Tuamotus

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Photo Credit: Photography by Rodolphe Holler of Tahiti Private Expeditions.
Renowned for their incredible diving, some even naming them the best in the world. The Tuamotus are a remote and completely unspoiled group of atolls in French Polynesia. These atolls are an absolute MUST for any keen diver.

The Tuamotu islands are located northeast of Tahiti. As the largest Polynesian archipelago, the Tuamotus consist of 78 islands and atolls. These tropical islands are sparsely inhabited, remote and lack a solid tourism industry, hence are not a common destination for travellers. For those that are fortunate enough to visit on a yacht, it's an exciting and attractive destination.

The most well known of the islands are: Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau and the recently popularised Fakarava.

For more information on Tahiti, visit the official Tahiti Tourism website

About

Diving the Tuamotu Archipelago

by Christelle Holler of Tahiti Private Expeditions (Dive company for charters)

Most dive spots are fairly shallow (max. depth about 95 ft), the water is warm year round and the visibility is excellent. There is phenomenal snorkelling and conservation of the marine wildlife is a local governmental priority.

French Polynesia is an incredible shark destination, with over 12 different species found in the various areas of the country. Sharks have been protected since 2006. The country has become a sanctuary for marine mammals in 2002. Humpback whales come from the Antarctic to mate and breed every year during July and November.

The Tuamotu islands are famous for their thrilling drift diving through the passes (up to 8 knots), which are natural breaches in the reef allowing the lagoon and the ocean to meet. Most passes are not possible to dive while the current is going outside the lagoon as it drops along the reef dramatically and very quickly. The dive spots are perfect for experienced divers in search of amazing encounters. Less experienced divers will also enjoy themselves tremendously as your guide / instructor will adapt and take the dive guests to the right places at the right time while meeting all safety requirements. Some sheltered spots in the lagoons are perfect for beginners with a varied marine life surrounding them.

Most dives are either located close to a natural pass or in the pass, usually within 10 minutes tender drive from the mother ship.

Diving is amazing year round.

Climate

French Polynesia enjoys tropical, warm and humid weather all year round. There are often pleasant breezes to balance the heat and humidity. May through October is a popular time to visit: there is little rain during this time of year and less humidity.

Sample Itinerary

Itinerary Courtesy of Tahiti Private Expeditions

FAKARAVA (UNESCO classified biosphere reserve)
Day 1: Fakarava NORTH PASS

The village and airport are located near the North pass of the atoll. The pass is the largest of French Polynesia with strong currents.
Diving is thrilling in the pass: many schools of fish, sharks, Napoleon wrasses and beautiful coral to see. You will enjoy diving in the strong current from the outer reef into the lagoon and stop in Ali Baba’s hole at the bottom of the pass. There, you are sheltered from the drift and can watch pelagic fish go by above. On top of the water there is plenty to do and see, have a go at wakeboarding or try a leisurely kayak to soak in the idyllic scenery.

Day 2 : Fakarava SOUTH PASS (32 NM from North pass Fakarava)

The South Pass, which is a “must” for diving. The boats will travel in the lagoon from the NorthPass.
Incredible snorkeling and diving (up to 200 grey reef sharks within the same canyon). The area is totally unspoiled.
After a long day with the aquatic life head on board to the fine comfort of your private charter yacht for a glass or three of champagne and a delicious meal prepared by your chef.

Day3: TOAU (UNESCO classified biosphere reserve) – 12 NM from North pass Fakarava
No airport
Two passes South of the atoll, excellent for diving and one small North pass (not navigable), which can be a good anchorage spot for the day. This is a great opportunity to make the most of the Big Fish toys whether it be the paddle boards, the water ski’s or the Kayaks you are in for an ultimate sight-seeing experience. There are just three Polynesian families living on this island, isolated from the hustle and bustle of mainland life. Take the tender ashore and explore the landscape, a visit to a pearl farm is very interesting to understand how Tahitian black pearls are cultured and harvested.

There is an excellent spot for huge coconut crab watch! Traps made of coconuts are set in special areas at dusk. It is great to watch this amazing and very unusual looking kind of crab. As an endangered species, they will all be released.

Possible amazing Tuamotu experience meeting the 11 inhabitants of the atoll near the North pass, trying to catch crayfish, mantis shrimps. There is a beautiful islet in the lagoon ideal for a typical Polynesian picnic.

Day 4: APATAKI (70 NM from Toau)

Airport
Small village at the South pass. Fabulous drift dive at the North pass. Apataki hosts the largest grey reef shark population of the Tuamotu. You will feel like you are the very first diving there.

If the swell comes from the North, it is a very good spot for surfing.

Within this atoll is a little Ghillighan's Island - a speck of land of about 2 acres surrounded by water. The water is clear and a 20 minute smooth dinghy ride get's you to town with a small shop. It's hard to find a place on earth like Apataki - a perfect spot for relaxing, snorkelling and taking in the beautiful surroundings.

Day 5: Rangiroa (70 NM from North pass Apataki)
Airport (hub)

Day 6 and day 7 Rangiroa
Rangiroa, a string of coral encircling a luminous turquoise and jade-green lagoon, is one of the world's greatest dive destinations.
From the air, the atoll - the second largest in the world - seems to be a giant pearl necklace laid upon the water. Here is a world where 240 tiny islets, or motu, each no more than three feet in elevation, lay upon the ocean for more than 110 miles completely encircling an infinitely deep lagoon.
Surrounded by two legendary bodies of water, Moana-tea (Peaceful Ocean) and Moana-uri (Wild Ocean), the main villages of Avatoru and Tiputa offer the visitor with a unique look at the South Pacific. Along the few roads, coral churches, craft centers, local restaurants, and tiny shops provide enjoyable land-based experiences to complement the many activities in the lagoon.

Rangiroa is a unique place for diving, probably among the most spectacular in the Tuamotu.
There is a special dive along the reef opposite the blue lagoon, ocean side.
Silver tip sharks and schools of jackfish are around the Avatoru pass.
Tiputa pass is a must for diving: any type of marine encounter is possible and not rare (manta rays, bottlenose dolphins – possible to pet them during a dive; hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, sail fish, eagle rays…).

Rebreather diver filming a wild bottle nose dolphin
(Photo: G Mooney)
Can be guaranteed to be seen during the dives: schools of grey sharks, schools of hundreds of barracudas, turtles, Napoleon wrasses…

Other possible land areas to explore:
Reef island is made of huge pieces of coral (outside the water), naturally brought from the ocean.
Pink sand spot: beautiful pink sand beach, great for a picnic and a swim.

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