Swim buoy for snorkeling – Why and how to use a dive flag?

Swim buoy for snorkeling is an accessory that helps to be visible in areas where there is intense boat traffic or while swimming in open water. Using a high visibility floating surface marker is essential for your own safety by clearly indicating the wearer’s position and helping to rest if needed. This post explains what type of dive buoys are available and which one is the best for snorkelers!

What is a swim buoy?

A swimming buoy is an inflatable accessory that serves as a dive flag by letting people know that someone is in the water, provides a resting platform if needed and can work as a buoyancy aid too.

two boys snorkeling with yellow buoy
A bright marker buoy makes you more visible while you snorkel

Due to its bright color, it increases the user’s safety (a black swimming or snorkeling suit is almost invisible in open water to boaters) but doesn’t replace a personal flotation device or a snorkel vest.

Why use a dive flag for snorkeling?

Using a highly visible flag is a common practice in diving, but swimmers and snorkelers rarely carrying any surface marker. Most beach holiday destinations have laws regarding using one and there are various safety and practical reasons too why you should get one.

Benefits of using a snorkeling flag:

  • makes the user noticeable to boats, surfers, jet-skis and other swimmers so helps to avoid accidents
  • helps the family (or coach if you do some training) to track the wearer from the shore
  • serves as a buoyancy aid and provides a small resting platform when the swimmer gets tired
  • models with dry compartment can store phone, ID, keys, etc…

Tip: read our 10 snorkeling safety tips post and learn how to stay safe when exploring the beauty of the sea!

Surface marker buoy types

There are various marker buoys available that all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here we list the most common models and explain which one works the best for snorkeling.

Snorkel buoy

A snorkelbuoy is a small floaty that is attachable to the snorkel tube and works as a surface marker. It makes you noticeable, moreover, it also prevents your mask from sinking to the bottom of the sea in case you accidentally drop it.

Snorkelbuoy - This tiny foam can help to keep you visible in the water

Read more information about this small yet smart snorkeling accessory in our review!

Swim buoy

This is a floating accessory that is highly visible, easy to inflate/deflate, compact, lightweight and attachable to the waist but to your surfboard or kayak too.

Due to its small size and wide usability, we recommend choosing a swim buoy for snorkeling, open water swimming and any other water sport.

Dive float with flag

A classical surface marker buoy in red or orange color with a red-white dive flag on it. Using a dive float and dive torpedo is a must in many countries when divers are in the water and they are available in most water sport stores.

Torpedo buoy with dive flag
Torpedo buoy dive flag

Diving floats are designed to be carried on a long line that makes them easy-to-fix to underwater objects such as wrecks, but for snorkelers, it can be inconvenient to carry a dive buoy because they are large and don’t have such practical attachment options like a snorkeling dive flag has.

The long line can be dangerous while surface swimming since it can get caught in your fins, on corals or in worse cases, in a boat motor. For snorkeling, choose a swim buoy that you can attach at your waist instead.

Safety sausage

A dive sausage is a long inflatable tube in red or orange color. These accessories are used mainly by divers but can be carried on the surface too, however it is not the most ideal way of letting boats know where you are if you are snorkeling.

To keep yourself visible, you should hold it in upright position, which is of course not possible all the time while observing corals and fish. If you just let it float on the water, it won’t get attention since it is quite flat. We don’t really recommend this as a snorkeling dive flag, better choosing a swim buoy instead!

Best 3 snorkeling dive flag models

New Wave Swim Bubble

The New Wave Swim Bubble is an ultralight swim buoy that gives extra visibility and flotation. Thanks to the bright colors, it works great as a snorkeling dive flag by increasing the user’s safety and making her/him visible in the water. Moreover, it can be used as a buoyancy aid you can rest on if getting tired.

New Wave Swim Bubble

  • ultralight and extra buoyant surface marker
  • compact size, adjustable strap, small handle for easy holding
  • fast inflation/deflation
  • extra high visibility colors

Thanks to its lightweight design, this Swim Bubble is easy to bring with you on any snorkeling, kayak or paddle-board trip. The compact size and easily adjustable straps make it a good swim buoy for kids and adults too.

