Tahiti young humpback close up shutterstock 304515524 opt

globe th CopyParadisical French Polynesia lies in the South Pacific Ocean half way between Los Angeles and Syndey, Australia.    It is composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands & atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) in the South Pacific Ocean – only 67 of which are inhabited.   There are 5 island groups : the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas & the Austral Islands.   Each of these island groups offers something unique in terms of culture, geology and diving.

Flamboyant French Polynesia

Tahiti Mountain Reefs shutterstock 130895 opt

French Polynesia diving  ...  the essentials

  • manta rays, eagle rays & leopard rays ... ever-present, curious & mischievous dolphins
  • grey reef sharks, silvertips, whitetips & blacktips ... lemon sharks, nurse sharks & silky sharks
  • great hammerheads & tiger sharks
  • schools of pelagic fish - tuna, napoleon wrasse, big-eye snappers, marbled groupers
  • unicornfish, surgeonfish, paddletail snappers, fusiliers, kingfish, soldierfish
  • drift dives in raging currents through passes between ocean & lagoon with multitudes of pelagics
  • humpback whales & several other species of whales - in Moorea & Rurutu, August through October

French Polynesia Destination Page Vertical Insert

A study in contrasts

Nearly everyone in the world probably has a similar picture of this tropical paradise, with its endless white-sand beaches, graceful curving palm trees, plentiful fruits and turquoise waters .... sailboats quietly dotting the sea for miles and spectacular hotels & restaurants offering serene, soothing days of relaxing repose.

Well, nearly everyone except the well-informed diver may hold this vision.   The well-informed diver sees French Polynesia as one of the most electifying, arousing & hair-raising destinations on the planet!


Pulsating passes

A unique set of circumstances, with tidal waters surging through narrow passes from ocean to lagoons ... and back again ... twice daily ... creates a drift dive environment so awesome, that words have no adequate power to describe the affair. 

And, needless to say, it isn't just drifing in and out of a lagoon which is exciting.  It's the fact that you can have schools of thousands of fish that your hurtling through ... and dozens of sharks shoulder to shoulder with you on the ride .... that makes this occurence beyond a doubt one of the finest a diver will ever know .....

If you love adventure diving, this is one ride you absolutely shouldn't miss!


French Polynesia diving  ...  a la carte

Tahiti Manta Flying Fakarava  ...  simply the best pass diving in the world with sharks galore
The 2nd largest atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago, Fakarava is an immense barrier reef of coral, forming a ring 37 miles long by 15 miles wide which contains a spectacular lagoon.  Due to the rich diversity of the ecosystem, Fakarava and 6 neighboring islands in the archipelago, make up a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve ... read more ...

A one hour and 10-minute flight from Tahiti brings you to Fakarava and it's awe-inspiring diving. 

There are two passes in Fakarava which connect its lagoon to the ocean – in the north, Garuae Pass which is more than 1/2-mile wide & the largest in the Tuamotus; in the south is a much narrower pass, Tumakohua Pass, around 200 meters wide.

The underwater life found in the two channels is abundant and varied - including some glorious corals.   You will encounter huge schools of sharks (large concentrations of gray sharks, but also white tips, black tips, sleepers, great hammerhead sharks, sometimes tigers ...).    You will also see barracudas, eagle rays and manta rays, napoleon wrasse, as well as dolphins and a multitude of different schools of fish: big-eye snapper, goatfish, groupers and lots of moray eels ...   At certain times of the year, you can view passing humpback whales, melon-headed whales, whale sharks, giant groupers, schools of manta mobilae ...

But there are no words to describe the rush of diving in the channels with immense numbers of these animals, as the water carries divers and wildlife alike surging in or out of the lagoon, to or from the blue waters of the ocean.  

In addition. you're in French Polynesia, perhaps the most consummate example of Paradise on the planet. Above the water-line and below, you'll find wonders of nature that have few equals.

There's no Disneyland ride to equal this!

