Sharks, Dolphins & Manta Rays: An Adventure Diving with Big Fish in French Polynesia
Experience the best of French Polynesia on this 16-day itinerary. Starting on one of the most beautiful and iconic islands in French Polynesia, Bora Bora, get comfortable in the water, diving with lemon sharks, blacktip sharks and manta rays. Next you'll head to the Tuamotus, where you'll dive with resident dolphins, schooling sharks, tiger sharks, great hammerheads and more.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Explore one of the most beautiful and picturesque islands on our planet; Bora Bora
- Dive with reef sharks, lemon sharks and manta rays in Bora Bora
- Discover the Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa diving with common bottlenose dolphins, tiger sharks, schooling grey reef sharks and abundant reef fish life
- Explore the passes of both South and North Fakarava, diving with schools of around 200 grey reef sharks
- Go on exhilarating drift dives in North and South Fakarava
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When To Travel
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Day 1: International flight
Your French Polynesia diving itinerary begins today as you make your way to the airport to catch your direct flight to Los Angeles, which takes just over 11 hours.
Once you've landed in LA you have a four hour layover, before catching your overnight flight to Papeete, which takes just under nine hours, arriving the next day. It's a long journey, so make sure you have a good book to read before trying to get some sleep.
Day 2: Arrive in Bora Bora
On arrival in Papeete you will be met by our team, who will assist you with the transfer to your domestic flight. Your flight to Bora Bora takes just under an hour and as you soar over the islands of French Polynesia, enjoy the view over the Society Islands including Moorea, Huahine and Taha'a.
Once you have landed in Bora Bora, you'll see why these islands are so special, brilliant blue waters are framed by lush emerald islands - in this tropical paradise, even the airstrip is spectacular. Stepping off the plane, you'll be immediately struck by Mt. Otemanu rising up from the brightest turquoise lagoon.
Once you have collected your bags, you'll be met and transferred to your hotel by speedboat, which will take around 20 minutes. Settle into your hotel and enjoy a relaxing afternoon, looking forward to the diving days ahead.
Days 3-4: Diving days in Bora Bora
You have the next two full days to soak up the beauty of Bora Bora, as well as easing into your underwater adventures with a couple of dives.
During your time here you will be picked up from your hotel jetty for your two-tank morning dives at around eight in the morning. The first morning will see you heading to the south-east of Mt. Otemanu, starting at 'Tapu' which is a dive site just inside the Teavanui Pass. Teeming with shark life, including black tips and lemon sharks, you don't even need to move on this dive just relax and enjoy the shark spectacle. Your next dive of the day is a little further south, located off the island of Toopua. This dive site is home to plenty of marine life, with a particular highlight being the school of eagle rays that you are virtually guaranteed to see hoovering up the sand in the current.
Your second day of diving in Bora Bora will be at Anau, which is a manta cleaning station located on the eastern side of Mt. Otemnau, within the lagoon. Visibility at this site tends to be over 10 metres and is a great spot for all levels of divers. The dive starts in the middle of a colourful coral garden, where you will wait for the mantas to swoop in, ready to be cleaned by small cleaner wrasses. There can be up to 10 mantas here at one time, so it's a special spot and a great species to tick off so early in your Big Fish adventure.
After days full of diving, head back to dry land for a relaxing evening discussing all of the animals that you spotted during your dives.
- Ray and shark snorkelling
- Explore the lagoon on a speedboat tour
- Get a perspective from above parasailing or on helicopter tours
- Explore on land with Jeep, ATV tours or hiking trails
- Head out for dinner in the local village - Bloody Mary's is a great spot!
Day 5: Onwards to Rangiroa
Today you will be transferred back to the airstrip by speedboat, where you will catch your direct flight to Rangiroa in the Tuamotus. It's a short flight, lasting just over an hour.
Once you have landed in Rangiroa, you'll notice the stark contrast between the two island groups; the Society Islands and the Tuamotus. The Tuamotus are made up of almost 80 low-lying, coralline islands and atolls forming the biggest chain of atolls in the world. The nature of these atolls, with their passes, make for the most exhilarating dives, as you will find out over the next few days.
Check into your hotel and settle into your room before grabbing a beer and heading to the deck, to find a spot to relax. Your hotel is located right on the Tiputa Pass and as dusk approaches, watch the common bottlenose dolphins play and ride in the surf right before your eyes.
Days 6-8: Currents, Sharks & Dolphins at the Tiputa Pass
The next few days of your French Polynesia diving itinerary will be spent diving one of the best dive sites on the planet; The Tiputa Pass.
You will be collected from your hotel every morning and taken to the dive centre, which is where you will spend most of the day, going backwards and forwards from the pass in a rib. There is generally the option for three to four dives a day, with two in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at dusk. It's a five minute ride to the pass, so you can easily go backwards and forwards without having to spend lots of time enduring the ocean waves between dives! The dive centre has a great snack bar providing delicious sandwiches, which are perfect for refuelling with at lunch.
The tides are impossible to predict in Rangiroa, so expect dive times to change, correlating with the best times to dive the pass each day. It might seem repetitive going back to the same site again and again, but the currents mean that the site is different every single time - it's impossible to get bored diving here. The best time to dive the pass is on an incoming tide, where visibility and conditions make for the most rewarding dives.
