French Polynesia Diving
A remote island paradise known for having ‘walls of grey reef sharks’ and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve diving, French Polynesia’s unspoilt dive spots are idyllic. Go there for easy lagoon dives, exciting deep dives and encounters with friendly stingrays, mantas, abundant sharks and humpback whales.
Diving in French Polynesia
The beautiful archipelago of French Polynesia is every bit a remote island paradise with crystal clear blue lagoons, white sand beaches and a relaxed vibe. Diving in French Polynesia is surprisingly varied for such a small clutch of islands. Many of the dives are focussed around big marine life with even the shallow bays full with stingrays and mantas. There are also substantial coral reefs surrounding many of the islands, the perfect places for shark encounters.
The larger islands are mostly atolls with shallow lagoons which often have channels running through them where strong currents bring huge numbers of sharks, dolphins and mantas. These are great for ‘spectator diving’ choose a spot and sit back and watch a parade of big marine life glide past.
Best time to dive
Diving in French Polynesia is great almost any time you wish to go, there is a slight wet season between November and April, but it is also the hottest time with balmy water temperatures up to 30°C/86°F. This is also when plankton blooms are at their height attracting the big pelagic life in impressive numbers.
In the cooler period, the weather is drier and in-water temperatures are slightly lower around 25°C/76°F. Due to its remote location and the island’s laid back atmosphere, there is not really a high and low season for tourism but instead divers will find the easy ebb and flow of visitors is fairly steady but rarely crowded.
Types of diving
Scuba diving in French Polynesia is predominantly based around the shallow lagoons found in the atolls. These are ideal spots for dive courses with easy conditions for beginners. The islands have risen and sunk beneath the waterline over the ages leaving deep channels and expansive fringing reefs. The lagoons usually have steady current running through them which means a great deal of diving in French Polynesia is drift diving. It is also possible to leave from the shore at the many dive resorts which line the archipelago’s coasts.
Those staying in the dive resorts will find doorstep diving mostly on reefs with beautiful coral gardens although in some areas there are large numbers of stingrays to be found as well. Dive liveaboards are also a popular way to dive in French Polynesia with both sailboat and traditional motorboats available. These liveaboards allow divers to visit several of the islands and take in a wider variety of the different natural wonders of French Polynesia.
What to see
Marine life is the main attraction in French Polynesia. Plankton blooms bring mantas, sharks and rays through the lagoon channels. There are also numerous resident creatures such as turtles and dolphins which can often be seen on the reefs and out in the channels hunting the fish shoals. The reefs are covered in colourful corals and sponges providing a home to thousands of critters and reef fish. In the lagoons, often those with more sandy bottoms, stingrays can also be found in substantial numbers.
Best places to dive
While there is no shortage of shark action in French Polynesia, Moorea Island is the place to see the greatest variety and number. The real stars of the show here are the surprisingly placid lemon sharks which are numerous on the coral reefs and channels all around Moorea. The dive centers on Moorea often spend so much time with these gentle creatures that they have individual names for them.
Anau, Bora Bora Island
If an elegant dance performance from scores of manta rays sounds like a dream come true, then Anau is the place to be. Huge numbers of mantas glide through the channel here to take advantage of the cleaning station found in the lagoon.
Known for its stong currents which in turn attracts sharks in large numbers. This is a great place for shark lovers and sightings of Hammerhead & Manta are not uncommon.
Garuae Pass in Fakarava is the largest pass in the Tuamotu Islands and boasts a high desnity of marine life including pelagic encounters. Fakarava itself is classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and diving with hundereds of Grey Reef Sharks is not uncommon here.