A good quality mask is worth the money, this applies to snorkelling gear for both scuba and snorkelling.
If you are travelling thousands of miles to experience swimming with whales in Tonga then the last thing you want is your mask leaking or fogging up.
So I've put together a small article of advice for people looking to buy a new snorkel and mask.
A good snorkel mask will have high quality glass which gives you a clear view and helps avoid any blemishes that can appear.
Although you might like the look of a certain mask, a masks chooses you rather than the other way around. Primarily what you are looking for is one that fits really well.
The best way to start working out whether a mask fits you well is by placing the mask on your face without the strap, then breath in through your nose and the mask should stay fitted to your face. When you breath in, try to breath in slowly - that way you'll be able to hear any air escaping from areas that it doesn't fit properly. Try not to force the fit.
Look at the width of your face compared to the mask. It shouldn't be too close to your eyes. If you have a narrow face then you don't want a mask that is too wide because then it will leak.
The contour of the mask should be similar to your face.
The skirts on all modern snorkel masks are made of silicone. A decent silicone skirt will be soft so that it will hold it's shape longer, therefore less likely to leak over time.
If it fits better then you'll spend much less time emptying water out and more time looking at the whales!
Now lets talk about some of the features that you get on snorkels and work out what suits your needs best....
The Dry snorkel
The Dry snorkel uses a valve or some type of flotation devise that prevents the water entering as you dive under water. This is a perfect snorkel for the snorkeler who just wants to float around the surface taking quick shallow dives. When you return to the surface the floatation device returns to the top of the snorkel allowing you to breath.
Whilst dry snorkels prevent water entering the tube , they also cause the snorkel to be buoyant due to the trapped air.
This can be less desirable to snorkellers who need to dive to deeper depths, like free divers and spearfishers.
The Semi Dry Snorkel
Unlike a dry snorkel, semi dry snorkels allow water to enter the tube once under the water. Divers who like to save air in their tank whilst in the surface seem to prefer semi dry snorkels as they are less bulky compared to a dry snorkel.
Spearfishing/Free diving Snorkel
The traditional snorkel is best used for freedivers and spearfishers. They have a low drag due to their light volume. This allows more time for exploring the ocean on one breath.
The tube on a traditional snorkel is fully open at the top, allowing the water to enter and the snorkeler to blow the snorkel clear once on the surface. This snorkel isn't advised for first time snorkelers.