One of the highlights of diving in the Pass is the resident pod of around 20 common bottlenose dolphins. They are incredibly inquisitive and if you catch them in a playful mood, they will come right up to divers, ready to play and interact. This is one of the only places on earth where you can have these sorts of interactions with this incredible species. Even if the dolphins don't make an appearance, you can expect to see schooling grey reef sharks, great hammerheads; between November and February, tiger sharks, white tip, black tips, silkies and silvertip sharks when diving here.
As the rib navigates the surf back through the pass to the dive centre after each dive, you will often be accompanied by dolphins on either side, riding the waves and jumping for joy. Dolphins close-up on the dive, dolphins joining you on the boat ride, dolphins to accompany you at sunset… diving doesn't get much better than this.
- Take a day trip to Blue Lagoon to experience the incredible turquoise lagoon, excellent snorkelling and stunning pink sand beaches.
Day 9: Onward to Fakarava
Today you will be transferred back to the airport to catch your flight to Fakarava. The flight takes around 45 minutes and once you have arrived on the airstrip, you will be met and transferred to the South of Fakarava by car and boat, which takes around an hour-and-a-half, depending on sea conditions.
South Fakarava is extremely remote with just simple pension accommodation, but it's what lies beneath the waves here that counts. This area is home to one of the most exciting dives on earth.
Days 10-11: Diving South Fakarava
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which has been protected for more than 40 years, Fakarava is guaranteed to take your breath away. South Fakarava is the site of the incredible grouper spawning sequence, shown in Blue Planet II. Although it is very difficult to predict when this phenomenon will take place (we can give experts tips on when it might happen), diving this pass is an exhilarating experience, with or without the grouper's spectacle.
You have the next two full days to dive the pass, with the best diving conditions being on the incoming tide. One striking difference with this pass is that the current here tends to be minimal, so you can enjoy the marine spectacle without being whisked too quickly away. This pass is well known for the schools of grey reef sharks that circle in the gentle current, as well as the excellent visibility and an overwhelming number larger reef fish that have been able to reach such sizes due to the protection of the atoll. The schools of sharks that you'll see here often number over 200 animals and what makes this sight even better is the warm, tropical conditions that are not often associated with this sort of shark action.
The shallow reefs located on either side of the pass are in excellent condition and are the perfect place to end an epic dive, or to swim out to from your pension, for a spot of snorkelling in the afternoon.
Settle into the slower pace of life in this remote corner of the world over these two days of your French Polynesia diving itinerary. Enjoy diving with incredible marine life, absorbing and appreciating everything about this incredible spot.
Day 12: Head to Fakarava North
Make the most of diving in Fakarava South this morning, before being transferred back up to the North, this afternoon, for your last few days in paradise.
Once you have arrived, enjoy a beer on a jetty whilst watching the sunset on Fakarava, looking forward to your last two days of diving in French Polynesia.
Days 13-14: Seven currents, Sharks and Schooling fish in Fakarava North
The next two days will be filled with some of the most exhilarating dives of your trip. Fakarava North Pass is one of the largest passes in the Tuamotus and with seven currents at play we only recommend this spot for Advanced Divers with over 50 dives. The pass can be dived in many different ways, so diving here never gets repetitive.
The pass is best dived on the incoming tide and depending on the moon cycle, currents can be extremely strong. Watch schools of grey reef sharks swim effortlessly against the current, whilst you are doing everything in your power to keep in one place. All around you paddle snapper scatter and fight to keep in the same position, while black and white tips sharks patrol the reef from above and below. The outside of the pass is a fabulous dive on an outgoing tide (it is often dived a single tank in the afternoon depending on the tides), with baby reef sharks often seen here in groups of ten or more; the whole reef overflows with marine life. Diving here is all about sharks, sharks and more sharks and you can be certain that the diving in North Fakarava will not disappoint!
In between dives, head to the Rotoava Grill which is close near the dive centre, for a simple but delicious lunch of grilled fish and chips.
- Learn all about the Pearl Farm at the pension which was created in 1989 and is the oldest active pearl farm in the atoll. Learning about the breeding lines of the pearls and play a lottery with your expert, Hugo, to take home a pearl
Day 15: Home Time
Sadly, today marks the end of your French Polynesia diving itinerary and it's time to head back home. You will be transferred back to the airport in the afternoon, in good time to catch your domestic flight back to Papeete, which will takes just over an hour.
Once you have landed in Papeete, you have a few hours before your next flight, so head to a local restaurant or hotel to enjoy your last dinner in French Polynesia. Your flight back to Los Angeles will take around eight hours, arriving the following morning.
Day 16: Travel day
Once you have landed in Los Angeles, you have a few hours before your next flight. Your overnight flight to the UK takes around 11 hours, so be sure to get some sleep, dreaming of that last 15 days of diving adventures. It's a long journey, but it's worth every minute for the world-class diving experiences that you have had in French Polynesia.
Jacqui is our expert for this itinerary and as a seasoned traveller they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.