Coral Diving in French Polynesia

Ever since Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical ‘South Pacific’ etched idyllic island images on the minds of the masses, the sun-kissed region has retained its allure. And for divers, tales of the shark-infused passes leading in and out of the fish-filled lagoons of French Polynesia have whetted the appetite even more. Boasting at least 16 species of shark, French Polynesia may be better known for its pointy-toothed predators than for its corals, but that isn’t to say there’s no coral diving in French Polynesia. On the contrary, the far-flung islands and atolls are often touted as being the ‘hard coral capital of the world,' and thanks to French Polynesia’s remote location, its coral gardens are near pristine...

Bora Bora

The volcanic peak of Mount Otemanu is surrounded by a shark-filled turquoise lagoon, which in turn is surrounded by a string of coral motus (little islands); together they form Bora Bora. The lagoon and its most famous dive site, Tapu, are renowned for their impressive number of black-tipped reef sharks, large lemon sharks and curious mantas. But if you're looking to experience the best coral diving in French Polynesia, you should also aim for a trip out to Tupitipiti Point.

Located off the south-west point of Bora Bora, Tupitipiti Point features a series of caverns and caves, with patches of pristine purple corals and vibrantly coloured sponges adorning the entrances. There's usually a few large sharks patrolling the reefs and if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you may even spot a humpback whale at the surface.


The abundance of healthy reef-building hard corals in Tikehau Atoll's lagoon support a rich ecosystem. So much so that legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau declared the lagoon to be richer in fish life than any other lagoon in the world. Sitting at the western end of the dolphin-shaped Tuamotu Archipelago, Tikehau Atoll's solitary pass - Tuheiva Pass - is the centre for much of the atoll's diving.

There are a cluster of sites around the pass, which are home to schools of jacks, barracudas, big-eyed mullets and tuna, while turtles and French Polynesia's ubiquitous sharks are never too far away. If you're lucky, you may even spot a hammerhead or tiger shark. When roaming around the healthy coral heads inside the lagoon after a fast drift through the pass, there's a chance you'll also encounter manta rays in search of a cleaner wrasse.


Located to the east of Tikehau in the Tuamotu Archipelago, Rangiroa is one of the largest atolls in the world, with an immense lagoon that's 50 miles long and 12 miles wide. Rangiroa means 'endless heaven', and the almost-endless circle of coral that surrounds it should be on the bucket list of those seeking out the best coral diving in French Polynesia.

The bulk of Rangiroa's dive sites surround the passes that break the coral circle, including Tiputa Pass and Avatoru Pass, and the endless visibility and interesting currents result in great hammerhead and dolphin sightings. The currents bring nutrients with them, which feed the corals and fish life; for those looking to focus on the corals, the shallower Avatoru Pass tends to have milder currents that will allow you to stop and admire the pristine polyps more easily.

While drift diving alongside sharks may be more the order of the day than coral diving in French Polynesia, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Our team of dedicated dive travel specialists can help you pinpoint the best coral diving in French Polynesia and devise your dream South Pacific sojourn...

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Emily C, Eleanor and Jacqui are our 'Coral Diving in French Polynesia' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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