If you’re going on a snorkeling adventure with manta rays, of course, you want to have an unforgettable experience. Here in Hawaii, manta ray tours are organized at night to increase the chances of sightings, as mantas feed from the plankton attracted by the lights at the viewing sites, and swimming in the open ocean at night brings extra challenges.
Swallowing salt water and struggling with a fogged-up mask can leave a lasting memory, and trust us, it’s not one you want to create!
It’s important to feel comfortable and safe in your snorkeling gear to fully enjoy the activity and avoid putting others at risk. Using the right equipment correctly and practicing beforehand will help you make the most of this magical encounter.
Most operators include rental equipment in the price of a tour, although some boat operators charge extra for it. At Manta Ray Advocates, we provide a high-quality traditional mask and snorkel, fins, safety flotation vest, and towels. You are also welcome to use your own snorkeling gear if you wish.
Tip #1: Use the right mask and snorkel
Always opt for a traditional mask; we highly recommend against using full-face masks for safety reasons. Read here why we banned full-face masks from our activities.
The mask needs to have a good seal around your face. Masks come in different types designed for wide or narrow faces.
To test if the mask fits you, place it on your face without the strap and breathe in through your nose. You should feel a slight suction while inhaling. If there’s no suction, the mask doesn’t fit properly. Try a different one instead.
A mask that stays on your face when you hold your breath is a good-fitting mask.
Tip #2: Wear the right fins
Properly fitted fins will make swimming easier and safer.
You can choose between open-heel swimming fins and full-foot fins (learn the difference here). Both types are suitable for swimming with mantas in Kona.
Tip #3: Wear a Swim Shirt (Rash Guard) or a Neoprene Suit
To protect your skin from potential rashes, always wear a rash guard.
Even though the water temperature ranges from 75-81°F (24-28°C), you are not moving much in the water so that you might feel cold after 30-40 minutes. If you get cold easily, we suggest wearing a neoprene suit.
Tip #4: Prepare your Mask to Prevent Fogging
You should always defog your mask before entering the water. Use a defogging solution just before you start snorkeling, as it tends to dry up if applied too early.
Apply the solution to the inside lens of the mask and rub it in. Then rinse it out and keep the mask on your face to prevent fogging.
Learn more about preparing and defogging your snorkeling mask here (including the recipe for our homemade defog solution, using diluted baby shampoo).
An important thing to remember while wearing a snorkeling mask is to avoid breathing through your nose, which can cause your mask to fog up. Always breathe through your mouth. While this might seem obvious, many people are used to breathing through their nose and might do so unintentionally, even when wearing the mask.
Tip #5: Keep your Hair out of your Snorkeling Mask
Hair inside the mask can break the seal, causing water to leak in. If you have bangs, simply move your hair up while donning the mask. Tying it in a ponytail is also recommended for those with longer hair.
If you have a mustache that gets covered by the mask, applying a thin layer of Vaseline on your mustache can help maintain the seal.
Tip #6: Fit your Mask Strap Correctly
Ensure that the strap sits at the crown of your head with a snug fit, not too tight or loose. It may slide upward if you put it too high on your head. If the mask touches your ears, it’s too low and needs adjusting.
When the strap moves to the wrong position and water starts coming in, a common mistake is to tighten the mask more and more to avoid leakage. This is a HUGE problem because when you make a mask too tight, it adds pressure to the inner seal, causing it to break and creating even more leakage. Always keep your mask strap in the correct place.
Tip #7: How to Use Your Snorkel
If you’re purchasing your own snorkeling gear, your mask will likely come with a snorkel attached. If you’re buying a snorkel separately, choose one with a purge valve at the bottom (like this one). If water gets into your snorkel, you can easily blow it out using the purge valve.
Although snorkels often have bite tabs, there’s no need to bite through them. Many people do so when they get nervous. You should simply keep your lips around the snorkel and maintain a good seal.
Tip #8: How to Fix Leakage on your Snorkeling Mask
Having saltwater enter your mask and eyes can be very uncomfortable.
To clear the water, raise your face above the water line, slightly* lift the bottom of your mask, and let gravity do the work as the water drains out. Once done, re-adjust your mask onto your face, and you’re all set to continue your adventure.
*A small opening is all you need to let the water out. If you open too far, more water can enter the mask in the meantime!
Tip #9: Say Cheese on the Shoreline, not Underwater
You will likely want to smile while seeing the mantas and the colorful fish, but when you smile with your mask on, smile lines or skin grooves appear around your nose and cheeks, allowing water to leak into your mask.
Not smiling when you’re wearing your mask will keep it suctioning onto your face and minimize leakage. Save those smiles for when you’re back on land!
Tip #10: Practice with your Snorkeling Gear Ahead of Time
If you want to be better prepared for swimming with manta rays, we encourage you to practice with your snorkeling gear beforehand. If it’s been a while since you last snorkeled, start in the hotel pool to refresh your skills, but make sure you also practice in the ocean with a mask, snorkel, and fins (mandatory use). This practice will help you feel more confident in your snorkeling gear and better equipped to swim in the ocean.
To further prepare for your snorkeling adventure, read this article covering all the things you need to know before swimming with manta rays.
With these helpful tips, you are all set to jump into the ocean and experience the encounter with these majestic creatures to the fullest.