Why we Banned Full-Face Snorkeling Masks from our Manta Ray Activities

May 23, 2022 | Snorkeling & Diving, Swimming with Manta Rays

There are 2 different types of snorkeling masks: what we call a “classic” mask (where mask and snorkel come separately), and “full-face masks”, which seemed like a great product when they first came out.

Soon though, we started to have some doubts about their use; that’s why a couple of years ago, I already created a video comparing classic masks to full-face snorkeling masks. My verdict was pretty crushing for the full-face masks, and I would tell anyone who listened not to use them.

The myth of full-face masks

Many of the guests who come on our moonlight manta swim don’t snorkel regularly and might have read or heard that a full-face mask would make snorkeling easier for them.

In some cases, they had a negative experience with snorkeling years back (when only classic masks were available) so they’re looking to change things up – and opt for a full-face snorkeling mask this time.

Issues with Full-Face Snorkeling Masks

Issue #1: You can’t communicate with a full-face mask on

The biggest issue is that we cannot communicate with a guest wearing a full-face mask.

The mask covers the full face (as the name already says) so if the participant tries to say something (e.g. having an issue), we don’t understand what he/she is saying – we just hear vague mumbling.

In order to communicate clearly despite the full-face mask, the participant has to pull the mask off. This causes water to whoosh in at a surprising speed (most underestimate this), and they often end up gurgling, swallowing saltwater, and coughing in the middle of the ocean. That’s absolutely no fun!

In other words: for safety reasons, it’s a big NO-NO to take a mask off your face while in the water.

If instead, you use the classic mask with a separate snorkel, you can simply release the mouthpiece and speak clearly to the guide if need be.

Issue #2: The masks often leak or fog up

Another issue with the full-face snorkeling masks is that they easily leak or fog up (especially the cheaper models/knock-offs).

Classic masks don’t usually fog up while snorkeling; not if they’re put on properly in the first place. IF they fog up, however, the issue is much simpler to solve. If a full-face mask fogs up (which we’ve seen happen often), taking the mask off can be a safety issue, as discussed in #1.

Issue #3: Full-face masks can restrict your breathing

Full-face masks are not comfortable to wear while not in the water (when you’re still on land and waiting to go in).

On our moonlight manta swims, we have a walk of about 100 feet from the beach shack where we meet up and get ready, to the point where we enter the ocean. After defogging, we ask people to put on the (classic) masks while we’re still at the beach shack: that way, we can easily adjust settings or fix any issues in the light of the shack.

If people would put on their masks only when we reach the ocean, if something needs to be fixed and adjusted, we’d be fumbling around in the dark.

However, with a full-face mask, it can feel claustrophobic to walk 100 yards on the beach with your mask on, meaning a participant would start the tour in less than ideal condition.

This ties into another issue: if you take shallow breaths while wearing the full-face mask, the potential for CO2 build-up increases. This can cause headaches or in a worst-case scenario, fainting.

Unfortunately, I’m speaking from (a lot of) experience.

We had one occasion in which a guest started hyperventilating in his full-face mask while snorkeling. I had to bring him back to shore, leaving our other guests behind for a bit. This is not a safe situation and not a circumstance we want to encounter again.

Why we Banned Full-Face Snorkeling Masks from our Manta Ray Activity

In our experience (taking groups to snorkel with the mantas almost every night), many of the guests who show up to our activity with a full-face mask have actually never used it before – or just once or twice while practicing for a couple of minutes in a swimming pool.

As safety is uber important to us, we want to eliminate as many potential issues as possible – which is why we decided to ban the full-face snorkeling masks on our moonlight manta swim.

We are not the first company to ban full-face masks, as you can read in this article on Hawaii Ocean Project. And hopefully, we’re not the last ones either.

Want to know more about the equipment we recommend to go snorkeling with manta rays? Visit this page for all the information you need. And if you’ve booked a Manta Ray Moonlight Swim with us and have any questions about the activity, don’t hesitate to reach out!


If you’re thinking about booking a manta ray activity, don’t miss our guide for swimming with manta rays in Hawaii. It’ll answer all your questions about equipment, prerequisites, safety, sustainability, and much more.

It’s a great FREE resource for anyone who’s getting ready to experience the manta rays firsthand.



  1. Cathy Fox

    We have used full face masks for about 6 years and snorkel about 6 times a year. We have never had our masks leak or fog up! We usually snorkel for an hour at a time. Before this, we used the traditional 2 piece system. The full face snorkel mask is far superior. To be fair, we have a high quality one, not a cheap one from Amazon! We won’t be taking a tour with your company.

    • Martina Wing

      Sounds good. We recommend to check with other operator before booking as they might have similar policies. We are not the only ones implementing it. Have a wonderful day.

      • Kaye bradley

        I tried the full face mask and I just couldn’t get enough air . Ended up hyperventilating every time I tried. Scary in deep water . Thanks for publishing your findings. Hope to see you 2025

        • Martina Wing

          Thanks for sharing, and we are looking forward to meeting you in 2025.

    • JC

      I just had someone dying in my arms last week because of theses masks. Please destroy your equipment and get proper training to use a classic mask and snorkel. You don’t want to lose a loved one because of these dangerous full face masks.

      • Martina Wing

        Oh No 😔😔. We are very sorry to hear this, and reinforces to be louder about this easy to avoid safety issue.

  2. Wow

    Many of these can be fixed easily. Anti fog spray works well. Who is walking 100 feet with the mask on? Adjusting the mask before going out with it will fix your “fumbling in the dark.” Personally have seen more “classic” mask difficulty than full face. Taking it off UNDERWATER to communicate? Is that what you’re saying? Because otherwise it doesn’t make sense, and even then, you can’t even speak clearly underwater in the first place. As for people dying/hyperventilating, I question the dying, and even hyperventilating… No one claustrophobic is putting these on…

    • Manta Ray Advocates Admin

      Some tours require participants to don the mask early while still in a well-lit area, so they walk a good distance with the mask on before entering the water.
      I’m glad you have never had any issues with the full-face snorkel masks, but I recommend reading JC’s comment above.

      With Aloha,

      • Cam

        Those full faces masks are terrible for your ears as well, no way to equalise easily, plus they hold so much air you have a floatation device on your head 😬😅

        • Martina Wing

          Thank you, Cam, for making these great points! Fun to imagine the “floating head” 😉

  3. Gabriel Lek

    Thanks for this post. I tried using a full-face mask to snorkel in Thasos a few years ago and panicked when water started to get in. I did not know how to deal with the situation so I got the attention of my friend who swam me back to shore. Full-face snorkel masks are give a false sense of confidence.

    • Martina Wing

      Thank you for sharing, Gabriel. Unfortunately, this craze to sell a different type of mask (powered by extraordinary marketing machines) has put many people in dangerous situations.


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