Snorkel Gear for Bora Bora
Can you please recommend some good brands of snorkel gear? I bought a mask and snorkel for $20, so I'm thinking it wasn't good quality.
Are flippers needed? What is their purpose?
Should flotation devices and life jackets be brought or will hotels provide those? (Le Meridien and Hilton Nui)
Bora Bora Island Guide's Response:
This is a great question! Your snorkeling equipment will make or break your snorkeling experience. It is incredibly important that you have good quality and a good fit, so that you can relax and enjoy your time floating on the Bora Bora lagoon, rather than spending your time with salt water running in your eyes!
The mask is the most important piece of equipment. A good mask provides a clear barrier between you and the under water world. Pick a mask that provides an unobstructed view and gives you plenty of peripheral vision. There are larger masks and smaller masks, depending on your face shape and size. Go to a sports store or diving store that has a few masks to choose from and hold each mask up to your face to see which ones give you the best vision. Some masks even have side windows. Also notice that it feels comfortable. It doesn't feel too tight, pinch you or feel too loose.
The next important step is to check that the mask seals properly around your face. The best masks have a skirt made from silicone. It is softer and more resilient than plastic seals (and also more expensive). The best way to test that the mask seals well on your face is to hold it up to you with the strap hanging loose. Push the mask against your face and inhale through your nose slowly. If the mask is a good fit, it will be able to stay in place securely from the air pressure. If you have to breathe really hard to try to make the mask stay on your face, then it is not a good fit and will probably leak water when you are snorkeling.
If the mask has passed that last test put the strap on. Find the right amount of tightness for the strap to get a good seal. The strap does not need to be too tight, it is the water pressure that will seal the mask to your face properly.
A good quality mask will be made from silicone and tempered glass. Avoid plastic lenses as they fog up more easily. You should be able to find a quality mask from $35 to $50 dollars. The mask I personally use is U.S.Divers and cost me $80. There are many reasonable brands out there, just make sure it is tempered glass silicone.
Tours and many resorts in Bora Bora often provide basic snorkeling equipment, but as the fit of the mask is so important, you are best to take your own to ensure you have the right fit for you. It also feels nicer to use your own equipment, and not ones that have had hundreds of people put their mouths in!
Here is a tip to prevent your mask from fogging up. Each time before you use it, rub toothpaste over the inside of the lenses and then rinse it off. This trick really works well. If you don't have easy access to toothpaste, or are out using your mask for another snorkeling session in the same day. Sometimes your mask may fog while snorkeling. Spit inside the mask, wipe it around the lenses, and then dip your mask into the lagoon. Shake excess water off and put it back on again. You should be good to keep going.
The most common problem that occurs is forgetting to clear stray hairs from being caught in the seal of the mask when you put it on. Unless you clear all hair away, water will gradually seep into the mask as you are snorkeling. If this happens, remove your mask and repeat the process of putting it on.
Flippers are a nice addition to snorkeling because they allow you to glide through the water easily. You can move much faster if necessary, and use much less energy in the water. I always snorkel with flippers. There are some great snorkeling flippers on the market that are quite compact for packing for your trip. I use U.S.Divers Proflex FX flippers, so you have an idea of the kind of flipper I am talking about. Flippers are not provided at resorts or on excursions in Bora Bora so you will need to bring your own. I do recommend using flippers if you are going to snorkel/be in the water a lot. You will also find that the combination of the warm salt water, and the power your flippers give you, will make you float so easily you will not need to use a floatation device.
Try from the shallows with your snorkel and flippers and see how you feel floating in the water. You will probably find you don't need a floatation device in this buoyant sea water. A floatation device makes it harder to put your head underwater and see the beautiful coral gardens. If you do still find you need a floatation device, tour guides and resorts will be able to provide you with one, so you will not need to bring any.
Now another good thing about flippers is they protect your feet from sharp coral. If you stand in the water, you will have a strong protective layer between you and the lagoon floor. I never step on coral itself, but if you look at the deep scrapes on the bottom of my flippers, you see why you need something on your feet!
Another option is to get some reef shoes. If you are wanting to swim at the beaches, you might like to have some reef shoes for wearing to protect your feet. Remember that this beautiful island is surrounded by coral reef so the beaches can have some coral on them. Some people wear reef shoes, some people go without. It is a personal preference.
The Hilton has some nice coral that you will be able to snorkel around straight off of your over water bungalow or the beach. The water here is deeper, and the area for exploring is quite large, so you will really appreciate having flippers here.
Le Meridien has a large inner lagoon that you can snorkel in. You will find it much less tiring if you have your flippers. You can just cruise along in the water effortlessly.
I hope that helps! You will really appreciate having snorkeling equipment that functions correctly so you can make the most of your vacation time. Once you are in Bora Bora, it's not like you can go to the local sports shop and get a better mask! You will be in the middle of paradise! I hope you enjoy snorkeling in Bora Bora as much as I do!