French Polynesia

Best Diving in French Polynesia

Best Diving in French Polynesia

Diving devotees know that a trip to French Polynesia is a pilgrimage to paradise. And although it takes a while to travel to this remote South Pacific utopia halfway between Australia and South America, as soon as you slip below the waves and begin to explore, you’ll see exactly why you came here. The marine life is abundant, from tropical fish to blacktip sharks; the water is warm all year, rarely dipping below 25°C; and the coral reefs remain pristine. So, ocean-going pilgrim, if you’re ready to plan your trip, discover our recommendations of the best diving in French Polynesia and find your sanctuary beneath the sea.


Tiputa Pass


The largest atoll in the Tuamoto archipelago and the second largest in the world, Rangiroa is a treat for even the most experienced of divers. An hour’s flight from Tahiti, its vast lagoon is surrounded by low islets and narrow sandbars (no peaks or valleys on the horizon here). Those open vistas are probably where Rangiroa – meaning ‘immense sky’ – got its name. On the northern side of the atoll lies the Tiputa Pass, which connects the ocean to the lagoon, with the current creating waves that bottlenose dolphins love to play in. Divers start on the ocean side and drift through the pass towards the interior of the lagoon, carried by the incoming tide. Sharks (including hammerheads from January to March), manta rays, and those playful bottlenose are waiting to welcome you, with the drift dive ending in a magnificent coral garden.


Garuae Pass


Fakarava Atoll is also in the Tuamoto archipelago and should be top of the list for any diver who’s serious about sharks. The infinite shades of blue in Fakarava lagoon join the Pacific Ocean via the Garuae Pass; the widest pass in French Polynesia and known for the ‘wall of sharks’ that patrol the reef just outside. Grey reef sharks, white tips, black tips, and even hammerheads can all be spotted living happily on the pristine reef, which remains relatively healthy thanks to Fakarava’s status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Above the waves, stay in Rotoava, where you can rest in a beachside bungalow – dreaming of another dive among majestic sharks.



Bora Bora

A destination beloved by honeymooners, Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. This extinct volcano floating in a lagoon is home to romantic resorts and pristine beaches – but it also has some of the best diving in French Polynesia, especially for beginners. Manta rays can often be spotted in the warm waters, particularly at Anau, which is an underwater ‘cleaning station’. This is where small fish eat the parasites that gather on the manta rays; a shallow spot that the rays visit regularly to be cleaned by parrotfish and wrasse. Think of it as a luxury spa, but for sea creatures. Snorkellers can enjoy this area too, with rays visible up to 25 metres away on a clear day. Diving is only allowed in the morning to preserve the area, so you can spend the afternoon enjoying your own bit of pampering back at your resort.


The Canyons


You could argue that The Canyons dive site is the perfect example of why French Polynesia is a diver’s paradise. Unbelievable biodiversity, calm currents, and visibility of up to 27 metres are delights that divers will relish, while a maze of caverns and channels offer plenty of nooks to explore. This underwater labyrinth is just a ten-minute boat ride from Tetiaroa Atoll, which was purchased in 1966 by Hollywood legend Marlon Brando. Today, it’s home to The Brando; a resort where desert island meets deluxe. Retreat here to enjoy some luxurious creature comforts (beachfront villas, infinity pool, spa) after a day taking in the undersea sights.


Tuheiava Pass


Explorer Jacques Cousteau praised Tikehau as having the most fish-filled lagoon in the South Pacific. To us, that’s another way of saying it has some of the best diving in French Polynesia. The lagoon is encircled by a string of tiny islets, or motus, which feel as far from civilisation as you can get. And because the lagoon is connected to the ocean by a single pass – the Tuheiava Pass – its sheltered waters harbour an astonishing array of aquatic creatures. As the only entrance to the atoll, the narrow pass is packed with marine life; riding the current through the pass, divers can spy tuna fish, barracudas and moray eels. On the atoll, against a backdrop of pink sands and lush coconut groves, there are a handful of resorts to choose from; think overwater bungalows with traditional palm roofs, where you can drift off to the sounds of the sea.


The Cargo Ship and Catalina


Popular with novice divers or those who haven’t been in the water for a while, Tahiti’s two wrecks (often collectively called ‘The Aquarium’) are suitable dive sites for both beginners and non-certified divers. There is a wreck of a cargo ship and another of a Catalina amphibious aircraft which was intentionally sunk in the 1960s. The area also has no currents and great visibility, so it won’t be a challenge to explore. Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia and the only one with an international airport, making it the gateway to Polynesian paradise. It might not be where you’re planning to stay for your entire trip, but if you’re here for a few days and feel the call of the ocean, it’s still a great spot to sample some happy hours of diving.


To start planning your next underwater adventure, speak to the experts at our sister company, Original Diving, who can help you curate your ideal itinerary for a diving holiday in French Polynesia.

Header Image © Daniel Espirito Santo