Diving in Tahiti
Tahiti is actually just one of many islands in the group that was historically known as French Polynesia. Today, the name Tahiti is often used to refer to the entire 118 island group, which is spread out across a million square miles of ocean. But that's OK, because the answer to “how's diving in Tahiti?” applies equally to all of the islands. And that answer is “really good.” The excellent water clarity that is a hallmark of many sites allows sunlight to penetrate and bring out the full colors of fish and corals, and to illuminate steep slopes and walls down to vertigo-inducing depths. The tidal forces that cause these waters to ebb and flow through island lagoons nurture a dynamic food chain that begins with small reef dwellers and ranges up to mantas, sharks and pelagic fish. Tahiti and the other islands of the Society Group feature tall, green-clad mountains surrounded by reefs. In the open ocean far to the east, five large coral atolls encompass dozens of small islands and thousands of acres of shallow reefs, all surrounded by coral walls that plunge into the depths. Divers can experience the islands from land-based resorts or by liveaboards. After flying into Faa'a International Airport, travelers might consider spending a day or two on the island of Tahiti to take in the topside sights and the underwater action at Shark Valley, or perhaps take a tune up dive on a shallow World War II wreck. An easy ferry ride brings divers to the resorts of Moorea Island, where sharks, turtles and rays patrol coral canyons and valleys, and schools of blue-lined snapper, bigeye and cardinal fish gather on the hard coral slope of the outer reef. Operators stage feedings that attract gray reef sharks, black-tips and lemons, but these sharks are often in evidence even without the enticement of a free meal. Even divers accustomed to shark encounters will be impressed by the swirling tropical fish and the ways colors are accentuated by bright sunlight. Moorea also offers a number of good snorkel sites, including a sandbar where stingrays gather. A domestic flight brings divers to Bora Bora's wide lagoon, which shelters groves of boulder and antler coral that are the home waters of large lemon sharks. Purple and yellow corals line the walls of Teavanui Pass, and manta rays glide into the lagoon to gather at the site known as Anua. The twin islands of Raiatea and Taha'a share a lagoon and reef line that encompasses a number of seamounts, caverns and grottoes, along with a unique site covered in fields of montipora coral that resemble a garden of roses. Inter-island air service also gives access to the low-lying Tuamotu Atolls. Rangiroa is the second-largest atoll in the world, and with each tide change, the entire inner lagoon funnels through a pair of deep passes in the reef wall. Avatoru Pass offers spectacularly clear water and moderate currents that allow divers of all skill levels to enjoy a drift past coral-covered walls and into the open ocean, where sharks, tuna and turtles gather at the outflow. At Tiputa Pass, the action starts deeper and the water runs faster, propelling divers into a swarm of gray reef sharks. This site also provides a chance for manta ray sightings, and meetings with pods of dolphin outside the pass. In the Tuamotus, divers encounter a school of sharks at the mouth of Fakarava’s south pass that is so thickly packed it resembles a solid wall of gray. Liveaboard cruises offer a chance to visit even more remote venues, with adventures that can include seasonal humpback encounters with humpback whales.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid U.S. passport is required for entry into Tahiti which must be valid for 3 months beyond your date of entry. Your passport needs to have at least 1 blank page for the Tahiti entry stamp. Proof of return or onward ticket is required. No visas are required for tourist stays of less than 90 days.
EXIT REQUIREMENTS: There is a departure tax of 1822 XPF approx $17 U.S. which should be included in your international ticket.
No immunizations are required for entry into Tahiti, but we would always suggest that you check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on
recommended vaccinations for travel to Tahiti at Traveler's Health CDC
Culture and Customs
Tahiti and the Society Islands loom large in our collective images of tropical paradise. These are the islands that seduced the crew of the Bounty to mutiny, inspired the works of Gaugan and Melville, and now entice celebrities, newlyweds and dreamers to escape the everyday for a thatch-roofed bungalow perched over an electric-blue lagoon. As a semi-autonomous territory of France, the islands combine Continental flair with the ancient traditions of Polynesia. Evidence of this blending begins at breakfast, where a bowl of cafe au lait and a buttery croissant are accompanied by fresh papaya, mango and breadfruit, served with a spray of tropical flowers. Tattoo is a Tahitian word, and body art is considered a sign of beauty. Dance has always played an important role in island life, with performances for everything from welcoming visitors to challenging an enemy or seducing a mate. Traditions are kept alive at the annual gathering of Heiva i Tahiti, when islanders from across the archipelago gather at Papeete for celebrations that include elaborate spectacles of song and dance, along with arts and crafts fairs and traditional sporting events such as canoe races and strong man contests. A year-round staple of Tahitian culture are flowers, which grow in abundance across the islands. Bright blossoms are worn in floral crowns or as single displays behind the ears, denoting either one's availability or commitment. The same long standing traditions of hospitality that welcomed early European explorers and subsequent generations of sailors are now lavished on arriving vacationers, who will discover not only some of the friendliest people in the world, but also some of the most seductive landscapes, where sea, sky and island come together in riotous shades of blue and green.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Tahiti is 220 Volts, 60 cycles. Hotels may use 110 or 220 Volts depending on your location, so a converter/adapter is often required for appliances you bring, including computers.
Direct dialing international calling is available in most hotels. When calling from the U.S. to Tahiti, dial 011 and then the country code of 689 along with the local number. Check with your cell phone provider to see if they have an international plan that is compatible in Tahiti for voice, text and data..
Internet access is available in many hotels and resorts.
Tap water is safe to drink in Papeete and Bora Bora. Elsewhere bottled water is recommended and readily available.
Language & Currency
French and Tahitian are the official languages, but English is spoken and understood in tourist areas.
The currency of Tahiti is the French Pacific Franc (XPF). Bank notes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000, and coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.
Credit cards are readily accepted in most tourist destinations. Most guests exchange money at the airport upon arrival or at their hotel, but the best exchange rate should be at a local bank.
There are three time zones in Tahiti. The Society Islands including Papeete and Moorea and the Leeward Islands including Bora Bora, and the Tuamotu Islands including Fakarava and Rangiroa are all 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-10 GMT). The Gambier Islands are 9 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-9 GMT). The Marquesas Islands are 9.5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-9.5 GMT). Tahiti does not use daylight savings time.
Location, Size and Population
Tahiti is located south of the equator halfway between California and Australia. The islands of Tahiti, konwn as French Polynesia, consist of 5 island groups. There are 118 islands with a total land mass of 1,544 square miles.
The population of French Polynesia is 285,699 (2016).