Best Places for Diving in French Polynesia
French Polynesia, better known as “Tahiti”, is undoubtedly a dream for divers and non-divers. Having 118 islands with breathtaking landscapes and unique underwater worlds, it’s an unforgettable journey.
Tuamotus, an archipelago located 450 km northwest of Tahiti, includes two atolls, Fakarava and Rangiroa. The dive sites bring exceptional conditions and marine life. The blue-toned multitudes lagoon of the first inspired the famous painter Matisse. The second, whose shark pass attracts divers from around the world, was made famous by Jacques Cousteau.
Scuba Diving in Fakarava
The second largest atoll in French Polynesia, Fakarava has been recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The lagoon offers exceptional visibility. It is one of the last places on the planet where groupers come to reproduce en masse each year in July. They attract a multitude of sharks. This is where Laurent Ballesta shot “700 sharks in the night”. The passes are also full of wonders and are accessible with a dive shop based in Fakarava, French Polynesia. As you dive into currents above the canyons, observe multiple schools of fish, turtles, sharks, dolphins, sometimes even mantas! The village offers lovely walks with its bougainvilleas and its nonchalant atmosphere. In the evening, relax and watch the sunset on the beautiful lagoon.
Scuba Diving in Rangiroa
Rangiroa is the largest atoll in French Polynesia and its famous Tiputa pass offers fantastic drift diving with incredible marine life: walls of reef sharks, black tips, white, lemon or silky sharks, great hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, sailfish… the multiple sites, that you can go to with a dive shop based in Rangiroa, French Polynesia, offer a diversity worthy of spending at least a week! Besides diving, multiple excursions are possible on the different motus, or islands. The visit of the pearl farm is also a “must”, and finally the observation of dolphins in the North Pass at sunset will close another unforgettable day.
The Best Time to Dive in French Polynesia
Fakarava: all year round with a water temperature between 26 and 29 degrees Celsius (79 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit). July to September: manta rays. December to March: great hammerhead sharks. Reproduction of groupers in June and July attracting hundreds of sharks.
Rangiroa: all year round with a water temperature between 26 and 29 degrees Celsius (79 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit). July to September: manta rays. December to March: great hammerhead sharks.
The Best Dive Sites in French Polynesia
Fakarava’s Best Dives Sites
Alibaba: 1.6 km wide (10 miles), the Garuae pass located at the north of the atoll is the largest in French Polynesia. It is home to many species: tunas, barracudas, sharks, huge schools of fish. The dives are always with current running in and the topography is superb: you will drift over canyons covered with corals. Dives often end up in “Alibaba”. This site is a giant aquarium full of life: napoleons, white tip sharks, perch … you may even lose sight of your dive buddy behind a school of fish!
Ohotu and Maiuru: still at the north, located on each side of the Garuae pass, you can dive on a wall with beautiful corals. Once again, expect to cross many schools of fish: surgeons, barracudas and also sharks, manta rays and dolphins.
Pufana: this lagoon dive site is ideal for beginners: superb visibility, beautiful corals, a multitude of fish, and little or no currents.
Passe Tumakohua: located south of the atoll, this pass is much smaller: it is only 200 meters wide (650 feet). It is home to an incredible life, with hundreds of sharks when breeding groupers. At an hour’s boat from the main village, most dive shops in Fakarava go there only once or twice a week. Plan to stay several days if you want to be sure to dive there.
Rangiroa’s Best Dives Sites
Grotte aux requins: a superb drift dive in the Tiputa pass. You will start by going down to 35 meters (115 feet) at the exit of the pass. There is a cave from which you will see dozens of gray sharks. After a few minutes, you will be carried in the pass to the inside of the lagoon.
Canyons: in the Tiputa pass, you will spend time in each canyon. The month of June is excellent for seeing hundreds of gray sharks coming to breed and sometimes even great hammerhead sharks.
La Marche: for experienced divers, this dive site is in the middle of the Tiputa Pass, on the ocean side. Deep, between 45 and 55 meters (147 and 180 feet), you might see eagle rays crossing, and even great hammerheads between January and March.
L’Eolienne: the dive begins on a wall about 350 meters (1150 feet) from the entrance to Tiputa Pass: you will be on a site sheltered from the currents. This is a shallower dive, with a 25 meters (82 feet) depth, during which you may see dolphins, manta rays, tunas, turtles, napoleon fish.
Avatoru Sortie droite: you will start your dive on a wall about 150 meters (490 feet) from the Avatoru Pass. It is common to observe many white tip sharks. Note: the dives in the Avatoru pass are shallower than those in Tiputa.
Diving Safety Recommendations
We always recommend to have your own dive gear, well maintained, you’ll be safer and more comfortable. Light and compact dive gear is particularly suited for travels. For safety reasons, always bring with you a surface marker buoy, and know how to use it. We also recommend you to have a Nautilus Lifeline, a GPS that could save your life if taken by currents. They can be really strong in some areas of French Polynesia.
Snorkel in Fakarava Lagoon
Take a bike in the village and pedal a few kilometers. From there, the banks of sand welcoming the shore just waiting to be trampled. Throw yourself in the water and make one of the best snorkeling sessions of your life: endless visibility, juvenile sharks and multicolored fish, and of course, water at the perfect temperature.
Admire the Sunset of Fakarava
Every evening, the sunset of Fakarava is a delight for the eyes. The infinite shades of blue of the lagoon mingle with the orange-red colors of the sky. A show we do not get tired of.
Visit Gauguin Pearl Farm in Rangiroa
Real institution of Rangiroa, the farm is established since 1992. Several times a day, you can attend a presentation on the pearl culture, and will not resist to buy one too! More or less regular, you will find gifts for all budgets.
Go See the Dolphins Jump in Tiputa Pass
Almost every afternoon you will see dolphins jumping in the waves of the Titupa pass! A cheering spectacle that we never tire of.
How to Get There
How to get to the Tuamotus atolls in French Polynesia
Air Tahiti offers multi-island passes, allowing you to fly from one to the other. The “Lagons pass” allows you to explore Moorea, Rangiroa, Tikehau and Fakarava at an affordable cost.
From Paris in France, there are flights from 1600 euros round trip with Air France.
Delta and Air Tahiti Nui offer round-trip flights from California between USD$700 to USD$1,000.