Wearing a Mask vs. Goggles

Key West glass bottom boat tours are a spectacular way to explore Key West's natural wonders. Expert guides describe the wildlife that is being viewed, as well as the underwater landscapes that they are passing above. Visitors who want to get even more close and personal with the scores of tropical fish and marine wildlife that populate the ocean around Key West can choose to go on a snorkeling or scuba diving adventure as well. While both the boat tour and snorkeling are a fun and relaxing way to get to know the area, those who choose to get wet will also need to decide whether to use a mask or goggles while in the water.

The choice will depend largely upon whether a swimmer is simply staying on the surface and enjoying the water, or whether they will be diving or snorkeling. While goggles are a great way to keep water out of a swimmer's eye, they are not designed for either of the other activities. A snorkeling or diving mask, in addition to protecting the eyes, also covers the nose and, in the case of a snorkeler, holds the snorkel up and out of the water. Goggles do not provide these important functions.

The fact that the goggle does not cover the nose is important for two reasons which impact both comfort and safety. The first is that a mask prevents a swimmer unintentionally breathing water in through their nose. It is very difficult to breath through a snorkel underwater and not inhale some water through the nose as well. The second reason is that when deep sea diving divers can breath into their mask the help equalize air pressure. Without that option pressure can build to a painful level.

However, for first-time snorkelers who do not wish to purchase a mask there are solutions, though they are still not as comfortable as simply buying the proper equipment. A nose plug will prevent the accidental breathing in of water. Likewise, if the goggles have a sturdy enough strap it may be possible to anchor the snorkel to it, though an additional device such as a snorkel holder will need to be purchased. These solutions do not apply to deep sea diving, as in that case air pressure is still a problem. While these tips may enable goggles to be used for a snorkeling trip or two, anyone planning to take up snorkeling as a regular sport would do well to simply buy or rent a proper mask.

As always, what piece of equipment a swimmer uses is up to them. While snorkeling in goggles may be uncomfortable, in the end it is the snorkeler's choice and ad hoc solutions exist. However, in the interests of both safety and enjoyment, even budget minded visitors might want to consider at least renting a proper mask if they plan to go snorkeling in the Keys. While it may be possible to work around the lack of one, why spoil what could be a trip of a lifetime by wearing the wrong equipment? This is one investment worth making.