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General Advice for French Polynesia

Discussion in 'The Pacific Islands' started by tendi, Feb 7, 2021.

  1. tendi

    tendi Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Phoenix, AZ
    106
    18
    Looking at planning a small group trip (6-10 people) and of course we want it all...place that's good for all dive levels and non divers, easy-ish to get to, great diving, good food (the diving is more important), etc. I've read about the depth restrictions and understand what the conditions are like in a pass.

    From my brief research, it looks like Moorea is the easiest to get to from the US. Are there alternate ways to get to Fakarava that don't include a big overnight layover? Maybe by booking separate itineraries?

    In general do places book way out into the future? Anyone know if that is different now? We'd be planning something for late summer/early fall '21. Maybe we're already too late?
     
  2. Altamira

    Altamira ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: TX
    1,958
    2,006
    I have only been to Fr. Polynesia twice, an 11 night cruise on Paul Gauguin in 2016, and an 11 night Windstar Cruise in 2018, so I am far from an expert or veteran of Polynesia diving. However, from my limited experience, I think you might find it difficult to "have it all" in Polynesia. Bora-Bora and Moorea are certainly beautiful, are easier to get to, have good food, and an abundance of things to do for non-divers. However, depending on your dive history/where you have been, I would classify those locations as good for all dive levels, but not great diving, and the best locations like Fakarava are not suitable for all dive levels and not likely appeal to non-divers. We enjoyed both trips to Polynesia very much, but frankly I think diving in many of the top notch dive destinations in the Caribbean was better than Polynesia, except for Fakarava. Cruising on Paul Gauguin or Windstar is an easy way to see a greater number of the islands, but they are not inexpensive. Of course, these are just my observations based on a limited number of days in this gorgeous region of the world.
     
  3. tendi

    tendi Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Phoenix, AZ
    106
    18
    That is what I suspected and is always the struggle when dealing with a group. 2 of us have been many places. In fact my husband has declared he's "done with the Caribbean" because it's not "real diving". He prefers the diversity we see in Indonesia/Philippines. We have others that we'd probably never see or hear from again if we threw them in the pass. I'd consider taking the group to PG or Fiji but they aren't open yet. Sigh...
     
  4. Altamira

    Altamira ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: TX
    1,958
    2,006
    The dive op we used in Fakarava had a policy of only AOW divers could dive the pass (may be a common requirement). However, it appears that exceptions could be made based on the individual diver's background and ability. After all divers in the group finished the checkout dive on the outer part of the pass where there was some current, but not as much as in/through the pass, the dive op blew off the AOW requirement for me. So we had six AOW divers from our cruise ship paired with two dive op DMs, and me, paired with a DM giving two tourists staying on the island a drift dive for their AOW training. The four of us in my group had a great dive, but the two DMs trying to corral the six AOW divers probably regretted coming to work that day. They looked like they were herding cats, and the last I saw of them, both DMs were struggling to hang on to their divers to keep them from going up, down, and sideways. It would have been funny had it not be such a sad display of crappy ability from six AOW divers. But they must have been OK in the milder current because I can't imagine the DMs taking them on that ride thinking they would have that many problems.

    I do not want to deter you from going to FP. Although the diving was not as good in FP as other places I have been, I would happily go back again because the total enjoyment of the trips was worth it despite not being able to "have it all", even with just two of us.
     
  5. theDrExplorer

    theDrExplorer Registered

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Portland, OR
    40
    40
    Unfortunately, French Polynesia just closed to all tourism this past week, and there's not a current projected opening, so that makes planning a summer/fall trip a little bit tricky. We spent a few week in FP last summer, island-hopping and enjoying both diving and top-side activities, and most hotels, activities and dive shops were relatively easy to book a few weeks before (except on Huahine where there was only one dive shop open, and could only take 4-5 people out every day).

    While we are PADI Rescue Divers (translates to CMAS 2-star rating that they use there), we are often-times paired with other OW divers who are good divers, and the depth requirements are not super strictly adhered to if the DM has seen you dive. The dive shops that we dove with there are all very safety and environmentally conscious. I still have to write up my trip report with more details, but I think that the diving in Fakarava (both South and North), Tikehau, Rangiroa and Raiatea to be quite enjoyable, with lots of sharks and other things to see.

