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Dive Guide: French Polynesia

P2_11_DSC_6907 © Grégory Lecoeur

Tahiti sounds nice! There I said it, cliches outta the way. In which case how does one best describe a French Polynesian dive holiday? The spectacular South Pacific islands and atolls of French Polynesia make for a dramatically beautiful dive destination – fact. From sparkling lagoons to deep open ocean channels, divers are bound to be impressed by the flourishing marine life and peaceful ambience that is French Polynesia.

bora bora; otemanu


Bora Bora

Nature has strategically placed beautiful Bora Bora within a tranquil lagoon of an atoll. Astute divers will no doubt discover a tonne of great dive sites here! There’s plenty of easy dive sites for introductory/intermediate divers in the lagoon zone, whilst confident divers will find a number of excellent sites in the deeper waters just outside of the lagoon.  

Fakarava Atoll

Fact; the Fakarava Atoll is the second largest atoll in French Polynesia. The lagoon features two distinct channels. Divers tend to favour the north channel ‘Passe Nord Garuae’. It’s 1,600 meters (1 mile) wide and is home to an abundance of vibrant dive sites during the slack current. Hint: when the inbound current kicks in this place becomes a thrilling drift dive destination.


Moorea is an astonishingly beautiful Polynesian island surrounded by a fringing reef where the water averages 18 meters (60 feet) deep. The currents (if any) are very, very calm and simple to navigate, add to that an abundant marine life makes this the perfect place for a  beginner diver. In saying that the excellent water clarity makes Moorea’s dive sites just as exciting for highly skilled divers too.

Tip: Scuba dive just outside of the fringing reef system to meet with larger marine species such as sharks and manta ray. Fact: Drift diving in Tahiti is a bucket list activity.


You’ve got to check the wrecks of Tahiti when on a dive holiday in French Polynesia. Laying in less than 18 metres (60 feet) of the Faa’a Lagoon’s blue topaz seafloor is the remains of a WWII minesweeper  – an eerily beautiful decaying wooden ship that is stacked with pretty reef fish. Tip; a Catalina seaplane is nearby too.

P2_11_DSC_4533 © Grégory Lecoeur


All throughout French Polynesia the narrow channels and passes which funnel toward the inner lagoons from the open ocean thrive with interesting marine life. Sea creatures tend to meet amid these ocean sections to feed on the plentiful bounty of tasty morsels the current brings.

Keen to dive with sharks? Good, because your best bet is to head directly to Moorea. You’re bound to see both reef sharks and lemon sharks in large numbers here. Bora Bora too has a tropical lagoon where you can dive with sharks alongside a highly photogenic coral wall.

Learning to dive? Great stuff! Put the islands of French Polynesian on your itinerary asap because it’s a terrific place to learn to dive in paradise! Are you an advanced diver looking to try drift diving? Well, you’re in for win here too with the region’s multitude of passes creating an ideal opportunity to start honing your drift diving skills.

P2_08_MOOREA_TAHITI_023_DK_2017_© David Kirkland


French Polynesia features an inviting tropical climate. Water temperature averages about 25°C/76°F in Winter and 30°C/86°F during the Summer months. November to April is regarded as the optimal dive season courtesy of an influx of plankton which in turn lures in large numbers of pelagic species to the region. Ocean visibility in French Polynesia often reaches as impressive 40 metres (130 feet). Yes, you can dive here all year round, just keep in mind that November to April is warm and often a bit rainy, whilst May – October is cooler, by tropical standards anyway, and also the drier time of year.


Sharks are prevalent all throughout French Polynesia with the majority of species being relativity used to human interactions. Reef sharks rule these parts and you can expect to see blacktip, silvertip and whitetip reef sharks in large numbers. Lemon sharks and hammerheads are almost certain to be your dive friends too.

Whale season is from August to November, with the majority of underwater encounters happening in the Tahiti and Moorea areas. In addition to the abundance of colourful reef fish cruising French Polynesian seas, divers frequently see schools of barracudas, eagle rays and manta rays. Dolphins, wrasses, sea turtles and jacks are super common around these parts too.

P2_11_DSC_2972 © Grégory Lecoeur


Anau / Bora Bora

With depths up to 30 metres / 100 feet the focus here is on the manta ray aquatic ballet. Divers are likely to encounter these majestic giants of the sea in the deeper parts of the lagoon. The prime time to visit the aptly named “Manta Ballroom” is May through December. A snorkel adventure is also popular in the shallows.

The Rose Garden / Moorea

Best suited for intermediate to advanced divers, the Rose Garden is an epic dive located off Moorea’s north coast. The reef floor here is carpeted with the floral like montipora coral. Think dramatic shark-filled underwater seascapes complimented by schools of colourful fish. Depths vary between the 30 to 40 metre / 100 to 130 foot range.

Garuae Pass / Fakarava

Located in the north of Fakarava, a UNESCO biosphere, the Garuae Pass is the largest pass in French Polynesia that provides incredible dive experiences. Diving on the beautifully biodiverse reef is available for less experienced divers where more experienced divers can also enjoy drift dives. You may be presented with a wall of grey reef sharks, hundreds of other fish species such as tuna, barracuda, parrot-fish, turtles, napoleon fish and the much-loved manta ray.

Tiputa Pass / Rangiroa

 Famed for it’s adrenaline pumping shark diving Tiputa Pass offers great visibility, strong currents and yes, hundreds of sharks. From December to March, hammerhead sharks and manta rays frequent the area.

The Canyons  /  Tetiaroa

At about 20 metres /65 feet divers come across a series of canyons, caves and overhangs in the atoll’s coral base. These are well populated with local reef dwellers such as giant humphead wrasse, white tip sharks and lionfish. Expect to see large schools of spotted eagle rays passing through too. Hint; keep a keen eye on the open water to sight them.

Tuheiva Pass / Tikehau  

Here the depths max out at 30 metres / 100 feet and there’s some pretty strong tidal currents. Tuheiva Pass is the go to zone  for vast schools of barracuda and other pelagics including tuna, manta rays, grey and lemon sharks. Interestingly, the honourable dive guru, Mr Jacques Cousteau claimed the Tikehau lagoon to have some of the richest fish life he had seen.

Rangiroa Atoll

Rangiroa is the second largest atoll in the world. Unless you see it from above, you will have to will work hard to believe that you are in an enclosed lagoon. This atoll is so massive one cannot see the other side. Also, at one time an atoll was an island surrounded by a fringing reef. Over hundreds of years, the island sunk, sea levels rose and the reef continued to expand. Nowadays the reef circles around a sunken island – creating a shallow lagoon. The outside of the reef features steep drop off walls that head to deeper waters.

Tiki / Moorea

This is a very popular site for underwater image makers, and for good reason. The place is a veritable hive of fish activity. The predators are on to this too. Black tip, grey and lemon sharks up to 3 metres/10 feet long prowl the crystal clear waters and delight divers who may also spot dolphin or even whales when conditions are right.



For up-to-date flight information & special airfares check out Air Tahiti Nui now. 

For exclusive super-yacht charters that will tailor-make your French Polynesian dive vacation in to an extra luxe experience. Why not gather your favoured dive companions & charter a dazzling superyacht from the Ocean Alliance team. Surely a 40m luxury superyacht that accommodates 12 x guests ultra comfortably in 6 x stylish cabins would suit! Talk about being designed to deliver an unforgettable dive expedition in the South Pacific.

*Images courtesy of Tahiti Tourism.

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