Exploring the Pros and Cons of Snuba vs Hookah Diving

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  27.01.2023
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You might have heard of snuba, but what about hookah? Both are underwater adventures where you breathe through a hose, but there are some significant differences.

Hookah is an underwater breathing apparatus that allows a diver to breathe from a hose connected to the surface. Snuba looks exactly the same underwater, but the air is supplied by an oxygen tank while hookah uses a generator for the air.

In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the differences between snuba and hookah diving, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Snuba vs hookah diving

Hookah vs snuba

What is Hookah Diving?

Hookah diving is like scuba diving, but without all the heavy equipment. It’s a way of exploring the underwater world without having to lug around a tank of air and other bulky gear. Instead, you use a petrol or battery-powered air compressor to deliver air to you through a long hose, called a down-line. This way, you can stay underwater for up to 3-3.5 hours and even bring a buddy along for the ride!

What is snuba diving?

Snuba diving uses the same down-line system (best ones reviewed here) , but the oxygen comes from a regular oxygen tank, albeit somewhat larger than your standard scuba tank.

The oxygen tank lies atop a floating raft that can follow you on the water’s surface as you swim around to look at the marine life.

With snuba, you can stay underwater for around 25 minutes at a time.

Hookah Diving Gear

Hookah diving gear is a bit different from scuba gear. You’ll need a harness or BCD (buoyancy control device) to attach the down-line to, and a second stage regulator specifically designed for hookah diving.

Snuba also has a regulator, more like the normal scuba one, but adapted to fit the oxygen hose.

Diving Depth Limits

Hookah diving is usually done in depths of less than 12 meters (40 feet). But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can find systems that can take you down to 40 meters (130 ft) for one diver, or 25 metres (80 ft) for two. Just make sure you know what you’re doing and take all the necessary safety precautions!

Snuba enables you to go down to about 20 feet, although most tours go 10 feet deep.

Safety Tips

Hookah diving can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to stay safe. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Take an Open Water Scuba Diving course and become a certified diver.
  • Follow all the safety precautions that apply to scuba diving.
  • Avoid decompression sickness (DCS) by not coming up to the surface too quickly.
  • Read books on underwater diving safety and study them thoroughly.
  • Use a dive computer and understand decompression stops.

Because you can go. a lot deeper with hookah, getting scuba certified is a smart thing. Snuba is definitely more recreational and doesn’t require you to take any certification or even be a great swimmer.

Recreational vs pro

Snuba is more recreational in nature than hookah. Anyone from age 8 and up can go on a snuba tour without problem. The system is designed to be idiot proof and still provide you with a lot of fun.

Hookah is geared towards the more professional diver. You can go deeper and go for far longer because of the generator system.

Snuba is also a registered trademark so only qualified instructors can take you out and call it snuba. It’s a more protected term and so you can depend on the quality of the tour more.

Anyone can take you on a hookah tour, although instructors will probably be certified divers of course.

What You Need to Know About Hookah Diving Systems

The Essentials

Hookah diving is a great way to explore the underwater world without all the bulky equipment of traditional scuba diving. But, it’s important to make sure your Surface Supplied Breathing Apparatus (SSBA) is up to snuff. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Hookah air compressor: This is the most important part of the system. It supplies the air you need to breathe. Most hookah compressors are electric-driven and deliver air at a maximum pressure of 1.85 bar (25 psi).
  • Diaphragm hookah compressor: These are usually made of aluminium alloy and use a rubber diaphragm to displace air. The moving parts are lubricated with Teflon and the air is pure and oil-free.
  • Piston hookah compressor: These deliver air at a maximum pressure of 9 bar (130 psi) and are usually powered by a 4-stroke petrol engine. They use an oil bath system lubricated with a high-grade mineral or synthetic compressor oil.
  • Pressure relief valve: This prevents excessive pressure from building up in the compressor head when the diver is only making a small demand on the compressor. This valve will give the average diver at shallow depths enough air to operate his regulator while leaving enough pressure left over to allow for increased exertion.

Safety First

When it comes to hookah diving, safety is always the number one priority. Make sure you choose a reliable dive hookah and always use a filtration system with the right filtration media to remove any solid particles and contamination. And, if you’re using a piston compressor, make sure the engine exhaust is always placed DOWNWIND from the compressor’s air inlet.

Finally, be aware of the maximum pressure available from your compressor. Consistently high operating pressures (unless the unit is specifically designed for high pressure use) will shorten the life of the compressor. So, make sure you know your limits and stay safe!

What is Snuba?

The Basics

Snuba is a great way to experience the underwater world without having to be a scuba diver. It’s a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving, and it’s a lot of fun! You get to breathe underwater and explore the depths with ease.

How Does It Work?

Snuba is a controlled and relatively safe activity, but it’s still diving so make sure you follow the safety instructions and stay calm. Here’s how it works:

  • Air is supplied through hoses from a floating raft, which acts as a platform for users to practice breathing with their heads underwater and safety measures.
  • The raft is designed to be visible to boat traffic to reduce the chance of being hit by a boat.
  • Air lines limit the depth of the activity to a maximum of 7 meters.
  • To return to the surface, users simply use a hand-over-hand to ascend the air line to the raft.
  • Lightweight harnesses allow more people to experience breathing underwater without having to wear and learn how to use a BCD (Buoyancy Compensation Device) and Air Cylinder.
  • Soft weightbelts are used to make participants neutrally buoyant in the water.
  • A regulator eliminates the entry of water if used as instructed.
  • No prior dive experience is necessary – all you need is to be at least 8 years old and have a basic swimming ability.

The Benefits of Snuba

Snuba is a great way to explore the underwater world without having to be a scuba diver. Here are some of the benefits:

  • You get to breathe underwater and explore the depths with ease.
  • You don’t need to wear or learn how to use a BCD and Air Cylinder.
  • You can control your depth, descent and ascent rates.
  • You can’t get lost – the air line provides you with vertical control.
  • You don’t need prior dive experience – all you need is to be at least 8 years old and have a basic swimming ability.
  • You can stay afloat with the help of the raft.
  • You don’t have to worry about getting a taste of the ocean or having difficulty clearing the snorkel.


In conclusion, snuba and hookah diving are both great ways to explore the underwater world. Snuba is a great option for those who don’t want to commit to a full scuba diving course, while hookah diving is a great choice for those who want to stay underwater longer and dive deeper. Both methods offer a unique experience and are a great way to get out and explore the ocean.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Kauai Surf Report is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new sports with everything surfing at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2019 to help loyal readers with surfing and water sporting tips.