Snorkelling and diving are amazing activities and the first encounter you have with the underwater world is likely to be an unforgettable experience, especially if the water is clear and you have good visibility.
When marvelling at the sight of strange and colourful fish, and coral reefs amid weird and wonderful underwater formations, you will obviously want to see this amazing sight as clearly as possible. Many people who need vision correction and who are interested in snorkelling or diving often ask whether it is possible to wear glasses or contact lenses.
Unfortunately, snorkelling or diving with glasses is more or less impossible because face masks are not designed to fit tightly over frames. Furthermore, the field of vision would be just too narrow and the problem of fogging up, which is an issue in any case with masks, is much greater if you have glasses too. So forget about your glasses!
Prescription diving masks
The best solution to this is an optical or prescription diving mask and although the range of powers is more limited, it should be easy to find one that comes close to your prescription. If you don’t have your own equipment, remember to think about this in advance and find out whether you will be able to get them from your holiday destination or the company arranging the trip if you are using one of the many organised tours.
Where can I get a diving mask with prescription lenses?
Splash – with two stores and an online shop as well as diving courses, check out all they have to offer
Deep Blue Diving, Christchurch, prescription mask for $99, as well as dive gear and courses
NZSHRED – a store in Queenstown selling snow gear as well as masks and other watersport accessories
Dive HQ – a dive company in Wellington with an online store. Dive HQ also has trips and courses
Alternatively you can also hire prescription diving masks from a dive company if you are going diving or snorkelling with a company. Several of the more well-respected companies have equipment for hire including:
Contact lenses and snorkelling
For snorkelers, the good news is that you can wear ordinary contact lenses while snorkelling so long as certain precautions are followed. In practice, water often gets inside the mask when snorkelling and can easily get into the eyes and then be washed away and lost for good.
There is also a similar risk for divers who wear contacts under their mask and this can pose a problem for those who are very short-sighted, so care needs to be taken with lenses. It may be a good idea to have a spare set of lenses on the boat, for example.
Another but more serious problem is the fact that many organisms that are dangerous to the eyes live in sea water. Contact lens wearers are at especially great risk of eye infections because bacteria can easily adhere to the surface of lenses and remain there for several days. Acanthamoeba, which lives in sea water (as well as fresh water for that matter), is especially dangerous and occurs quite prevalently.
Daily disposable lenses are best
Acanthamoeba can cause an infection that is painful and very difficult to treat called Acanthamoeba keratitis and this can lead to blindness if not treated. In order to avoid infections, contact lenses should be thrown away and replaced immediately after snorkelling and diving, especially if even a small amount of water has got into the eyes.
In short, daily disposable contact lenses are the most suitable and nowadays these types of lenses are available for all kinds of vision problems so if you have astigmatism and presbyopia you can still get daily disposable lenses.
Also be aware that only some contact lenses protect against UV radiation. You can read more in our article.
Snorkelling and diving in New Zealand
New Zealand’s famous natural splendour also extends to its underwater sights and there are many great places to go diving in both the north and south islands.
In the north, some of the areas of interest to underwater enthusiasts include the clear blue waters of the Bay of Islands, Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, as well as the Bay of Plenty and Poor Knights Islands, which was apparently considered one of the top ten dive sites by the word famous Jacques Cousteau. For those heading south, some of the key snorkelling and diving areas include Kaikoura, the Abel Tasman National Park and Fiordland.
Companies with diving and snorkelling trips and tours
There are numerous companies offering snorkelling and diving trips. Here are some links to the some of the most popular ones:
Dive North – spend time diving around the Bay of Islands with award winning Dive North
Scuba Steve Wanaka – a full range of trips and courses as well as equipment sales
Dive Training NZ – based in Canterbury, Dive Training NZ specialises in diver training and has trips