Humpback Whales, Sharks & Magnificent Marine Life: The Ultimate Diving Adventure Island Hopping in French Polynesia
Spend three weeks island-hopping in French Polynesia on this diving adventure, which takes in the marine life highlights of the remote islands of French Polynesia. From snorkelling with humpback whales in Moorea, to the abundant fish life and coral in Tikehau, to diving with hammerheads and swimming with resident dolphins in Rangiroa - this is what diving dreams are made of.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Snorkel with humpback whales off the beautiful island of Moorea
- Dive with the abundant marine life and stunning hard corals in Tikehau
- Spend a morning on Bird Island learning about the island's flying residents
- Experience world-class diving in the Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa, including diving with the resident pod of common bottlenose dolphins
- Dive the jewel in the crown of French Polynesia diving: Fakarava
- Experience exhilarating dives in the passes with schools of 200 grey reef sharks
Why Book with Original Diving?
When To Travel
All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you
Day 1: International flight
Pack your bags because the adventure begins today as you make your way to the airport to catch your international flight to Los Angeles. The flight takes just over 11 hours, so make sure you have a good book to read before trying to get some sleep.
Once you have arrived in LA you have a short layover before catching your connecting flight to Papeete. The flight takes just under nine hours and arrives the following day.
Day 2: Arrive in French Polynesia
Your flight arrives into Tahiti early this morning. Once you have collected your bags, you'll be met by one of our team, laden with flower garlands. Hop into your private transfer to the ferry dock, where you will take a 45-minute public ferry over to the island of Moorea.
Once you have arrived on the island you will be transferred to your hotel, which takes around 20 minutes.
Take your time to settle into your room and shake off any jet lag, then enjoy a relaxing evening and a delicious meal, toasting the first night of your adventure island hopping in French Polynesia.
- Hire a car and explore the local island. The island is famous for pineapples so a visit to a plantation to taste the islands sweet delicacy is a must.
Day 3: Snorkelling with Gentle Giants
This morning, it's finally time to get into the water. After breakfast you'll be collected from your hotel and taken to swim alongside majestic humpback whales and playful dolphins.
In 2002, French Polynesia was declared a Marine Mammal Sanctuary and offers protection to 16 different species of whales and dolphins who live here. Pull on your fins and don your mask, ready for some incredible ocean encounters. The waters surrounding Moorea are warm and have excellent visibility, making it an ideal place to swim with these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. There are only a few spots on earth where it is possible to snorkel with humpback whales, so this is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Please note: the season is between July and early November.
- 'My Polynesian Life' - As an alternative, today you could spend the day as a local where you will learn all about the local way of life in French Polynesia. You will be taken out on an outrigger canoe to explore the beautiful turquoise lagoon. They will teach you how to paddle and also different techniques for fishing. If you are lucky, you might even be able to catch your own lunch and then learn how to prepare a traditional Polynesian meal. If the sea conditions are not suitable then they will arrange a different activity still exploring and understanding the Polynesian culture.
Day 4: Onwards to the Tuamotus
This morning you will be met and transferred back to the airport, in perfect time to catch your flight back to Tahiti, which takes around 15 minutes.
You'll land in Tahiti in time to catch your connecting to your flight to Tikehau, which will take around an hour, depending on which islands the plane it stops at. On arrival in Tikehau, you will be driven a couple of minutes to the dock, where a speedboat will whisk you off to the tiny pink-sand island that will be your home for the next few nights.
Days 5-6: Diving days in Tikehau
The joy of island hopping in French Polynesia is the diversity of landscapes - both marine and on land - that you get to experience. The next two days of this itinerary let you enjoy the stunning Tikehau atoll, which is home to some of the best diving in French Polynesia. Spend your days diving in waters that are home to an abundance of fish life and your evenings relaxing, discussing the day's diving, enjoying delicious food back and laidback island life.
Two of the diving highlights in this atoll include the marine-rich Tuheiava Pass, and a manta cleaning station, which can be found close to the resort and located beside an old derelict pearl farm. Jacques Cousteau highlighted this area as having the highest concentration of fish life of any lagoon in French Polynesia, and it is easy to see why once you dive into the flurry of glittering fish hiding just beneath the surface.
Your diving days in Tikehau will consist of a two-tank morning dive in the Tuheiva Pass, which is a 20 minute boat ride from the resort. This pass is incredibly fishy, with huge schools of paddle-snapper, barracuda and grey reef sharks gliding through the waters. Home to beautiful hard corals, the reefs here are bursting with fish.
Whilst the manta cleaning station can be a dive site in its own right, it is on the way to the pass, so your guide will always swing by to check if the mantas are there before heading onto the pass.
- Head out on a kayak around the island to soak up the beauty of this remote location
Day 7: Bird Island
Today, you'll be swapping the water for a day on dry land as you hop across the lagoon to Bird Island. The island is a natural sanctuary for many marine bird species such as red-footed boobies, crested terns and blue-grey noddies. Your guide will explain all about this uninhabited slice of paradise, which acts as a nursery for colonies of seabirds who come here to lay their eggs. It is a twitcher's dream!
After a morning visiting the island, it's time for a motu picnic on a pink sand beach, before an afternoon of snorkelling on the pristine reefs.
