Snorkeling is one of the best activities to do while vacationing in Maui. Getting a glimpse of Hawaii’s underwater world gives you the opportunity to see tropical fish, green sea turtles (also known as Honu), octopus and many other amazing creatures.
Learning snorkeling can be easy for all ages, ensuring your snorkel equipment fits properly and you know how to use it will set you up for the best snorkel experience.
How to get the best fit for your Snorkel Mask
Snorkel masks come in a variety of sizes with each brand and the sizing is not universal so you have a couple of options for finding the best fit for your snorkel mask. First, you can measure the space between the bridge of your nose and your chin and use that as a guide for fit.
The other option which I recommend would be to try on a mask in person. There is no substitute for feeling the fit and materials of a mask. To try on a snorkel mask, place it on your face and inhale in. The snorkel mask should sit snugly on your face before securing the back strap.
If you feel uncomfortable pressure on your forehead, bridge of your nose or cheeks or any locations, that mask is not the right fit. It should feel comfortable and snug. If there are any gaps between your face and the edges of the rubber mask seal, that is also an indication that the mask is not the right fit and may leak water while snorkeling.
Once you have found a snorkel mask that fits properly, select a snorkel tube that attaches to the mask. You want the snorkel mouthpiece to be the best fitting size, it should not feel too big or inhibit breathing. The snorkel is traditionally worn on the left side of the mask, attach it to your snorkel mask and try them on together to ensure a comfortable fit.
If you wear glasses you can also select prescription lenses that are custom for you so you don’t have to wear glasses with your snorkel mask. Many snorkel tour operators including us at Hawaii Ocean Rafting, provide prescription masks for guests within a few ranges.
Are Full Face Masks safe?
A frequently asked question is whether full-face snorkel masks are safe. Understanding how a snorkel mask and snorkel (the plastic tube you breathe through) works can help you select the best snorkel mask options. The rubber around the lens creates a suction to the diver's face, sealing out the water, creating a glass or plastic barrier that allows the snorkeler to see underwater.
The snorkel is attached to the mask and acts as a breathing apparatus while snorkeling. The snorkel tube has a mouthpiece that you place in your mouth and can continue relaxed breathing, the mask will prevent you from breathing through your nose while your face is underwater. The snorkel will be above water, allowing you to breathe fresh air in and out of the tube, providing regular fresh oxygen.
Originally full face masks were designed with a proper breathing apparatus, but unfortunately, the general full face snorkel mask brands and designs available to the public now are not safe to use. The reason full face masks are not safe is because they do not circulate C02 properly.
When you breathe in oxygen and breathe out C02, the C02 remains in the full face mask much longer as they do not have a separate plastic tube carrying your CO2 out of the mask and bringing fresh oxygen back, causing you to breathe your same air instead of fresh air.
The safer two piece mask and snorkel has a direct breathing tube so you breathe fresh oxygen in every time and the C02 you exhale leaves the tube back into the air. If you are wearing a full face mask and not getting proper oxygen, C02 builds up and can cause shallow water blackout without any warning signs.
Full face masks also do not give you the opportunity to equalize. Equalizing is necessary if you are diving below the surface and is only possible if you can hold your nose which cannot be done with the full face mask. You cannot dive with the standard full face mask they sell at snorkel stores.
The full face mask they sell for scuba diving has a regulator attachment and are not the same design as the full face snorkel mask on the market.
In summary, wearing a two piece mask and snorkel is the safer option than the standard full face mask on the market because the full face mask does not allow for as much fresh air to circulate or the opportunity for equalization.
Tips for Defogging your Snorkel Mask
When you first purchase a snorkel mask there is a protective film lining the inside of the mask. Divers will often use a light abrasive like toothpaste or a lighter to burn off that protective layer. The reason they remove this protective layer is because it helps prevent the mask from fogging. Before you attempt to remove the protective layer, talk with your snorkel store or dive shop for assistance.
Once the preventive layer is removed, using defog before you snorkel is important. The most common defog solution divers use is part baby shampoo and water in a spray bottle. There are many other defog or anti-fog solutions on the market, you can research online or talk with your dive shop.
Other at home mask anti-fog solutions include saliva, potatoes and glycerin soaps. Research instructions on how to use each of these options to prevent your mask from fogging. Defog should be applied to the inside of your mask and given a light rinse then placed on your face immediately after and right before entering the water to snorkel.
If your mask begins to fog once you are in the water, you may be able to create a quick on the go defog solution using saliva on the inside of your mask!
How to Clean your Snorkel Mask
The best way to care for your snorkel mask is to always rinse with fresh water as soon as you are finished snorkeling. When you return home, use warm water and dish soap to better remove salt water, sunscreen or any other residue left on your mask. Due with a soft towel or hang to dry out of the sun, store in a dry, cool place in a protective case to prevent the lenses from scratching.