Since the Swim Bubble doesn’t have a dry compartment, you need to carry a separate waterproof pouch if you want to bring some small valuables with you. Should you need a swimming buoy with dry bag function, check out the upgraded New Wave Swim Buoy below!

New Wave Swim Buoy

The New Wave Swim Buoy, besides the classical functions of a swimming safety float (providing visibility in open water and a safe place to rest if needed) also works as a dry bag so keeps your personal items safe from water.

No need to worry about leaving your valuables on the beach – you can take them all with you! This swimming buoy has a storage compartment that is separated from the main inflatable air chamber. Here you can put sunglasses, sunscreen, extra goggles, keys or cards, whatever you want!

New Wave snorkeling buoy

  • very light and brightly-colored swim buoy
  • works as a flotation device too
  • small dry storage for personal items
  • in 2 sizes (15L or 20L)

New Wave Swim Buoy comes is brightly colors. It is a lightweight, inflatable flotation device with a waist belt that makes you fully visible to lifeguards, boaters and other open water vehicles. This is not only a surface marker but can also be used as a flotation device. You can relax on in case of leg cramps, but it is useful to calm distressed people too.

For kids and most adults, the smaller 15L version should be good, while the bigger, 20L model has a buoyancy force of 33lbs/15 kg and swimmer weight capacity up to 250lbs/113kg, so it is recommended for swimmers with a bigger body type.

LimitlessXme Swim Buoy

The LimetlessXme Swim Buoy is extremely bright and noticeable. It can be used in lakes, ocean and open water as a snorkeling dive flag or safety marker. It is suitable for athletes too as personal safety aid and considered by many a must accessory for snorkelers and swimmers!

LimitlessXme swimming safety marker

  • bright snorkeling buoy that works as a dry bag too
  • durable, made of high-quality nylon with 2 inflatable chambers
  • works as a dry bag tooL
  • extra smartphone dry bag in the package

The buoy is made of high-quality, durable 190T nylon with two chambers. One of the chambers works as a separate dry bag compartment which is ideal to keep personal items such as keys, ID, credit cards, money, goggles, phone etc… dry. The package also includes a bonus smartphone dry bag that fits most cell phones. Put your phone in the small bag, then place it in the buoy’s dry compartment and your expensive phone can enjoy double protection.

Take this Swim Buoy with you whenever heading out to open water and you will be seen! Available in hi-vis colors and two sizes. The smaller version is perfect for kids with an air capacity of 15 l (it doesn’t have dry compartment), while the slightly bigger a good choice for adults. Thanks to the highly adjustable strap, it is easy to fix around your waist.

What color is the best to choose?

Bright and fluorescent colors are the most visible for boats and other people and have a meaning of ‘caution’ and ‘watch out’. Choosing a high visibility snorkeling dive flag is particularly important if your snorkeling suit is black, because dark objects are hard to see in the open water.

Best swim buoy colors:

  • yellow
  • orange
  • bright green
  • bright pink
  • red-white (international ‘diver down’ flag color)

How to use it a swim buoy for snorkeling?

Snorkeling safety markers are easy-to-use and follow the user almost unnoticeable.

Setting up a swim buoy takes just a few easy steps:

  • inflate it fully
  • fix the belt to your waist
  • attach to tether to the buoy
  • set up the correct length
  • you are ready to go

Don’t attach to yourself an inflatable buoy if you are freediving while snorkeling since it will restrict your movements, moreover the line can get caught in your legs or other objects around you. In this case, one person in your group (your buddy if there are just the two of you) who is not freediving should carry the marker and when the other one swims down, you should stay close to each other.

When not in use, rinse the buy with freshwater, dry it fully and deflate it so you can store it in your snorkeling bag or sport accessory box.

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snorkeling buoy recommendation

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Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!