Tahiti - a diving paradise waiting to be discovered
French Polynesia, as Tahiti and its 117 sister islands are widely known as, has long exuded an irresistible charm on adventurers, explorers and travellers wishing to discover new shores. It also features some of the most exhilarating diving in the South Pacific, and certainly some of best infrastructure. From wall dives and wreck dives to drift dives, novice excursions to expert challenges, The Islands of Tahiti offer an abundance of diving experiences. Protected coral reefs, crystal clear lagoons and shipping lane-free open ocean all provide the perfect shelter for Tahiti’s colourful underwater ecosystem, which has rightly earned a reputation as one of the world’s most diverse.
In fact, 99 per cent of French Polynesia is ocean and lagoon, so what better way to discover the beauty of the Islands of Tahiti than by taking to the water. Known as ‘Moana’ to the locals, the ocean lies at the heart of the history, culture and life of the French Polynesian people. Below are some suggestions and tips on how to get the most out of a visit to the Islands of Tahiti…
Did you say ‘remote’?
With their dramatic rocky coastlines the Marquesas Islands provide a nautical wonderland for novice snorkelers and experienced divers alike. Without the protective ring of coral surrounding the islands, here is where wall diving is at its best, and the fauna is distinctly different to that found in the atolls. Manta rays (sometimes as large as 4m [16ft] across), dragon eels and boxer crabs are all common sights. There is an abundance of fish species, as well as white-tip, black-tip, silver-tip and grey reef sharks and - with a bit of luck - the occasional scalloped hammerhead or pods of whales.
You want wildlife, we got it!
The Islands of Tahiti are a nautical playground for humans and animals alike. Keen scuba-divers can explore the steep, rocky depths and grottoes teeming with manta rays, barracudas and shark species or venture into the ‘Octopus Grotto’ between the Society Islands of Raiatea and Taha’a for the ultimate octopus encounter! Dolphins are permanent inhabitants of the waters of the island of Moorea with sightings likely year-round, while from July to October visitors can join tours to see the majestic humpback whales.
Easy access, but without the crowds
The Society Archipelago is the most visited out of all the island groups, thanks to the easy access and the wonders of Bora Bora. Yet, diving remains a niche activity and the protected waters provide shelter for the most diverse marine wildlife. The fantastic Moorea lagoon is home to large aggregations of reef sharks, surgeon fish, moray eels and leopard ray. The fabled lagoons of Huahine are treasure troves to be discovered, where the yellow coral at ‘Coral City’ and in the ‘Yellow Valley’ is a key attraction.
Top of its class
UNESCO has classified the Fakarava atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago a Biosphere Reserve, acknowledging the atoll’s remarkable wildlife, which features many rare endemic species. The atoll’s expansive lagoon is a wildlife sanctuary for rays, hammerhead sharks and a variety of different fauna. The famous Tumakohua pass (Tetamanu) offers some of the best dives in the South Pacific accessible to all levels of divers.
Dolphins and Whales!
Although dolphins are permanent inhabitants of the waters of Moorea and it is possible to see them all year round, from July to October visitors are also able to see humpack whales, the incredible giants of the sea. Certified and highly regulated eco-tours offer visitors the chance to come up close and personal to these gentle giants – either above or below the water.
A place to rest your head
There is a vast array of accommodation options throughout The Islands of Tahiti, ranging from large international hotels to secluded huts, but it is the family pensions and home-stays which offer the most authentic and adventurous Tahitian experience, while being extremely friendly on your wallet. Not only do pensions offer a way to experience local specialties but they are often located in quieter secluded sites, away from other visitors and attractions.
Pick from over 1,000 accommodation options and 2,000 beds across home-stays, small hotels and family pensions which are available throughout the five main Tahitian island groups. A quality label, ‘Ia ora’, was set up in 2013 and is based on criteria ranging from the service offered in the lodge to the design and location of the accommodation. Check out the newly created website www.ia-ora.com for more information. Whoever said you’d have to break the bank in order to enjoy the Islands of Tahiti!
Special discount for DIVE REaders
Original Diving offers diving holidays on the following islands: Bora Bora, staying at the exclusive Four Seasons; Rangiroa, based at iconic Hotel Kia Ora; Tikehau, staying at the charmingly Pearl Beach.
Original Diving also works with Top Dive who have dive centres on a large number of islands. There is a great 10 dive inter-island package available which offers huge variety: Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tetiaroa (private island belonging to The Brando resort), Rangiroa, Fakarava North and Tikehau.