Mapped: 3 Best Places to Dive in French Polynesia

Diving in French Polynesia

French Polynesia consists of over a hundred postcard-worthy islands situated in the South Pacific halfway between California and Australia. Its dreamy landscapes are the perfect representation of paradise. The cultural center and hub of French Polynesia, Tahiti, is its most well-known and populous island with only around 200,000 inhabitants.

  • The vivid colors of Fakarava inspired the famous French painter Henri Matisse
  • Fakarava is home to a massive groupers reproduction event, happening every year in June/July, and attracting hundreds of sharks!
  • Famous French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau made Rangiroa known around the world for its incredible sharks
  • Every year, humpback whales migrate to Moorea waters to give birth.

Have we mentioned French Polynesia is closely related to France?

The 3 Best Places to Dive in French Polynesia

Fakarava

The second largest atoll in French Polynesia, Fakarava has been recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The lagoon offers exceptional visibility and is one of the last places on the planet where groupers come to reproduce en masse each year. It attracts a multitude of sharks; in 2018 Laurent Ballesta captured epic footage of “700 sharks in the night” in Fakarava. As you dive through currents above the canyons, observe multiple schools of fish, turtles, sharks, dolphins, and sometimes even mantas! The village offers lovely walks with its bougainvilleas and its nonchalant atmosphere. Enjoy incredible evening sunsets alongside this amazingly beautiful lagoon.

fakarava village

The Best Dive Sites of Fakarava

  • 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.

fakarava reef sharks

Diving Season

  • You can dive in Fakarava at any time of year:
    • you’re more likely to spot mantas July to September

    • the June/July reproduction of groupers attracts hundreds of sharks. To see them, go on a dive trip to Fakarava North and South

    • December to March features great hammerhead sharks

Dive Conditions

  • The water temperature at Fakarava ranges from 26° to 29°C (79° to 84°F)
  • Underwater visibility is most times excellent in the lagoon, and excellent to very good in the pass
  • An ideal destination for drift diving, especially near the pass and above the canyons
  • By law you can’t do more than three dives a day

How to Get There

  • From Paris, France (PAR) there are flights from round trip with Air France, Air Tahiti Nui and French Bee.

  • From San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX), United Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui and French Bee offer round-trip direct flights for between to

  • Once in Tahiti (PPT), you can fly to Fakarava (FAV) with a round-trip ticket. Air Tahiti flies there 2 to 3 times a week.

  • If you plan to visit several islands, it’s best to buy a multi-island pass, allowing you to fly from one to the other. Air Tahiti “Lagons pass” allows you to explore Moorea, Rangiroa, Tikehau and Fakarava at an affordable cost:

tuamotus atoll polynesia

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, etc. With the multitude of sites, the amount diversity is worthy of spending at least a week there! Besides diving, multiple excursions are possible on the different “motus” or islands. Visiting the pearl farm is also a “must”, and finally the observation of dolphins in the North Pass at sunset will close another unforgettable day.

rangiroa atoll

The Best Dive Sites of Rangiroa

  • 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.

school of barracudas polynesia

Diving Season

  • You can dive in Rangiroa at any time of year:

    • spot manta rays from July to September.
    • see great hammerhead sharks December to March.
  • Check-out this dive trip to Fakarava, Rangiroa and Moorea to dive on the best sites of French Polynesia!

french polynesia

Dive Conditions

  • The water temperature at Rangiroa ranges from 26° to 29°C (79° to 84°F)
  • Underwater visibility is most times excellent in the lagoon, and excellent to very good in the pass
  • An ideal destination for drift diving, especially near the pass and above the canyons
  • By law you can’t do more than three dives a day

How to Get There

  • From Paris, France (PAR) there are flights from round trip with Air France, Air Tahiti Nui and French Bee.

  • From San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX), United Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui and French Bee offer round-trip direct flights for between to

  • Once in Tahiti (PPT), you can fly to Rangiroa (RGI) with a round-trip ticket. Air Tahiti flies there frequently, 4 to 5 times a week.

  • If you plan to visit several islands, it’s best to buy a multi-island pass, allowing you to fly from one to the other. Air Tahiti “Lagons pass” allows you to explore Moorea, Rangiroa, Tikehau and Fakarava at an affordable cost:

Moorea

Moorea is a jewel located just one hour away from Tahiti with a ferry. PLan to stay a few days there to explore the underwater world, and also its jagged mountains, offering several treks and amazing views on the lagoon. Unlike Fakarava and Rangiroa, Moorea exctint volcanoes are not submerged, and they are 1.5 to 2.5 million years old!

Moorea’s Best Dives Sites

Moorea has some decent dive sites, such as the Rose Garden, covered with rose-like Montipora coral. Early dives are best if you want to see lemon sharks. You’ll get to se eplenty of green turtles too.

More than for the diving, Moorea is the place to go to snorkel with humpback whales!

Every year, humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Moorea to give birth and train their calves for their first few months of life. The island waters offer great conditions for them, with no predators around.

snorkeling in moorea with humpback whales

Diving Season

  • You can dive in Moorea all year long.

  • Humpback whales migrate there between end of July and end of October. The peak of the season is in September. It’s then common to see on a day trip two to five individuals. It is forbidden to dive with them, however you can observe at a distance these fantastic creatures on a snorkelling trip.

  • To go on a dive trip to French Polynesia best sites , it’s best to have at least 12 days there.

Dive Conditions

  • The water temperature at Moorea ranges from 26° to 29°C (79° to 84°F)
  • Underwater visibility is most times good
  • There can be mild currents

How to Get There

  • From Paris, France (PAR) there are flights from round trip with Air France, Air Tahiti Nui and French Bee.

  • From San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX), United Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui and French Bee offer round-trip direct flights for between to

  • Once in Tahiti (PPT), you can take a ferry to Moorea with a round-trip ticket, costing . The crossing only takes an hour.

Dive Safety Recommendations

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, especially in Fakarava and Rangiroa.

It is not possible to do any night or dusk dives in Fakarava.

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.

Finally, remember to always use a reef-safe sunscreen .

Top Experiences Besides Diving in 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.

fakarava sunset

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.

gauguin pearl rangiroa

See the Dolphins Jump in Rangiroa’s 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.

dolphins jumping in Rangiroa tiputa pass

Admire Moorea’s Belvedere View Point

Now accessible with a paved road, Moorea’s Belvedere viewpoint is spectacular. Rent a car or grab a taxi to get there! Consider spending a day driving around the island to discover the other beaches too.

moorea belvedere viewpoint

French Polynesia Entry Requirements

  • Please check the current visa policy that applies for your country.
  • Many countries are entitled to a three-month stay without a visa, check what’s requires on the website of the French Polynesia Prefecture
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