easily, which is especially important in the event of an emergency or when snorkeling in areas with dense sea life.

Avoiding Colors That Pose Risks

When snorkeling, it’s essential to consider the palette of your attire, as certain colors may increase risks. Contrasting colors, such as bright yellow or orange, can be highly visible, which is generally good for safety, but there’s a caveat. Specifically, wearing yellow, often dubbed as “yum yum yellow,” can be attractive to sharks, making it a color to avoid. Studies suggest that sharks are attracted to these hues, possibly because they stand out against the blue of the ocean, drawing attention from curious marine predators like bull sharks.

Examples of Risky Colors for Snorkelers

While the underwater world is a kaleidoscope of color, not all shades are advisable for snorkelers. Bright yellow and certain contrasting colors may be perceived as intrusive or even threatening to marine life. For example, wearing yellow can be risky as it might attract sharks, who find such vibrant colors intriguing. Anecdotal evidence and some scientific studies suggest that bull sharks, in particular, may find bright yellow and contrasting colors attractive, potentially leading to unwanted encounters. Therefore, it’s wise to avoid these colors in both swimwear and equipment to minimize risk.

Color Selection for Optimal Snorkeling Experience

Choosing the right colors to wear while snorkeling can enhance both safety and enjoyment. Brighter colors are often recommended for snorkel vests and gear to ensure high visibility to fellow snorkelers and boats. When selecting a snorkeling tour, it’s also practical to consider the provided equipment colors and whether they stand out in the aquatic environment. However, when it comes to personal items, like a waterproof pouch, opt for a hue that doesn’t scream ‘valuables on the beach’ to potential thieves.

Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Popular Gear Colors

In the world of snorkeling gear, colors do more than just appeal to the eye—they serve functional purposes. Buoyancy aids and wetsuit colors are not just about style; they can ensure visibility or provide camouflage. Bright hues may contrast with their surroundings, catching a shark’s eyes, which could lead to extreme discomfort for the snorkeler. 

The Safest Color Palette for Your Snorkeling Adventure

When planning a snorkeling trip, choosing the safest colors to wear when snorkeling is crucial for visibility and safety. Bright, neon colors such as yellow, orange, and pink enhance visibility to fellow snorkelers and boats. Lighter colors may reflect sunlight and can help you stand out against the vast blue of the ocean. However, one should avoid colors that blend with the marine environment, such as blues and greens, to ensure they are easily spotted by their snorkeling buddy in case of an emergency.

what colors not to wear snorkeling

Best Practices Beyond Color Selection

Apart from color selection, there are additional practices to ensure safety while snorkeling. Always snorkel with a buddy and maintain a distance close enough for you to be within each other’s sight. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings, including boat traffic and weather conditions. Familiarize yourself with the local marine life to understand any potential risks, and always respect their habitat by not touching or disturbing the creatures or coral.

The Dilemma of Wearing Jewelry While Snorkeling

Wearing jewelry while snorkeling might seem like a way to express personal style, but it poses risks. Shiny objects can attract certain marine life, potentially leading to unwanted encounters. Additionally, jewelry can accidentally snag on coral or other underwater structures. To avoid such risks, it’s best to leave jewelry behind and rely on your snorkeling buddy and gear for safety and communication underwater.

Snorkeling Equipment Variations for Different Environments

Snorkeling in different environments requires specific equipment adaptations. In colder waters, a thicker wetsuit is crucial to protect your skin and maintain body warmth. For tropical climates, lighter gear may be sufficient. Ensuring that your snorkeling fins and mask fit properly is vital for comfort and to swim more efficiently. Tailoring your equipment to the environment will enhance your snorkeling experience and overall safety.

Final Thoughts on Snorkeling Color Choices

Choosing what to wear while snorkeling can significantly affect both your safety and the impact you have on the marine environment. Brighter colors are advantageous for visibility when swimming in the ocean, making it easier for fellow snorkelers or boats to spot you against the ocean’s depths. However, it’s crucial to balance this with the understanding that certain hues can alter the behavior of sea creatures, potentially leading to unwanted encounters.

Leave a Comment