 Blacktip sharkRangiroa  ... more absolutely spine-tingling pass diving
After arriving on the main island of Tahiti, it's less than an hour's flight to Rangiroa, the largest atoll in the Tuamotus (and one of the largest in the world). An oval reef, stretching 50 miles in length, Rangiroa encircles a serene, aquamarine lagoon brimming with life ... read more ...

Almost identical to Fakarava in terms of being some of the most thrilling diving in the world.  It happens in the two large passes which allow the flow of water between ocean and lagoon.

Here you find sharks in unbelievable numbers. The species you are likely to encounter are grey reef sharks, silvertips, whitetips & blacktips .... lemon sharks & nurse sharks & tiger sharks .... silky sharks & great hammerheads.

You'll also encounter manta rays, leopard rays & huge schools of eagle rays, big pods of dolphins (who love diver interaction) and if you're lucky, even the stray marlin.

The exhilarating diving is done in these passes on incoming tides. You'll surge through the passes on the drift dives of your life .... fish & sharks & rays all boiling around you doing the same drift!  Spine-tingling & unforgettable.   There are lovely lagoon dives also with beautiful corals, plenty of turtles, morays and reef fish (unicornfish, surgeonfish, paddletail snappers, fusiliers, kingfish, soldierfish ....). Mix in a few critters and you have super dives.

On the ocean side, the action is generated by the schools of Napoleon wrasses, barracudas, snappers, dogfish tuna, bigeye jacks .... plus, of course, more dolphins & sharks !

Tahiti Big Eye Snappers Marquesas  ...  home to hordes of pelagics
As there are a handful of dive cruises per year in this region, so you'll find yourselves virtually alone with magnificent mantas, some measuring up to 16 feet across.  You'll also see eagle rays, scalloped hammerheads, silky sharks, grey reef sharks, white tip & black tip reef sharks .... even the occasional tiger shark ... read more ...

In addition to the sharks, you find kingfish, tuna, napoleons, dolphins and swordfish .....

To top it off, not far from Nuku Hiva resides a colony of several hundred Pygmy killer whales and the rarely seen melonheaded whales. At certain times of the year there are migrating whale sharks!

Do note that the visibility is generally low due to the concentration of nutrients in the water ... but this is what brings in all of these incredible creatures.  Diving amongst the dramatic sea mounts, caves & walls ... in strong currents .... with hundreds of pelagics is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

To complete the diving experience, you'll also find eels, sting rays, tuna, parrotfish, triggerfish, scorpionfish, butterfly fish, puffer fish, soldier fish and snappers along with eels and huge lobsters.

Humpback Whale Floating in Turq WaterHumpback Whales at Moorea and Rurutu 
From mid-July to late October, Tahiti is visited by humpback whales and a couple of excellent operators provide swim-with-the-whale experiences. The whale-watching is fantastic, as the whales breach, "spy-hop" and slap .... but swimmers/snorklers are also allowed to quietly enter the water when the whales are less active to experience rare moments with the great giants in their own space ... read more ...

Moorea, just next to the island of Tahiti, is one of the two popular spots in French Polynesia for whales. Rururtu, the main island in a chain of islands called the Astrals, 375 miles (600 kilometers) south of Tahiti, is exotically remote and delightfully removed from the "tourist" experience. We highly recommend it as an extension to your trip to the Tuamotus.

And, in Rurutu, you have the distinct possibility of seeing far more than humpbacks.  Sightings are not uncommon of the following species: sperm whales, minke whales, sei whales, pilot whales, beaked whales, melon-headed whales.

Like the humpbacks in Tonganese waters, the groups of humpbacks that come to mate and bear their young here come from Antarctic waters and spend 3 – 4 months of the year as residents of the South Pacific.

The curious & playful calves spend time entertaining themselves as well as learning whale behavior from their mothers, while the adult males spend their time attracting the females in an effort to create next year's group of calves. You'll be overwhelmed as you observe ... whether from the boat or eye to eye with the whales in the water.

Read more about swim-with-whales programs around the world.

Travel, Weather, When to Go .... all the Practical Info

  • how to get there
  • best time to go
  • weather,  water temperatures  &  diving conditions
  • immigration & visas,  what to bring ... and more

French Polynesia Practical Information