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First time Fakarava - do I have enough time?

Discussion in 'The Pacific Islands' started by DiveDevce, Apr 27, 2019.

  1. DiveDevce

    DiveDevce Garibaldi

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    Hi, I just get my AOWD licence and by coincidence, we are going to FP in September! It wasn't meant to be a diving trip cos we are going with my husband (non-diver) and our kid (who I prevent from diving :)) But since I got that licence and Fakarava seems as a "must place to dive", I would love to squeeze in four days of diving (8 dives in total). Do you think it is enough or should I forget about it completely? Should I only "do" the north, south or three days north and one day trip to the south? Thanks a lot!

    Also how big is a chance to see whales there?
     
  2. Altamira

    Altamira ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Canyon Lake, TX
    1,481
    1,233
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    I would not miss diving Fakarava if you are in the vicinity. As far as 8 dives is concerned, you and your family will have to make that decision based on what activity options your husband and child would have while you are diving, and whether they will mind you being on a dive trip 4-5 hours per day.

    If you are a newly minted AOW, with just a few dives beyond OW requirements, the dive ops will likely require you to do a dive or two outside of the passes to insure you have your buoyancy dialed in, and have your act together. The one day I was able to dive in Fakarava, several AOW members of our group did not dive up to "expectations," and while they did OK in the lower current outside of the pass, they had major problems in the strong pass current. Their DM sure deserved a big tip on that dive. If your skills are good, the drift dives will not disappoint, but high speed drift dives may not be everybody's preferred dive profile. Bottom line: If your dive op clears you to dive the passes, I would sure give it a try.
     
  3. DiveDevce

    DiveDevce Garibaldi

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    Hi, thanks a lot. I decided to go there and give it a try :) My husband is OK with looking after our kid and four days are better than nothing, right? Now I have to decide between the North and the South pass. What would you prefer? Where is the most healthy coral there?
     
  4. Altamira

    Altamira ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Canyon Lake, TX
    1,481
    1,233
    113
    Unfortunately, I was only there for one day so only had the opportunity to do two dives, one just outside of the pass, and one through the Garuae Pass on the north side of the atoll. I noticed that is where the dive ops were located on the atoll also, and imagine most of the diving is done on the north pass, but others can give you better information. Both dives were excellent drift dives, and I will go again the next time in Fakarava. Although I typically prefer a slow loiter over reefs, looking in all the nooks and crannies, the dives near and through the pass were great fun. We saw a few sharks, but no Mantas. For information, there are many more knowledgable divers on SB that have been there frequently who can give you more details and suggestions, Hopefully they will chime in. You can also check out other posts on Fakarava, and there are a couple of decent videos on YouTube of diving Garuae Pass. Have fun. I envy you having four days there for diving.
     
  5. Sputnikboy

    Sputnikboy Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Trieste
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    Thete is no comparison really, Garuae (north pass) is wider therefore the marine life, sharks especially, are more spread out. It's very good diving indeed but IMO it pales in comparison with Tumakohua (south) pass: the pass here is much narrower so the sharks patrolling the channel are much more concentrated, talking about a couple of hundreds per dive, spectacular and I'm not even a shark addict! If the National Geographic goes to Tumokohua pass to shoot pics and videos of sharks hunting behaviors you know diving is world class...
    As I wrote in another thread, I just got back from Fakarava and due to the wind I was forced to skip Tumakohua; I was offered to dive Garuae instead but decided to skip as I felt that the four dives I did there last year were enough for my interest.
    Remember that diving ops tend to go diving in the south only if there's in-going current because with outgoing current viz is worse and there's less marine life: you have to be lucky with this.
    In the north "Ali Baba" and "sleeping cave" are two cool dives, be prepared for strong currents though. In my experience the south had way more gentle currents, but every dive is different.
     
    Altamira likes this.
  6. Manuel Sam

    Manuel Sam Barracuda

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boston
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    8 dives over 4 days is fine, split 3 days North and 1 day South. After all, whether North or South, if you disregard divesites inside the lagoon, there are basically just three dive sites: the pass, and the sloping wall dives on the outside the atoll at each side of the mouth of the pass, altho there are many variations on which path the dive guide takes to get into the pass.

    And even tho the passes are dived ideally with the incoming tide, at least in the South I have done it several times with the outgoing: you will still see a lot of sharks but they are more scattered and the viz will be less because it is lagoon water flowing back out to the ocean. Diving it with the outgoing is usually done by people staying in the South. If you are staying in the North and spending extra money and sitting thru the hour-plus ride from North to South, you want to dive it with the incoming tide. The dive operator you choose should know to when the incoming tide is. The other issue is that the dive operators in the North usually require a minimum number of divers (I think it is 4) in order to do the trip to the south.

