i've always been a bit timid around water. i'm not a very good swimmer and before last year i really never spent much time in the water. but i got hooked on snorkeling last year in jamaica. there, i used a regular type life vest to give me a sense of security, altho i did try a bit of snorkeling without a vest.
before going to belize, i bought an inflatable vest knowing it would be so much more comfortable and easy to pack too. turned out to be a very good decision.
alan, who is a very good swimmer, around water all his life, never used a vest for snorkeling....thinks that he may get one next time too. he wouldn't use it in most snorkeling conditions, but the day we were at hol chan he could have used it. it was a fairly windy/rough day and after being in the water for awhile, doing a few free dives to take pictures and starting to get tired, he found himself in the strong current and struggling to get back to our boat. a vest would have helped.
i stayed out of that current...it seems to be just where the water is flowing through the cut in the reef and with an outgoing tide, it can really pull you out. on either side of it, you don't feel that pull.
i didn't see any other snorkelers using vests. but being older, smokers and (in my case) not a strong swimmer, i think one of these very comfortable inflatable vests is a good idea. it greatly increased my pleasure in the water.