Diving Tahiti

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Tahiti, French Polynesia

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Country: French Polynesia  Area: French Polynesia

Water Temp: 26 - 30°C (79 - 86°F)

Visibility: 20 - 60m (66 - 197 ft)

Depth Range: 2 - 60m (7 - 197 ft)

Dolphin & Whale watch (August to October)

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Tahiti is the largest of the more than 100 islands spread over five archipelagos in the South Pacific, that make up French Polynesia. The landscape of the island is almost as spectacular above sea level, as the underwater paradise that lies below the waves. There are lush tropical forests, towering volcanic peaks and turquoise blue lagoons. Of course the spectacular snow white beaches that stretch for miles are the stuff of romance and legend.

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In terms of marine life, expect lots of big and beautiful critters competing for your underwater attention. Sharks, Manta Rays, dolphins and even whales roam the waters around the island. There are sites for divers of all levels of experience. Clear, shallow reefs, steep and deep open ocean drop offs, wrecks, walls, and pretty much everything else a diver could dream of. The island has a rich and varied history, and fascinating culture. The famed painter Paul Gauguin lived and worked on the islands for several years. It can be said that he truly died in paradise when he passed away on Tahiti in 1903.

 

Marine Conservation

Tahiti is well aware that the spectacular flora and fauna on the islands and in the seas that surround her, are what keeps the tourists (and their dollars and pounds) coming back. Environmental conservation is a top priority for the island. In 2002, Tahiti became an official sanctuary for marine mammals. Sharks and turtles are also protected species. There are more than 12,000 kilometres of coral reef around the island, and all of it is regularly monitored to ensure the health of the reefs and the thousands of species that they support. Dive shops on Tahiti and nearby islands are actively involved in conservation and education initiatives aimed at raising environmental awareness.

Whitetip Reef Shark, Credit

Climate

Tahiti is warm above sea level and below, year round. There are always superb dive sites accessible regardless of the season in which you choose to visit. Water temperatures rarely fall below 26 degrees, and the visibility averages an impressive 30m. The rainy season is from November to April. As the islands lie in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are of course reversed. The warmest temperatures occur in our winter, and the cooler months in what we would call summer.

Tranquility, Credit

Other Year round Marine life

Octopus, lemon shark, grey shark, etc. 

Diving Tahiti, Credit

 
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The Diving

The diving in and around Tahiti generally falls into one of three different varieties. The lagoons offer shallow dives in clear, warm waters that are suitable for even beginner divers. There is plenty of colourful coral and a wide variety of reef fish and other marine life to see. More experienced divers will want to head out to the oceanic drop offs. These are often deep wall dives, with plenty of smaller critters calling the wall home. Turn your back to the wall, gaze in the opposite direction, and  the deep blue water stretches seemingly forever. It is out in the blue where the large predatory pelagics are on patrol. Sharks, Barracuda, and large schools of tuna and other fish slip in and out of sight.

Tahiti underwater, Credit

Finally, there are dives that take place in “the passes”. These dives also offer unforgettable opportunities to interact with  large numbers and varieties of big fish and marine mammals. Think Mantas, Reef, Blacktip and Lemon Sharks, dolphins, and possibly even a Scalloped Hammerhead or Melon-headed Whale. Here is an overview of some of the favourite dive sites in and around Tahiti Nui (the larger northerly portion of the island) and Tahiti Iti (the smaller area to the south).

The Aquarium is perhaps the best-known and most frequently visited of Tahiti's top dive spots. Perfect for beginners, and an excellent place to snorkel, this is a shallow dive in a calm lagoon area close to shore. There are three wrecks in the area, two boats and a Cessna. These have become artificial reefs that attract hundreds of colourful reef fish, slippery eels and creeping crustaceans. The wrecks themselves are worthy of a separate dive. The Cessna lies on a sand bar, resting on one wing. There is also a wooden schooner that deserves some exploration.

Guess who's looking! Credit

The St. Etienne Drop Off is on the west of the island, and the steep walls were formed from where the reefs drop down into the abyss. Huge coral formations and countless species of fish, eels and madrepores have made the series of walls their home. This site is especially well-suited to experienced divers, and those who have earned their deep-diving certification.