    You should be able to get to Fakarava without an overnight, but you may have to book your flights separately. Moorea is easy to get to via a ferry, you can just rent a car in the Tahiti airport and drive onto the ferry. It really depends on what the non-divers in your group likes to do... if they're fine with just lounging on pristine beaches with sparkling blue water and snorkeling a bit, then Tikehau or Fakarava isn't too boring. If they need lots of activities, night life or different restaurants, then perhaps Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora or Raiatea might be more suitable.
     
  6. tendi

    tendi Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Phoenix, AZ
    106
    18
    Oh no! I guess FP is out for now then. Thanks for all the info. I'll save it for a time when we can go. Guess it's back to the drawing board...
     
  7. drewmeister_sd

    drewmeister_sd Registered

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Low Cal errr San Diego
    17
    0
    We (4 AOW divers) just returned last week from FP. We stayed at Huahine, Bora Bora, Rangiroa, and Tahiti.

    The dive shop at Huahine was closed.

    We dove at Bora Bora and Rangiroa. Sharks every dive. We dove with Top Dive. They are a first class operation, but they don't seem to have many dive sites. At Bora Bora, we dove inside the lagoon for mantas and did a couple dives at the lagoon entrance. They told us that was it for dive sites.

    At Rangiroa, we did 7 dives, all either drift dives right outside the lagoon channel in the morning or an afternoon current dive in the afternoon incoming tide. The currently rips. The lack of dive sites wasn't too bad, as dolphins outside the channel swim right up to divers, and I got really up close and personal with mantas on the current dive.

    Note that if you don't speak French (we don't) it might be a struggle. You need deep pockets. Note as well that you cannot drink the tap water, so plan accordingly. We stayed at a couple of remote resorts (can't walk to anything) and they provided one .5L of water for our multi day stay. They would gladly sell us additional bottles for $4USD each. We bought water at a market (20 min water taxi ride each way).

    It was also odd that the markets couldn't sell cold beer (covid restrictions) but restaurants and bars would gladly sell cold beverages.

    FP is now closed to tourism.
     
  8. theDrExplorer

    theDrExplorer Registered

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Portland, OR
    40
    40
    There's some unconfirmed rumors floating around that they might reopen in April, but I've not seen official sources stating this, and it's always subject to change.

    I speak some French, but I did not feel the need to speak French during the whole time we were there, except in Maupiti (we spoke a mix of English plus French with our hosts). All of the hotels, small family operations and dive shops that we were at provided unlimited drinking water fountains to refill our reusable bottles on every island we visited (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Maupiti where we didn't dive; Raiatea, Huahine, Rangiroa, Tikehua, Fakarava South, Fakarava North where we did dive).

    And I would agree that FP is not a cheap destination, diving is about $60-70 per dive (every shop included full equipment rentals; there are only a few that offer a very small discount if you have your own).
     
  9. moorish8idol

    moorish8idol Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Canada
    140
    167
    Hopefully FP will reopen but late summer/fall. I don't think Moorea is necessarily the "easiest" to get to in FP. All international flights land in Faa'a on the island of Tahiti so if you are traveling beyond there you will have to take a ferry or a short flight.

    Most people agree the Tuamotos are the best area of FP for diving with Rangiroa and Fakarava being the most popular/renowned. I think it is worth traveling to both and you can get a Tuamoto Island air pass that allows you to travel from Tahiti to Rangi-Faka and back to Tahiti on a single ticket. In normal times, there are multiple flights per day but that has changed somewhat currently. The flights from Tahiti to either island is about an hour (assuming you fly direct - some flights will have a stop or few on the way but you can see this when booking) and the flight between Rangi and Faka is about 35 minutes. In my experience, Air Tahiti ran pretty well!

    Rangiroa maybe offers a bit more for the non-divers in the group though they would have to be content with beach/sea-related activities as the Tuamotos do not have mountain peaks to climb and thought touristy are mostly focused on scuba. There are a few more luxurious lodging options on the island (the Maitai and Kia Ora hotels both have a pool and are great places for sunset cocktails - the Kia Ora was undergoing renos last time I checked but they may be done now). Non-diving aquatic activities are on order and late afternoon boats will take people out to see the dolphins surfing on the incoming tides. Rangi also has a pearl farm and winery that can be visited. The diving is excellent and even less experienced divers can still enjoy diving in Rangi - there are basically two types of dives - cruising in on the incoming tide into the pass (where you can get very gnarly vortex-like currents) and the outer reef type dives when the tide is outgoing. There are resident friendly dolphins there though I never got to see them in my stay there (perhaps rare but definitely something that happens) but you should see an abundance of marine life on your dives - all types of reef sharks, great hammerheads (in season), rays etc.

