Whale Songs, Dolphin Smiles and Stingray Greetings
Words can't fully describe the experience of floating weightless in deep blue ocean water, just yards away from a mother humpback and her newborn baby. Or the thrill of a 30-ton male erupting from the depths close to the boat, performing a spy hopping leap that leads to a crashing reentry. Equally memorable are face-to-face meetings with pods of wild dolphins, relaxing swims with stingrays in sunlit shallows, and electrifying shark sightings in current-washed passes. Best of all, these encounters all take place in the warm, clear waters of one of the world's most scenic and romantic destinations.
- Best for: All travellers, watersports and spa enthusiasts and adventures ranging from soft to rugged
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: North America's summer and early fall are the coolest and driest months in Tahiti, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 82 degrees. November to March is a bit warmer, with more chance of rain, but there is no bad time for a visit
Animal Interactions in Tahiti Overview
There are three distinct marine environments around the islands of Tahiti that provide opportunities for encounters with large marine animals. Shallow lagoon waters are home to stingrays, turtles, black tip sharks and the occasional lemon shark. Tidal passes around some islands fill with dense schools of reef sharks when currents are flowing. Dolphins are often found in blue water near the reef, and whales make seasonal appearances from August to October.
Animal Interactions in Tahiti Tips
While stingray encounters and shark swims happen in predictable locations, whale and dolphin encounter present a moving target to tour operators. To increase the chances of sightings and successful in-water swims, Caradonna represents tour operators that use fast boats and devote at least three to four hours of water time for an encounter.
Best Places for Animal Interactions in Tahiti
Humpback whales make seasonal visits to waters close to the shores of Moorea and Bora Bora. Gregarious dolphin pods congregate at tidal channels at the entrance to island lagoons. Stingrays and non-threatening blacktip sharks join swimmers in the shallow waters of a sandbar in Moorea's lagoon. Hundreds of reef and lemon sharks fill the waters of Tiputa Pass.
What to Pack for Animal Interactions in Tahiti
For surface observations of whales and dolphin, wear polarized sunglasses for clear viewing in sunlight. Use a camera with a zoom lens so you won't miss a shot by being too close or too far away. For in-water encounters, bring full-foot fins and a water shirt or light wetsuit for streamlining.
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 Gauguin and Melville, and now entice celebrities, newlyweds and dreamers to escape the every day 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, Phone 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, known 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).