Imagine a tropical island where a thatch-roof bungalow sits over the waters of an azure lagoon. This is the iconic image of Tahiti that lures visitors from around the world. And for divers, the lagoons of Tahiti deliver more than a scenic backdrop — they offer the unique opportunity to dive into some of nature's largest natural aquariums.
Learn more about Diving in Tahiti.
The lagoons of Tahiti come in two forms. Volcanic islands such as Bora Bora, Moorea and the Island of Tahiti are encircled by barrier reefs made of hard corals. These natural breakwaters create calm expanses of sheltered shallows close to shore. Here, sandbanks and patch reefs create habitats for a menagerie of marine life.
And then there are the atolls. These massive circles are made up of coral reefs and small low-lying islands that create lagoons of gigantic proportions. Tahitian atolls like Rangiroa and Farkarava are miles across and form lagoons that are several hundred square miles in size.
A Snorkeler's Paradise
The lagoons of Tahiti deliver all the elements needed for world-class snorkeling experiences: warm, clear water; excellent visibility; shallow depths; calm surface conditions; healthy coral growth; and an abundance of fish life. In all, there are more than 1,000 species of tropical fish found in the waters of Tahiti, and snorkelers can immerse themselves in clouds of colorful reef dwellers, watch for turtles and rays, or search for giant clams rooted to the seabed.
Guests staying in the iconic over-water bungalows of Bora Bora or Moorea can snorkel right from their waterfront porch. On Rangiroa Atoll, the site known as the Aquarium is renowned for its colorful mix of corals and tropical fish and is considered a must-do for anyone visiting the atoll. Another favorite is the iconic Blue Lagoon, which is an aquamarine pool surrounded by palm-fringed islands and rich in marine life.
Lagoons are also home to larger animals, including sea turtles, rays and sharks. It's common to share snorkeling sites with timid black-tip reef sharks, and when conditions are right, larger lemon sharks will also come into the shallows. Both species are considered non-threatening to humans, and tour operators do a thriving business in shark swims.
While much of the diving in The Islands of Tahiti takes place on outer reefs, there are also a number of sites within the lagoons where divers can enjoy long, relaxing bottom times. On Bora Bora, the site known as Toopua is a favorite, as it offers a tremendous variety of marine life, an expansive coral garden and large colonies of anemones. At Moorea's Ray Corridor divers can drift with the currents across a lagoon filled with reef fish and are often visited by flights of eagle rays.
Tiputa Canyons is a site located in Rangiroa's lagoon, just inside of the famous Tiputa Pass. Here, divers ride incoming tides past a series of underwater canyons that hold schools of surgeonfish, sharks, and Napoleon wrasses. Fakarava lagoon offers exceptional marine life dives and has been named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. A highlight of diving at Fakarava is the marble grouper spawning in June and July, which attracts sharks by the hundreds.
While inner lagoons offer relaxing and rewarding diving and snorkeling experiences, excitement isn't far away. The coral rings that create atolls and barrier reefs are punctuated by natural channels where tidal currents ebb and flow. One of the most famous is Rangiroa's Teavanui Pass, where the moving waters attract massive schools of fish, dolphin pods, rays, and a whole lot of sharks.
Fakarava offers similar thrills when divers ride the tides in Tumakohua Pass, where gray reef sharks gather by the hundreds in a tight-knit formation has been nicknamed the “Great Wall of Sharks”. Also, at Fakarava is the wide expanse of Garuae Pass, where sharks share the underwater stage with large schools of reef fish, rays, dolphins, and large Napoleon wrasse.
A Place to Play
Tahiti's lagoons provide stunning backdrops for some of the world's most desired beach resorts. These are the islands that invented and perfected the concept of the over-water bungalow, Lagoons also provide vast aquatic playgrounds for kayakers, windsurfers, sailors, PWCs and paddleboard enthusiasts.
With their perfect white-sand beaches, the small, uninhabited islands known as motus become staging grounds for picnics and parties, while sunsets over lagoon waters create postcard-perfect photo ops. For all these reasons and more, a visit to the lagoons of Tahiti should be on every diver, snorkeler and beach lovers must do list.
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