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Liveaboard Diving in French Polynesia

From gorgeous topside scenery to waters crowded with sharks and manta rays, French Polynesia is a scuba diver’s dream. Travel by liveaboard to see the best dive sites!

French Polynesia liveaboards

French Polynesia is a collection of more than 100 islands spread over 1250 miles (2,000 kilometers). Many of its best diving areas, such as Fakarava and Rangiroa, are located a considerable distance from Tahiti, the main port of entry for French Polynesia. You will find gorgeous dive resorts and a plethora of land-based operators, but traveling by liveaboard is the best option for divers who want to see the best of French Polynesia’s underwater environments. Typical liveaboard cruises in French Polynesia last 7 to 10 nights. The French Polynesia Master is a brand-new boat for 2016. This dive boat provides Nitrox and satellite internet for your convenience, and it also boasts a spacious indoor salon, a camera set-up station and a jacuzzi. Secondly, the Aqua Tiki II offers an intimate option for those who wish to tour French Polynesia. It only has four cabins for eight people, making it a great option for a large family or group of friends.

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Diving in French Polynesia

Quick facts

French Polynesia boasts several fascinating areas to explore. From gorgeous soft corals to tons of sharks, it’s likely you’ll find something to interest you in this island nation. Heavy currents attract sharks to the channels of the Tuamotu Archipelago and the plankton-rich waters of the Marquesas Islands are a haven for manta rays. On the other hand, coral beds and protected bays give a home to an abundance of macro and fish species in the Society Islands. Napoleon fish, jack, clown fish and pygmy seahorses can all be spotted. Because it is spread out over 1250 miles (2000 kilometers) in the South Pacific, French Polynesia features a wide variety of underwater environments. You’ll find great drift dives in places like the Tiputa Pass of Rangiroa. There are also several atolls with coral beds, walls and pinnacles to explore. Fakarava and Rangiroa both sport some of the sharkiest dive sites on Earth, and Mahini boasts great manta ray dive sites. While there are plenty of pelagics, wreck divers will also be spoiled by several World War II wrecks, and underwater photographers will delight in the wide-angle panoramas. Because of the depths and heavy current present at many of the region’s dive sites, liveaboards in French Polynesia generally require either an Advanced certificate or an Open Water certificate with 30 logged dives. Do check with your chosen operator for certification requirements.


October to May

The best time to dive in French Polynesia is from October to May although these islands are good for diving year round. Within these months, you can expect wet and rainy conditions, particularly from December to March. From November to April, it is summer in French Polynesia. However, the diving is at its best at this time due to an influx in plankton and calm surface conditions. Large marine life such as manta rays visit to feast on the tiny marine life. Water temperatures average 79 to 84°F (26 to 28°C). With waters this warm, you’ll probably only need to pack a 3mm wetsuit although some may be more comfortable in a 5mm. On the other hand, visibility in French Polynesia is best from June to September. On a good day, you might see seemingly endless visibility, which in reality reaches 200 feet (60 meters). But, during these months the water temperature is slightly cooler, and typhoons may threaten to ruin your holiday. Finally, surface conditions in French Polynesia can be slightly choppy from June to September, making the liveaboard journey less pleasant. However, these conditions rarely negatively affect the underwater experience.

View our full scuba guide

How to Get to French Polynesia

There are approximately 49 airports in French Polynesia, but the two most useful for scuba divers are Fakarava Airport (FAV) and Rangiroa Airport (RGI). Air Tahiti serves both of these airports. Fakarava Airport is connected to Manihi, Papeete and Rangiroa while Rangiroa Airport is connected to Ahe, Bora Bora, Fakarava, Manihi, Mataiva, Papeeta and Tikehau. However, it may be more useful to fly into Faa’a International Airport on Tahiti and then take a ferry or two to your liveaboard port. Most liveaboards in French Polynesia depart from either Fakarava Port or Quai De Ohotu in Rangiroa. Many operators will provide transfers from the airport, but it’s best to contact your liveaboard operator for scheduled arrangements.

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