    Fakarava was my favourite. It is much smaller and much more diving focused - same set-up as Rangi in that there are dives on the incoming tides and then dives on the outer reefs - tons of sharks and fish galore as well as the occasional manta ray. I saw pretty junior divers on both passes and the inner lagoon maxes out at around 20 metres. The lodging is various levels of pension but still amazing. For mellow non-divers, they might be happy with swimming and snorkeling in the gorgeous lagoon (reef sharks come right up into the shallow waters, as well as lots of fish), biking the island, having Polynesian massages at the Havaiki (so recommended) any doing day trips to pink-sand beaches and other nearby motus for various activities. Diving is excellent in both the north and south passes though I recommend staying in the North pass, especially if you have a mixed group. There are a few "snacks" (what they call more local lunch places) which offer great food and drinks seaside and there is a small little town with a few shops selling artisanal products, jewelry etc.

    I am fluent in French but the dive ops and lodging operators at least seemed to be competent in English with the various Americans I came across. You will likely be a linguistic minority however as in my experience most of the people on the dive boats were French-speaking. My pensions also offered filtered water in dispensing machines in a central area so you could have potable water whenever you wanted. Prices are expensive - you are in the middle of nowhere and most products, including foot, have to be shipped in. Its also a very special place IMO and totally worth it.

    I am hoping to go back this December to the Marquesas and have heard that they are also very special though much further from Tahiti (3-3.5 hours flight) though very different culturally and geographically so would offer a lot of activities for non-divers (horseback riding, hiking, cultural activities, dolphin watching etc) and have heard though there are only 2 dive shops, the diving is quite spectacular for big animals (though a bit more geared for people with experience due to depths and typically poor viz).
     
  10. Dom@DiveAdvice

    Dom@DiveAdvice Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: South of France
    529
    114
    Having visited and dived French Polynesia several times and my experience of sending many clients there for the past 20 years, my highest recommendation for a group of 6-10 would be to charter your own catamaran in the Tuamotus, that gives one total freedom to visit inhabited and uninhabited islands, dive, snorkel, beachcomb and explore at your own speed. We work with several luxury catamarans and offer 7 to 15 night trips from Fakarava. Certainly the best diving is found in the Tuamotus islands of Fakarava and Rangiroa or on a boat at the islands/atolls inbetween. There is wonderful land based diving in North and South Fakarava and a variety of pension style accommodations - some more lovelier than others - but in my opinion, if one was to go to sleep and wake up in paradise, it might resemble South Fakarava. As mentioned in a post above, it is fairly easy to fly around French Polynesia, although virtually all flights go thru Papeete on the main island, and it is easy to include Fakarava and Rangiroa on one flight ticket. Moorea is easy to get to by flight or by ferry and is a plus to include on any trip for its mountainous peaks, wild scenery and beaches & reefs. From August thru October, it is also the place to swim with Humpback Whales, so whether you are a diver or non-diver, there are few experiences that rival that. Although French Polynesia is not cheap, there are ways to make it less costly in simple pensions, to more luxurious and expensive over-the-water bungalows, but whether you are an experienced diver or a snorkeler, there are very few places in the world that compare. We put together programs for individuals or small groups and with offices in South of France and Northern California, we are easily accessible for input and advice. We have US clients currently booked to be there in May but as with the rest of the world, we all await word from the authorities about their plans to open French Polynesia to Tourism again. As we deal with most of the South Pacific, I would dare to suggest that French Polynesia is most likely to be open before the other destinations such as Fiji, Palau, Philippines and Indonesia, and it is never too early to plan a trip for the Fall. Happy to offer input if you wish to send me a mail. dom@diveadvice.com

    Dominick Macan
    Dive Advice Travel
    dom@diveadvice.com
    www.diveadvice.com
    Tel: +33 492 94 02 99 (France)
    SKYPE: adventuredom
    http://www.diveadvice.com/liveaboard-availability … for up-to-date liveaboard availability worldwide
    "In Partnership with Amazing Adventures Travel of Mill Valley, California"
     

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