Snorkeling in Crete - Detailed Guide to Exploring the Underwater

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Surrounded by the vast Mediterranean Sea, Crete in Greece is a very popular destination for snorkelling. The clear blue water of the sea boasts excellent visibility up to depths of about 30m and sometimes even more. It is also very calm and tends to be warm for most part of the year, thus making for ideal snorkelling conditions. And given its high salt content, even older people with joint problems can go snorkelling. Moreover, its diverse underwater flora, fauna and rock formations undoubtedly add to the experience! So, if you are considering going on a snorkelling excursion in Crete, here is all that you need to know.

10 Best Places for Snorkelling in Crete

1. Elafonissi Beach

Snorkelling at Elafonissi Beach
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Elafonissi Beach is located in the Chania region and is a popular snorkelling spot in Crete; the Elafonissi Lagoon has clear and shallow water ideal for first-timers or experts. The surrounding region is also very beautiful, especially since it is mostly untouched and features pinkish sand. You can also camp here, and there are cantinas on the beach too. 

2. Matala Beach

Snorkelling at Matala Beach
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Matala Beach is located on the southern coast of Crete in Heraklion. It is a spectacular snorkelling location owing to its crystal clear waters as well as its surrounding rocks and caves that form tombs. What makes it an even more wonderful choice is the presence of shipwrecks that date back to the Roman era. 

3. Kolokytha Beach

Snorkelling at Kolokytha Beach
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A rocky beach near Schisma, Kolokytha Beach is one of Crete’s lesser-known snorkelling spots that guarantee you tranquillity. This scenic beach is surrounded by clear blue water and is an excellent choice if you want to avoid crowds.

4. Chrissi Island

Snorkelling at Chrissi Island
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Relatively untouched and absolutely breathtaking, Chrissi Island on the Libyan Sea is a well-known snorkelling location. The water between the island and the nearby Mikronis islet is calm, clear and shallow, which makes it suitable for snorkelling. Moreover, you would see a variety of aquatic creatures in its reef, such as octopuses, nudibranchs, European parrotfish etc.

5. Iguana Beach

Snorkelling at Iguana Beach
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Although a little outside Crete, Iguana Beach is a popular snorkelling destination frequented by large crowds of tourists and locals. Its pristine blue water is home to diverse flora and fauna, thus guaranteeing you a memorable experience. The beach also has a number of restaurants where you can get something to eat after going snorkelling.

6. Dragon’s Beach

Snorkelling at Dragon's Beach
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Dragon’s Beach is one of the Ammoudi Beaches that lie southeast of Agios Nikolaos. It is a wonderful place for snorkelling as it boasts shallow clear blue water with different kinds of aquatic life. And surrounding the beach are picturesque limestone white rocks, cliffs and even a cave that you can explore on your feet. Moreover, the clay from the cliffs mixed with some water makes for a natural skin tonic.

7. Vai Beach

Snorkelling at Vai Beach
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Surrounded by a palm forest, Vai Beach in Crete is a very famous snorkelling location because of its clear blue water that is suitable for beginners and professionals alike. The most popular snorkelling spot here is the small islet just off the beach that also overlooks scenic hills.

8. Frangokastello Beach

Snorkelling at Frangokastello Beach
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Frangokastello Beach is situated on the southern coast of the Chania region and consists of three beaches. The first one has a rocky seabed, the second is a sandy beach in front of the Frangokastello Castle that has shallow water, and the third one is a powdery sand beach. These beaches also house varying aquatic creatures that undoubtedly add to your snorkelling experience!

9. Plakias Beach

Snorkelling at Plakias Beach
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Located on Crete’s southern coast, Plakias Beach is known for its blue water, which is crystal clear and perfect for snorkelling. It is also surrounded by greenery and hills, making for a great backdrop. Once you are done snorkelling, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the beach’s many taverns.

10. Bali 

Snorkelling in Bali, Crete
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Bali was once home to the ancient Astali, the port city for Axos, and has turned into a modern resort town with numerous amenities. It comprises four beaches that are ideal for snorkelling, especially for beginners, as the water is usually very calm and warm. Furthermore, the springs from the Psiloritis Range nearby often bring cold water into the sea.

Best Time for Snorkeling in Crete 

The best time for snorkelling in Crete is the fall season, specifically September and October. The water temperature during this period is not too cold, and a number of species, like the needlefish tend to come closer to the surface to lay eggs, thus increasing your chances of spotting them. Furthermore, Crete is actually suitable for snorkelling almost throughout the entire year as the water temperature remains mostly mild, even during the cooler months when you can simply put on a wetsuit. However, if you wish to avoid cooler water temperatures, it would be advisable not to go snorkelling from December to February. 