Day 8: Onwards to Rangiroa
Today you're hopping to a new island and diving paradise: Rangiroa. You will be transferred back to the airport in good time for your flight, which will take around 20 minutes.
On arrival into Rangiroa, you will be met by your driver and transferred to the resort which takes around five minutes. Take in the views as you speed along this tiny slither of land, which makes up part of the largest atoll in French Polynesia and second largest atoll in the world. Watch the shimmering waters of bright turquoise lagoon to your right and the ocean's crashing waves to the other.
Once you have settled in at your hotel, head to the Top Dive centre to plan your schedule for the next few days, which will be very dependent on the tides.
- Hire a bike at reception and explore the narrow island. If you are feeling a little more adventurous head on a sightseeing tour of Apator Village where you will find small shops, schools and immerse yourself within the local way of life.
Days 9-12: Diving the World-Class Tiputa Pass
You have the next few days to enjoy all of the incredible diving around Rangiroa. As with most of French Polynesia, the diving here is all about one pass, which just happens to be one of the most famous dives in the world; The Tiputa Pass. This narrow pass is just a five minute RIB-ride from the dive centre, so you will spend much of the next few days doing three to four dives a day. There are four different times of the day that you will dive the pass (generally two in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at dusk), and whilst you may think you are repeating the same spot, each dive it is completely different depending on the tides.
The Tiputa is often named one of the best dive sites in the world and it is easy to see why. On almost every dive, you can expect common bottlenose dolphins and as if the sheer sight (and size) of this species wasn't enough, there are three individuals in a resident pod of around 20, that are incredibly inquisitive and interactive with divers. When in a playful mood, these dolphins will come into the dive group and demand all the attention from divers.
Add to this schooling grey reef sharks, at deeper depths, schools of eagle rays, great hammerheads; between November and February, white tip, black tip, tiger, silky and silvertip sharks, and you soon realise why this site has earned its title as one of the best dive sites in the world.
Spend your days diving with dolphins, sharks and other marine life and your evenings back on the island, enjoying dreamy island sunsets, whilst chatting about your adventures diving in French Polynesia.
- Head out on a trip to Blue Lagoon to experience this stunning turquoise waters, incredible snorkelling and pink sand beaches.
- Enjoy sundowners on the pass, whilst watching dolphins playing in the surf as the sun goes down.
Day 13: Travelling on to Fakarava
Another day, another paradise on your island hopping in French Polynesia itinerary. Today you will be transferred back to the airport for your onward flight to Fakarava. The flight takes around 45 minutes and once you have landed, you'll be met and transferred by car and boat to your pension in South Fakarava. The journey take around one-and-a-half hours, depending on sea conditions.
This location feels more remote than anywhere else in French Polynesia. Soak up every moment in this far-flung paradise as you are whisked away to the south.
Days 14-15: The Jewel in the Crown of Polynesian Diving
Over the next two days you'll have the privilege of experiencing some of the best diving in French Polynesia. Fakarava is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that has been protected for more than 40 years, so be prepared to be blown away by the diving in this atoll. You'll be diving Fakarava South Pass, which is one of the most special spots in all the islands.
Once again the diving takes place in just one pass, so your two diving days will be spent here, but even two days may not be enough to explore the magnificent marine life in this area. With very little current at play and excellent visibility, you will descend into the pass where you can observe a jaw-dropping spectacle of over 200 grey reef sharks, circling majestically against the incoming current. Huge Napolean wrasse cruise behind, whilst yellow-margin triggerfish crunch away at the reef. The fish here are larger than ever, a true testament to the health of the ecosystem. Dives will finish in the shallows, amongst a perfect hard coral garden with black tip sharks patrolling.
Day 16: Onward to Fakarava North
After a couple of dives in the morning, it's time to meet your transfer, ready to head back up to the north of Fakarava by boat and car.
Once you have arrived, settle into your new pension and line up your dives with the dive centre for the next few days. Then sit back and relax, enjoying a calm evening before another exciting day of diving tomorrow.
Days 17-19: Diving Fakarava North
You'll have the next three full days to enjoy diving Fakarava North Pass, which is home to endless exhilarating dives.
Fakarava North Pass is one of the largest passes in the area and with seven currents at play, diving here is challenging but extremely rewarding. As with the other sites in French Polynesia, this pass can be dived in a multitude of different ways so it never feels like you are doing the same dive twice. Dive times are dependent on the tides but generally involve two tank morning dives and single tank afternoon dives.
Grey reef sharks hover effortlessly in the strong current and the canyon of 'Ali Baba' is a particular highlight, with schools of fish and grey, white and black tip sharks darting in and out. Hook into a rock and watch sharks coming from all angles passing close by to divers, all amongst clouds of paddle snapper.
Day 20: Home Time
Sadly today marks the end of your time island hopping in French Polynesia and the start of your journey home. Your private transfer will meet you, ready for the ten-minute car journey back to the airport to catch your flight back to Tahiti, which takes just over an hour.
You will have a few hours to wait, we recommend heading to the Intercontinental for dinner, before catching your overnight flight back to Los Angles which will take around eight hours.
Day 21: Travel day
On arrival into Los Angeles, you will need to collect your bags and check-in for your onward flight back to London.
The flight takes around 11 hours, so you have plenty of time to go over photos from your trip and to reminisce over your bucket-list diving adventure 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.