Another excellent ocean dive is Papa Whisky. Near the airport at Faa'a is a small artificial island. It is possible to see what appears to be a cliff just below the surface of the sea. This is the edge of an underwater amphitheatre that was made when a section of an underwater rock plateau collapsed. The underwater formation is about 70 metres long. The site is well-known for the large numbers and diverse species of Gorgonian Coral that cover the area. Brilliant specimens in yellow and purple are especially impressive around the 40m mark. Deep divers rejoice!

All Alone, Credit

The Spring is named for an underwater fresh water spring that flows up from the deep depths of the sea. The water bubble trail escapes from a hole about 7m below the surface. Head deeper down and encounter sharks, Humphead Maori Wrasse and turtles. Be sure and explore the underwater “valleys” that lie on either side of the spring itself. There is plenty to see, and the area deserves more than one dive.

Shark lovers will want to schedule at least one trip to The White Valley. Lemon, Grey Reef, and Blacktip sharks are all regular visitors to these waters. Several species of Triggerfish may be spotted, as well as large schools of Silver Jackfish. This site is best experienced as a drift dive.

The dive, Credit

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How to Get there

Papeete is the town where you'll find Tahiti's Fa'a'a International Airport (PPT). Air Tahiti Nui offers one-stop flights from several cities as far away as New York. Air France flies from Paris, and direct flights on board Hawaiian Airlines are available from Honolulu. Your resort can help you arrange the fastest flights from home to the islands, as well as airport transfers, car rentals and transportation to the outlying islands. Citizens of most European and North American countries do not require a visa for stays of up to one month.

Air Tahiti plane, Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

You will not go hungry during your stay on Tahiti. Resorts and hotels usually have their own restaurants, bars and lounges, and there are hundreds of independently owned and operated eating and drinking establishments. From French fine dining to casual Tahitian cafes, the island has it all. Naturally, many restaurants showcase the superb seafood that is sourced fresh from the shores every morning. There are Asian, and French Polynesian fusion Chefs running some of the top kitchens as well.

Two Fishes! Credit

Papeete town is home to several bars, gastropubs, and casual drinking holes. “Papeete Roulottes” comes highly recommended. Locals and tourists alike flock to this casual outdoor spot that is attracts the island's best food trucks. It's cheap, delicious, and a great way to meet people.

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Other Activities

There are museums, art galleries and churches to be explored in Papeete and other villages around the island. The Robert Wan Pearl Museum and the Paul Gauguin Museum are two favourites.  Several waterfront parks and tropical gardens have been established and attract unique species of birds and other creatures indigenous to the islands. Ferries are available for day trips to neighbouring islands, and make a great getaway should you need a brief change of scenery.

Market. Tahiti, Credit

Snorkelling, surfing and sailing can be arranged by most resorts on the island. Para-sailing is offered at a few spots as well. Excursions can be arranged to Tetiaroa, Marlon Brando's private island. No guaranteed encounters with the man himself! He is however actively involved in turtle conservation projects on the island, and word has it an eco-resort is in the works.

Family Friendly

There are plenty of clean, calm beaches where the kids can explore, swim and snorkel in safety. Many resorts can help arrange for activities if there are none available on site. ATV tours are a great way to keep teens entertained, and a fun way to explore the stunning natural environment of Tahiti. Le Marche (The Market) in Papeete sells everything under the sun from fruit and plants, to souvenirs and seafood. It is also somewhat cheaper than some of the up-scale shops geared towards the tourists. This is where a lot of the locals shop, even if you are just browsing, it is a fun day out for the whole family.

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Tips

July to October brings the annual Humpback Whale migration, when these gentle giants come to Tahiti to meet, mate, and calve. In order not to disturb the families of whales, encounters are set up as snorkelling excursions and not dive trips. Nevertheless, the whales are sometimes seen by divers. If you're lucky, some of the curious creatures make come in close to check you out!

Dolphins! Credit

French and Tahitian are the official languages but English speakers should have no problems. All the main tourist areas, attractions, dive shops and resorts will have someone who can assist. At present, there are only five McDonalds in all of French Polynesia, one of which is in the Fa'a'a International Airport. If you fear an attack of the Big Mac sort, you better satiate that craving on your way in or off off the island!

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