When you go for an evening dive with the manta rays, you enter the open ocean at night: leaving the human comfort zone, the place of constant air supply. This is a new setting that requires multitasking, and the single most important task to master (besides knowing how to swim) is to be comfortable with the equipment.
As you may have read in our guide to swimming with manta rays in Hawaii, there are different ways to go swimming with the gentle giants. You can book a boat tour and go on a scuba dive, and see mantas from below; or you can choose to go snorkeling, which is the case if you book a moonlight manta swim with us.
I already shared some information on how to don and troubleshoot your equipment; this article is JUST about the equipment you’ll need if you come on a snorkeling expedition (with us or other operators along the Kona coast).
When going for a moonlight swim with us, it’s non-negotiable that a snorkeler uses a mask, snorkel, and fins. If you are a certified diver and select to scuba dive with a boat operator then you will add the buoyancy compensator device (BCD) and regulator.
Should you buy or rent snorkeling equipment?
All operators will offer you the option to rent equipment for your manta ray dive. However, since COVID-19, owning your own mask and snorkel can be a great investment; especially if you’re planning to do more snorkeling (or scuba diving) in the future.
What equipment do you need for snorkeling with manta rays?
There is the traditional/classic mask used with an attached snorkel and the full face mask.
The latter has become popular in recent years but due to several inherent flaws in the design, we do not recommend using it.
In this instructional video about the four easy steps to become comfortable with the traditional equipment, you will also find a comparison between the full face mask vs the classic mask + snorkel combination.
There are many varieties, shapes, sizes, colors, and pricing to choose from but it all trickles down that a mask needs to be comfortable, safe, and have a clear vision once you enter the water.
So, when you start looking for a traditional mask, make sure you purchase one with
- a soft silicone skirt as it will adhere smoothly to your face; and
- tempered glass as in the unfortunate event it breaks, it would fracture into small, relatively harmless pieces.
For clear vision, always apply a defog solution before you go into the ocean and there’s more info about this later.
We believe that you do not have to spend lots of $$ when it comes to owning a mask especially if it is your first time purchasing one. Here are two starter options that we feel are a very good investment, and both can be used for snorkeling and scuba diving.
- Cressi Scuba Diving Mask
For several years, this is the go-to mask in our rental fleet, it fits 80% of the guests – children and adults alike, and also my personal mask. It has a soft skirt, tempered glass, and comes in many different colors.
- Greatever Mask
This mask has the same main features as the Cressi Scuba Diving Mask, has great reviews on Amazon, and is a bit less expensive.
I highly recommend against using a full-face snorkeling mask, which I elaborate on in the video above. You can also read more about it in the article below!
How to take care of your snorkeling mask
Snorkeling is all about seeing the underwater world, but mask manufacturers apply a transparent chemical layer to them so they look “perfect, nice and shiny” at the point of purchase. It’s very important to give your brand new mask an initial thorough scrubbing to avoid constant fogging up so make sure you don’t forget to remove the layer. There are different techniques, and sometimes you even have to repeat it a couple of times.
I also dedicated a full article on preparing and defogging your mask (every time you enter the water), including instructions to create your own solution (using our popular recipe).
With just a few simple practices, a good mask will last for a long time so
- always rinse your mask immediately with fresh water after saltwater use
- never leave the mask out in direct sunlight and
- always keep the mask out of the sand.
Where to (not) buy your snorkeling mask
Big supermarkets like Walmart or Costco often offer a set of mask and snorkel; we do NOT recommend buying your mask there. These masks typically have very rigid silicone for the skirt and mask strap. It’s frustrating when the mask sits too tight on your face, and on top of that, it often causes water leakage. Additionally, it’s harder to get it on and off your face. Look for a mask with soft silicone and tempered glass!
You can buy snorkeling equipment locally in Hawaii (it might be pricier as everything ships to Hawaii) – or you can buy them online on Amazon.
A Snorkel for Your Mask
You cannot go wrong when purchasing a snorkel but we recommend using a mouthpiece that actually fits so that your teeth can hold the snorkel in position.
The masks I recommended above come as sets (mask + snorkel) but if you need a separate snorkel, we suggest the Cressi Italian Design Epsilon Dry Snorkel – this is the snorkel I’ve been using myself for years in combination with the Cressi Scuba Diving Mask. The Cressi equipment has great quick connectors for the snorkel holder (attachment to the mask) which makes for an easy on- and off and streamlines setup.
Remember to ALWAYS use fins. Fins will help you to get from Point A to B. Even if you think you are close to the boat or shore, you still have to swim. Fins make it much easier and SAFER.
Although it might be taking up a lot of space in your luggage, if you’d like to purchase your own fins, take a look at the FINIS Long Floating Fins or (my favorite) the MARES Volo Race Full Foot Fins. Note that if you come on a manta ray moonlight swim with us, it’s not essential to purchase your own fins as we will supply those in different sizes.
It doesn’t matter so much how long the fin blades are or if they are full-foot or open-heel models but not using any fins in the open ocean is a BIG NO-NO.
Swim Shirt or Wetsuit
Although the water temperature in Hawaii is between 75-81°F (24-28°C), you are not moving much during our moonlight manta swim activity and it can be chilly after 30-40 minutes in the water.
Again, there are many choices in quality, color, and sizes but the use of a swim shirt (also known as a rash guard) or a neoprene wetsuit to stay warm(er) is highly recommended. These will also give you sun protection during your daytime adventures on the ocean.
BCD and Regulator
There are many different manufacturers – our favorite brand is Aqualung. They were founded by Jaques Cousteau and have innovated and produced high-quality equipment for decades. But because this equipment will end up costing you several hundred dollars, we recommended contacting your dive instructor or dive store so you can test and learn more about the different options that are available today.