Lost in the South Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia is a far away world where the days go slowly. As a diving paradise, it offers to divers undamaged seabed and a very well protected fauna. At the center of the Polynesian world, we find the leeward islands and what the locals call the « capital city »: Tahiti. If all the travelers come to this island, very few of them take the time to discover it. However, the unique Tahiti seabed largely contributes to Polynesia’s diving wealth.
Best time to visit Tahiti
If you ask Tour operators, they won’t have any hesitation: they will advise you to choose the summer (winter in Tahiti), which runs from June to November. Nonetheless, take care, because there is no “real seasons” in Polynesia.
Tahitian people divide the year in two parts: The “small rain season” (from June to November), and the “big rain season” (from December to May).
The weather on these islands is very variable, and only a few hours separates a sky without any cloud from a shower. That’s why you need to keep in mind this uncertainty whenever you go.
Regarding the temperatures, the air is all year long between 22°C and 30°C, while the water wavers between 26°C in winter and 30°C in summer. The chance to dive in swimsuit for some of us!
Diving in Tahiti
Regarding the diving conditions… They are among the best in the world: They have all year long a high visibility, going from 30m to 50m, and the current nearly does not exist. No comparison to be made with the Tuamotu islands, where you usually dive into a strong current and big waves.
Most of the dives take place along the West Coast, which gathers the majority of the diving centers. Tahiti is surrounded by a wonderful lagoon, where the first dives and a few wonderful dives take place. Most of the dives are in the ocean, along the exceptional coral reef barrier. Because the island is quite small, the journey to the sites are never long: from 5 minutes to 35 minutes.
5 must-do dive sites in Tahiti
The White Valley
The sharks’ site. The White Valley is an underwater sandbar about 100m long, encircled by hundreds of corals and a breathtaking fauna. During many years, feeding activities were organized on this site, attracting many different sharks who are now living there. We can see Black Tip Sharks, Grey Sharks, White Tip Reef Sharks, Lemon Sharks, and exceptionally Tiger Sharks.
The site is not very deep (from 15m to 25m), but can be difficult for beginners following the conditions of the day (current, waves, visibility).
Just next to the Fishermen Bay, The Spring is an amazing site which will please the beginners. Usually very well protected by the coral reef, you will find there many marine turtles (Hawksbill Sea Turtles and Green Turtles) who live in the life’ abundant corals.
Two diving routes are possible: Discover the magnificent and not deep at all (6 to 10m) coral shelf, or contemplate the underwater peaks which start from 10m and go to 40m.
The Saint-Etienne drop / fault
This dive, which can be done as a drift diving, has one big characteristic: Its spectacular relief. After the coral reef shelf begins the drop, which goes very steep into the blue, far away from what our eyes are able to see. The slope is dizzying, and we feel like flying above this empty blue space. Because it goes from 6m to 60m, this dive fits everyone. You will see huge Salema’s schools swimming along the drop, and sometimes several White Tip Reef Sharks.
If you dive there during winter time, you may have the luck to hear a whale singing, far away in the blue.
The three wrecks
If you do like wrecks, this diving site is just made for you! Being one of the few spots into the lagoon, it is always very well protected from the climatic hazards. We can see there three wrecks, but only two of them present a real interest (the third one being too much damaged). The first one is a plane, which lies in 18m. The good divers can go inside and swim from the beginning to the end of the frame. An unforgettable moment! 50m farer you will find a 50m-long wreck boat, lying across the sandy slope which characterizes the site’s relief. The bow is about 25m-deep, and the stern is at 10m.
This site is not particularly colorful, but you will fall in love with these unweathered wrecks, home of some huge stone-fishes.
The favored diving site for beginners and first dives should hold every one’s attention. Protected into the lagoon, the aquarium is a small and sandy artificial valley with a maximum depth of 12m. Three little wrecks were put in place: two boat’s hulls, and one small plane. Around them, a thousand colors catch the eye: Parrotfishes, Longhorn Cowfishes, Clownfish, Sea Urchins, anemones…
The conditions are perfect to reassure the beginner, as well as to enthrall the certified diver.
Where to sleep in Tahiti
Diving in Tahiti implies living in Tahiti for a short period.
How about the island’s hotels
We will remember 4 resorts which welcomes the majority of the lucky tourists who want to stay a few days in Tahiti: The Intercontinental, The Meridien, The Manava, and the Pearl Beach Resort.
All of them but the Pearl Beach are based along the West coast, which guarantees an easy access to the diving centers, who usually propose free pick-ups for the resort’s clients. For those who prefer the economic option, there are very nice guest houses all over the island.
But there is also another option, for those who like falling asleep rocked by a boat’s tossing. Some service providers propose diving cruises, in all the archipelagos. Usually organized on catamarans, theses cruises run from one week-end to several weeks, and can be adapted to everyone’s requirement and budget. However, let’s notice that the Leeward Islands are more popular for the winter Whale Watching rather than diving cruises. This activity will be a lot more interesting to do in the Tuamotu islands.
In this way, diving in Tahiti will be done essentially thanks to the diving centers along the West Coast. They will make you discover the incredible marine treasures of the island, protected by several local initiatives concerned about the conservation of their marine heritage.
Conservation initiatives in Tahiti
Focused on the Polynesian Coral Reef Environment, the CRIOBE (Environment Observatory and Island Research Center) guides its activities around research, training, and information to the general public.
Specialized in Sharks, the ORP (Polynesian Sharks Observatory) implements Tiger-Sharks study programs, which permit to create a knowledge base on this unknown species.
Mata Tohora is an association which acts during the whales’ season. Its job is to make sure that the rules are applied on and in the water concerning the approach of these magnificent marine mammals. Whale Watching in Polynesia has its own regulations, and Mata Tohora watch the respect of these rules.
We can also notice the initiatives run by the diving centers, who care a lot about the marine world they work in.