    In terms of quality of the dives, there is no question in my mind that if it is sharks you wish to see, the southern pass has the greatest wow factor because of what Sputnikboy said - it is a narrower pass and the sharks pack together more densely while facing the incoming current with the fresh, and clean ocean water. When I was last there in 2017, there was a team of French divers documenting the annual Marble Grouper spawn. They stationed cameras approximately equally-spaced all along the pass and triggered them to take one simultaneous snapshot of the section of the pass in front of them. When they tallied up the number of sharks at that one moment, it was well over 700 sharks inside the pass. By my eyeball estimates, the most I have seen in one pack while sitting in one place is maybe about 200 within my field of view. The other thing that is also impressive is the amount of fish life all along the sloping wall and around the piers of the Tetamanu Resort as you start ascending and doing your safety stop.

    The above is not meant to downplay diving the North. Because of some really bad luck with three back-to-back storms in 2015, I spent 8 straight days diving the North and was never bored. I have seen equally impressive schools of densely packed sharks while diving the Northern pass too, but I attribute that to a very good dive guide and a lot of luck - I don't think that it is an occurrence seen everyday . Perhaps because I have had more dives in the Northern pass than in the South, I have also seen mantas and Great Hammers in the North that I have yet to see in the South.

    Also as mentioned by Sputnikboy, the Northern Pass also has an area inside the pass that some call Alibaba and a few call the Valley. I have always dived this as part of the pass dive, not as a separate dive. I prefer "the Valley" because it is somewhat descriptive of what the area looks like. You are riding the current above the reef: sighting and approaching from a distance what turns out to be huge clouds of fish is the first hint of what lies ahead. Once you drift to the edge of the coral, you dive down maybe 10 feet into a sandy clearing below. You slowly meander your way thru the area while hugging the bottom to lessen the push from the current, on occasions hiding behind a coral head, all the time admiring all the fishlife around you and the handful of sharks hovering above. It is a very unique place: there is nothing that I can think of that is comparable to it elsewhere.

    You asked about the corals: I don't think that you will be disappointed seeing the corals on the outside dives whether North or South.

    One last thing to consider: Staying North gives you more options as far as accommodations, eating places, stores, and non-diving activities (not that there is a lot) to do for you, and especially for your husband and kid. At many of the lodgings, they have bikes for free for you to ride into the village just to poke around. Conversely, accommodations at the Tetamanu Resort in the South are rather rustic with no AC and no hot water, and there is nothing else there besides the resort, the water and the remnants of what used to be a small village.

    I have never been there during humpback whale season so I don't know about the chances of seeing them. But September is their winter season, and the humpbacks do visit the area, so........
     
    Altamira likes this.
  7. FairyBasset

    FairyBasset Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Munich
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    I just got back from Fakarava. I think Manuel Sam gives you all the valid info you need. Do NOT miss the southern pass, it is absolutely amazing world class diving. So many sharks, so many fish, such a cool drift, beautiful corals. I'd say this was among the best diving I've done to date. I also loved Fakarava North. We managed to get to Ali Baba a few times which is by far the best part of the dive, it was amazing also with loads of sharks. Unfortunately we had a lot of outgoing tides in the north, so we did lots of wall dives on the outer reef, which were OK but a bit same same after a while. 2 dives a day is plenty enough. Are you also going to Rangiroa? Thats really worth the diving in Tiputa pass.
     
  8. Manuel Sam

    Manuel Sam Barracuda

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boston
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    Thank you Fairy Basset. You brought up a very valid point about the tides. It had not been my intent to make everything sound rosy and robotically predictable. Aside from weather, I recall that in 2006, we were at Tiputa Pass for three days and someone must have drunk a lot and kept pissing into the lagoon because when there is too much water in the lagoon, simple physics dictates that it must flow from where it is higher to where it is lower. So the tide was only outgoing all three days. Similarly, in 2017, I had probably my poorest experience ever in the Southern Pass of Fakarava because even when there was an incoming, it was very very weak.

    Lastly, getting back to corals: I said that the coral is quite healthy on the outer reefs, but it is almost entirely hard coral. Don't expect to see the nice colorful soft corals typically seen in Fiji and further west.
     
  9. FairyBasset

    FairyBasset Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Munich
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    By the way there is a very good chance to see whales in September. If you don't see them there you can easily see them in Moorea / Tahiti.
     

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