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Full-Faced Snorkel Masks – Friend or Foe?

Body Glove Ocean Adventures puts our guest’s safety first. This is why we recently updated our equipment policy and do not promote the use of full-faced snorkel masks on our snorkel cruises. The research and data on the safety of full-faced masks is relatively new, and there are current concerns regarding their safety and effectiveness. While additional research needs to be done on these popular masks, we are not comfortable allowing the use of them on our vessel, the Kanoa II, at this time.


During snorkeling activity, our bodies require more oxygen and this causes us to breathe faster. The primary concern about full-faced masks is the lack of ventilation they provide. With a full-face mask, some of the exhaled carbon dioxide may not fully exit the device. This extra carbon dioxide can build up in the mask and may cause a snorkeler to become unconscious or disoriented in the water. 


The masks are also more likely to leak or fog up due to their inability to create a tight silicone seal around the eye area, like traditional masks do. Once a full-faced mask fills with water, it is impossible for the snorkeler to breathe. Traditional masks allow one to breathe through the snorkel.


Because of the recent and near drownings in Hawaiʻi involving full-faced masks, many snorkel tour operators and SCUBA companies in the state have prohibited the use of full-face masks including, Hawaiʻi Ocean Project, Snorkel Bobs, and Pride of Maui to name a few. 


Full-faced masks differ from traditional snorkel masks in that they cover your entire face with a fixed tube extending out from the top of the mask for breathing. Traditional masks have two separate parts; the mask, which covers your eyes and nose, and a snorkel clipped onto the side for breathing. Full-faced masks became popular because they allow for a more unobstructed view, and often feel more comfortable for beginning snorkelers, allowing them to breathe normally, rather than through their mouths. It’s become apparent that the possible dangers of these newer masks may not be worth the perks associated with their use.


Hawaiʻi has seen an increase in snorkel related drownings involving full-faced masks in the past couple of years. This may be related to their design, or it could be a result of more visitors using these types of masks. Because it’s too early to determine a causal relationship between one-piece snorkel masks and drownings, we are choosing to exercise caution until further studies can be conducted.


Until we can ensure the safety of these new, trendy masks, we are not allowing our guest to utilize them. We do however, provide excellent traditional snorkel gear on-board for our guests to use. Hereʻs to safe and happy snorkeling!

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