Snorkeling in crystal blue Caribbean waters is a splendid sight to behold -- but things get a little murky when you can't see much of anything in front of you. If you wear corrective lenses, including contacts or glasses, you can't wear them underwater, so you're probably worried whether that snorkel trip is going to make you feel like you're looking out from the inside of a fish bowl. Not to worry, though -- you're not the only one to have to tackle this problem; about 75 percent of people in the U.S. wear some type of corrective lenses.
If you're headed for a short vacation where you're going to be going snorkeling, wearing your contacts beneath a standard snorkel mask is not an option. Hard lenses can dig into your eyes under pressure, and both hard and soft lenses can harbor harmful bacteria. Your glasses, meanwhile, could break or rust if you try to wear them under your mask. Plan ahead and order a special snorkel mask. Numerous companies manufacture prescription snorkel masks. The only hassle with prescription masks is that if you wear contact lenses most of the time, you'll have to switch to your backup glasses while you're headed toward your snorkel destination. That way you won't have to take out your contact lenses while you're on a boat or on a sandy beach.
It's always worth making a trip to your optometrist to check that your prescription is still accurate -- especially if you haven't had a checkup in a while. In some cases, your optometrist may provide snorkel masks right from the office -- though the prescription might not be the same as your glasses' or contact lenses' prescription. Prescription masks are made slightly differently than a pair of glasses, since the mask is farther from your face, and because water has magnifying qualities. Your optometrist may recommend certain manufacturers over others for higher-quality masks. Expect to pay from $30 to several hundred dollars for a prescription mask.
When you're snorkeling, you're typically only concerned with seeing fish or coral at a distance. So for the most part, having a mask that can help you see far away will be all you need. However, if you're doing work underwater that requires you to see details, you may decide to have bifocals installed into your mask. Naturally, that's going to cost a little more.
For the most part, glass lenses made specifically for your prescription will be the top of the line option for snorkel masks. However, that's the most expensive option. If you only snorkel once in a while or you don't have a strong prescription, you could get a standard mask that is made with -- or close to -- your prescription. To save a little money, you could opt for plastic lenses, but have them treated with a scratch-proof coating. If you have a stronger prescription or you snorkel often, have the mask made specially for your prescription and choose glass lenses. When you're not using the mask, put it in a safety case so the lenses don't get scratched.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.