Top 5 Snorkelling Operators in Crete

1. Omega Divers

Snorkelling with Omega Divers
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Located close to Chania in Crete, Omega Divers, is a well-known snorkelling centre that offers courses as well as recreational excursions for beginners and professionals. The guided snorkelling package includes you going on a boat to different locations like islets, underwater and land caves, reefs and more, where experts will accompany you on into the water and take lots of pictures and videos. Moreover, before you go in, they also brief you about what to do and the different aquatic life you might encounter. The entire trip is about 3 hours long. 
Address: Almyrida 1, Almyrida 730 08, Greece
Timings: 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM

2. Kalypso Dive Center and School

Snorkelling with Kalypso Dive Center and School
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The Kalypso Dive Center and School is close to the Kalypso Cretan Village Resort & Spa hotel and is a wonderful choice for snorkelling operators. They offer guided tours at 10 diving sites for adults and children alike that begin with a short theory session by divemasters followed by the dive. You would begin in shallow waters that are about 2m deep and can go as low as 30m; the water boasts excellent visibility and also features a minivan car wreck and a portion of a shipwreck. Furthermore, photographers can accompany you if you like.   
Address: Karavos Beach, Plakias 740 60, Greece
Timings: 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM (Sunday to Monday), Saturday closed

3. Diving Center Blue Dolphin

Snorkelling with Diving Center Blue Dolphin
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The Diving Center Blue Dolphin in Elounda was established over 30 years ago and is known for its snorkelling trips for amateur and pro divers. You can choose from about 25 diving spots and would be accompanied by a trained instructor the entire time. The water is full of numerous flora and fauna, and as you explore this spectacular world, a photographer will capture your special moments. If you are looking for a unique experience, opt for their Olous snorkelling tour, which involves exploring the ancient sunken city. 
Address: Aquila Hotel Elounda Village, Elounda, Crete, Greece 720 53, Greece
Timings: 8:30 AM - 6:30 PM (Sunday to Friday), Saturday closed

4. Chania Diving Center

Snorkelling with Chania Diving Center
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Popular for its guided snorkelling tours as well as its training programs, the Chania Diving Center guarantees you an unforgettable underwater experience. The guided tours are available in the mornings and afternoons and include a short boat ride to 2 diving sites where you would see caves, colourful corals, sponges, fish etc. You can also choose the private snorkelling trip to the Rhodopos peninsula, a beautiful secluded area away from the urban centre. 
Address: Chania, Crete, Greece, TK, 731 00
Timings: 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM

5. Dive2gether Crete

Snorkelling with Dive2gether Crete
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Dive2gether Crete offers a variety of snorkelling packages for anyone above the age of 6 who knows how to swim. Some of their most popular ones include regular day snorkelling, snorkelling at a waterfall and night snorkelling, along with training courses. You would be accompanied by trained professionals on your snorkelling excursions throughout the trip and be provided with all the necessary information before you enter the water. 
Address: Plakias 740 60, Greece
Timings: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

What to Spot While Snorkelling in Crete

Stingrays in Crete
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The Mediterranean Sea around Crete boasts an extremely diverse aquatic life, including flora and fauna. When you are underwater, you will come across species such as sea horses, eels, octopuses, sea urchins, squids, dolphins, whales, stingrays, scorpion fish, turtles, sponges and many more. You might even chance upon the Mediterranean Monk Seal, an endangered species that is endemic to these regions, one of which is Crete. Moreover, there are colourful corals, underwater caves, cliffs and valleys too. Many operators give you a chart with names of different species, and you can check off the ones that you see when snorkelling!

Safety Tips

  • You should know how to swim for safety reasons and because many snorkelling operators might require you to have basic swimming skills.
  • Check your snorkelling equipment properly before going into the water to ensure that it fits well. Even if you have been snorkelling multiple times before, carry a floatation device like an inflatable vest in case of an emergency.
  • Pay close attention to the instructor so you understand everything about your diving location. Having an idea about the kind of aquatic creatures you might come across can also be helpful.
  • It is always advisable to dive with someone. However, make sure to respect personal space when underwater.
  • Check the weather conditions before booking an excursion, as snorkelling is most suitable when the sea is calm. Mornings and afternoons are usually the best time of the day for snorkelling. 
  • Don’t forget to come up a few times, not only for air but also to keep track of your location, as the tide might have pulled you further out to sea.
  • Move slowly when underwater, avoid flailing your arms and make very little noise to avoid startling the creatures.
  • If you spot a fish hiding in a cavity, remain still and wait for it to come to you (which fish tend to do as they are curious) instead of trying to get closer to it, as that might frighten it. 
  • Know which aquatic creatures to avoid, as some might be dangerous. Keep a lookout for sea urchins on rocks, and stay away from Morays, as they might bite you if they feel threatened. Be careful not to step on Weevers that live on sandy/muddy sea bottoms and on Scorpion fishes that are usually found on rocks, as they might sting you. Also, don’t touch the corals.
  • Wearing flippers or jelly shoes might help prevent being stung or bitten.
  • Avoid feeding the fish.
  • It is better to wear biodegradable sunscreen as regular ones contain chemicals (oxybenzone and octinoxate) that are harmful to coral reefs.
  • Don’t take anything from the water as a souvenir, even if it is a creature that appears to be dead.
  • If you feel like you are getting tired and don’t have any more energy to continue, let your instructor know and preferably get back to the boat because you shouldn't over-exert yourself.
If you plan a trip to Crete, you must go snorkelling in its pristine blue waters. Exploring the expansive Mediterranean Sea with its diverse aquatic life is sure to be one of the experiences that you will never forget. So if you are ready for adventure and are curious about what lies in the depths of the ocean, go ahead and book your snorkelling excursion now and prepare for an incredible time!

This post was published by Arushi Bhowmick

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