By Lee Czerniak
Tahiti and her islands are tantalizing, tropical treasures! Known as a destination for honeymooners and lovers, these islands certainly know how to provide the setting with their cascading waterfalls, lush green valleys, sparkling mountain streams, tropical beaches and coconut palms swaying in the sun. Tahiti is paradise found.
There is another side of Tahiti and its islands that is world class and is also breathtakingly beautiful. The underwater world makes this the recipe for being the perfect island destination for divers and non-divers alike. Here you are offered a holiday that can be sophisticated while retaining the allure of the islands – mystical magic.
There is a diversity of diving ranging from the shallow lagoons for the novice diver to the ocean drop offs for the more experienced. If are looking for a high energy drift dive there are the deep lagoon channels offering this experience. And to top it all off there is marine life that will blow your mind.
Situated 350km north-west of Tahiti and known for being the second largest atoll in the world is Rangiroa. From the edge of the lagoon, it’s impossible to see the other side. There are two passes between the lagoon and the ocean, which carry the tides to and from the lagoon twice daily. The strong currents attract some amazing fish life, including what looks like schooling of sharks including hammerheads. An amazing dive and one that you will never forget. There is magnificent marine life in the lagoon and on the walls of the reef – coral gardens full of multi-coloured fish and shellfish – an amazing water playground.
Known for its black pearl culture farms, it’s one of those places that measures up to the dream of getting away from it all. Being 520km from Tahiti and a population of under 800 it is one of the most attractive atolls in the Tuamotu’s and is home to some of the best diving in French Polynesia. The drop off, where the wall descends from 10–4,500m is where I met a rather big lone barracuda that swam up from the deep blue depths all the while looking me straight in the eye. Just as he was almost upon me, he veered away, still looking at me. Not sure what he wanted but the heart rate was certainly elevated! Each year around June/July, hundreds of marbled grouper gather here to breed, so if you are diving during that time you will definitely encounter them. Manta rays are high on the list of marine life and are usually seen in the lagoon by Tairapa pass where you again will have the opportunity to do a drift dive. A truly magical place to stay and dive.
South-east of Rangiroa, this atoll has the second largest lagoon in the Tuamotu’s. The reef encloses such a rich ecosystem that it has been designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. As with many of the Tuamotu Atolls, Fakarava is another atoll in this area known for its amazing world renowned diving. Here you get to dive the passes that are home to lemon, whitecap and hammerhead sharks. Seeing a large number of hammerheads in one place certainly gets the adrenaline pumping. If you don’t want that type of diving, the lagoon and reef diving still offer you the chance to enjoy multi-coloured fish and to be kissed by a Napoleon wrasse is definitely a plus!
Fast becoming one of the must-go-to dive locations. It’s here you are absolutely going to encounter manta rays and if you haven’t done so yet in your diving career so far, it’s definitely a bucket-list dive. To see these magnificent creatures glide as if they are doing a ballet to the music of Peer Gynt’s “Morning Mood” is just breath taking. I could watch these beautiful creatures for hours, so it’s about keeping an eye on my gauges while enjoying the entertainment.
The Tuamotu Archipelago, consisting of seventy-six atolls and countless reefs, is scattered across the Pacific and stretches over a length of more the 1,500km and width of 500km, making this around one million square kilometres including the land mass. This makes a lot of the area very isolated and in some cases uninhabited. One can only imagine what it would be like to explore above water and below in what is virgin territory. What is available to enjoy makes this one of those magical holidays that will remain with you for a lifetime. I know my time exploring this region will be with me for years to come.
Air Tahiti Nui and Air New Zealand operate five direct flights a week from Auckland to Papeete. Air Tahiti operates domestic flights to 46 islands via Tahiti.
The temperature pretty much remains at a constant average of 27º all year around and the ocean temperature is usually around the same temperature. Winter for Tahiti is usually May through to October, but there is not a huge difference between winter and summer.