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For decades, those who wanted to see the wonders beneath the surface of the sea had to either peer at them through a snorkeling mask or invest the time (and money) to become a certified scuba diver. But a middle way has emerged: Snuba. I talk to one of the promoters of this exciting new sport, Duane Beggs of Snuba International.

Pauline Frommer: Very briefly, what is snuba?

Duane Beggs: Snuba is a transition between snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s basically done with a tank, with all the equipment on a flotation device at the surface, connected to a 20-foot hose that goes down to the diver.

Frommer: Why would anyone want to do this when they could scuba divem which would allow them to go deeper?

Beggs: Scuba diving has an initial trauma to it in that they put 80 pounds of gear on you and your mind tells you you’re going to go to the bottom like a rock. Not necessarily so, but it’s a mental thing. With the snuba, you have a flotation device, which gives you a comfort level. You have a limit to the depth you can go, [but] you don’t have to wear any equipment and you there’s a limit to the amount of instruction you need before the experience.

Frommer: Does that mean that there’s less training needed?

Beggs: Yes. With Snuba you’re attached to a surface raft, so you don’t drift off to any depth. We teach you to hang on to the raft with your mask and regulator until you’re comfortable. And then you hand-over-hand down the line. This also makes it easier to regulate your ears. [With scuba], you get too deep, it’s very difficult to pop your ears [and] you have to come back up. Coming up and down isn’t an easy thing when you’re free floating in the ocean, because you don’t know where you are. But with snuba, you go down the hose a few feet and pop your ears, and then do it again. If it doesn’t work, you can go up a couple of feet. You can stop on that hose anywhere you want. If you want to stay at 5 or 10 feet you can. That’s fine.

Frommer: You’re approaching this like it's a positive. But I bet a lot of people would wonder if what you’ll see will be interesting at just 20 feet.

Beggs: What you find is once you go past 30 feet, you lose the colors. Most of the reds and yellows are filtered out by the salt water. Most of the aquarium fish are in shallow water. The main advantage of snuba over snorkeling is that at least half of the things that live in the ocean live underneath the coral, not on top of it. So once you go down and you can look under, you see a lot that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

Frommer: Where can you find snuba diving today?

Beggs: We’re in about 60 different locations worldwide. The largest concentrations are Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. We’re in most of the places where cruise boats stop. We’re one of the main concessions for the cruise lines. You can find all of the locations at Snuba.com.

Frommer: This sounds like something my kids would love. Is this an all-ages activity? Is it safe enough for children?

Beggs: We go down to 8 years old to do the full snuba experience. For those 4 to 8, we have something called Snuba Do.  That basically replaces the harness with a flotation device that’s actually a full vest so that toddlers can stay on the surface with the raft and feel like they’re doing the same thing as their parents, without going under the water.

Frommer: It’s a fascinating alternative for vacationers.