In this post, I’m sharing a mini guide to diving in French Polynesia, specifically on the atolls of the Tuamotu Islands. Over the summer I won free flights to my dream destination, and the idea of a trip to Rangiroa and Fakarava was born. Keep reading to steal our French Polynesia diving itinerary.
Have you ever dreamed of going scuba diving in crystal clear waters filled with sharks? I’m talking 40-meter visibility with over 100 sharks in at least 3 varieties. If that sounds like an absolute dream, buckle in because today I’m taking you on a journey to French Polynesia to explore some of the best dives I’ve done in my life.
If you’re a diver, French Polynesia is paradise.
OK honestly even if you’re not a diver French Polynesia is paradise, obviously.
But for those who love exploring beneath the seas on their travels, you need to visit the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia. It’ll be one of the most expensive trips of your life (I’m talking a daily budget of $250/pp on a budget) but it’ll be a trip you never forget.
Back in December (2023), my partner and I flew to the tiny atolls islands of Rangiroa and Fakarava in French Polynesia.
The journey looked like this:
Drive our van back to Montrose (where my parents live). Fly from Montrose → to Denver → to San Francisco → to Tahiti → to Rangiroa.
Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Once we arrived in Rangiroa we immediately got settled and contacted our dive center to find out what time they’d be picking us up for our first dive. While there are thousands of fish and beautiful corals to see all throughout French Polynesia, the real highlight in Rangiroa is the chance to dive with dolphins.
We specifically chose to dive with Rangiroa Diving Center because of their ethical practices of observing but never interacting with the dolphins. Their aim is to keep Rangiroa from turning into a dolphin aquarium – or worse, Seaworld.
Diving in Rangiroa
I would 100% recommend them for your trip, they were amazing (**not sponsored, we truly loved diving with them).
In Rangiroa, you’re diving the Tiputa Pass. It’s a drift dive where you’ll have the chance to see turtles, sharks, and dolphins! We got very lucky in our 4 dives with Rangiroa Diving Center and saw 4 sea turtles, countless sharks, and multiple dolphins.
At one point a sleeping dolphin drifted right beneath me!
Quick Guide to Rangiroa
✈️Getting there: you essentially have to fly, unless you have your own boat, or a lot of time to spend sailing on someone else’s boat! We booked a ‘multi-island’ pass with Air Tahiti.
🏩Accommodation: there are plenty of hotel options, but for this trip, we decided to stay in an Airbnb. We loved having our own kitchen for cooking, kayaks, and free bikes to explore the atoll.
🚲Getting around: your best option is bikes! Our accommodation provided free bikes and it was perfect for exploring. You can walk places depending on where you’re staying and our dive center picked us up and dropped us off every day!
🥗Food: we bought groceries and ate at home most days. Be really diligent in checking opening and closing times/days because it’s a small island and things where often closed!
🤿Diving: Dive with Rangiroa Diving Center! We did a Scuba Refresher and 3 fun dives with them. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and really fun.
How much time should you spend in Rangiroa?
We spent 4 nights in Rangiroa and did 2 days of diving. This schedule worked perfectly for us, but you could plan your trip around having 3 days in total.
Obviously, you need to plan your flights around your diving and vice versa. We arrived very jetlagged, and managed to have one day to chill, two days of diving, and then one more day of hanging out before flying again.
After spending 4 nights on Rangiroa, it was time to fly to Fakarava, which quickly became the highlight of our trip. The flight to Fakarava took about 45 minutes, and watching the landing on the atoll was my favorite part!
Fakarava, French Polynesia
Fakarava quickly became one of my favorite places on earth. Rangiroa has a population of around 2,473 people living on the atoll. In Fakarava, that number drops significantly!
Fakrava has 837 inhabitants which means it has small island energy. We booked a bungalow with a shared kitchen and seashells for flooring. It was basic but perfect. From the road, we could see the lagoon on one side, and the ocean on the other. Immediately upon arrival, we saw black-tip and nurse sharks swimming in the lagoon.
Before arriving, our host sent us the schedule of the few restaurants, bars, and two grocery stores on the island. I thought Rangiroa was quiet, but Fakarava was on another level.
Diving in Fakarava
In Fakrava we chose to dive with Kaina Plongee. They’re a small shop with great reviews. We also loved diving with them! Our guides Vincent and Lionel were incredible.
In Fakarava (north) you’re diving the Garuae Pass, home to hundreds of grey reef sharks. You drop into the water and immediately descend to your deepest depth. There you find a rock to hold on to and look up – at this point, there will be sharks all around you.
On both times we did this dive, we saw grey-tip reef sharks and a silver-tip reef shark swimming past. Once you’ve observed the sharks, you do a drift dive through the pass. The pass is just as incredible. It’s home to huge schools of fish that part for you to swim through. When they part, you might even see white-tip reef sharks lounging beneath the corals.
Note: if you want to go to the South – you’re going to need to organize that in advance (or choose to stay there for a couple of days). They don’t go very often and weren’t going while we were there. The south pass is home to the infamous ‘Wall of Sharks’ but on our second dive in the north, our guides told us there were more sharks there than they’ve ever seen in the south – so that was pretty cool!
Quick Guide to Fakarava
✈️Getting there: once again, you’ll have to fly! That’s why booking a multi-island pass with Air Tahiti makes so much sense.
🏩Accommodation: there are significantly fewer hotels to choose from on Fakrava, but once again we decided to go with Airbnb. Our accommodation was perfect.
🚲Getting around: we didn’t have bikes on Fakarava so we just walked. It doesn’t take long to get from the village to the last hotel/restaurant on the strip.
🥗Food: we bought groceries and ate at home most days. But our favorite place to grab food was the Snack Du Requin Dormeur (only open for lunch). They have tables in the water where nurse sharks will swim around you while you eat.
🤿Diving: Kaina Plongee was great to dive with! I highly recommend them.
How much time should you spend in Fakarava?
We spent 4 nights and it didn’t feel like enough! I would have extended for at least another 2 nights. Basically, stay in Fakarava for as long as you can – and dive the Garuae Pass as much as you can!
Planning Your Diving Trip to French Polynesia
As I mentioned, a diving trip to French Polynesia isn’t cheap. It’s a country that is far away from everything (the nearest ‘land mass’ is Hawaii!) and because it’s so spread out, you have to fly between islands. However, it’s a trip that every diver should do in their lifetime. Especially the shark-obsessed.
My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you have travel insurance. Too much can go wrong when you travel – flights can be delayed, bags lost and accidents can occur. Make sure that you’re traveling prepared so that when those things do happen, you’re still able to enjoy your vacation.
Getting divers insurance on top of my traveler’s insurance used to be tricky and expensive. But now, I’m covered with SafetyWing. SafetyWing is my go-to digital nomad insurance that I take with me all across the world. It’s a subscription-based model that can be paid monthly and canceled at any time.
I used to skip travel insurance, but those days are behind me! I’ve had too many things go wrong throughout my travels… from stolen laptops to lost luggage and expensive delays. And now that I’m diving regularly, I want to make sure that I’m protected.
Digital Nomad Insurance
Learn from my mistakes and make sure that you’re covered wherever you go! SafetyWing offers digital nomad insurance – I’ve used them for several years now (and will continue to use them anytime I leave the US). They have great prices, good coverage, and really helpful customer service!
If you’re ready to start traveling the world full-time, and you want some more inspiration about where to go, read this post next.
Until next time, come hang out over on Instagram where I’ll be better about sharing the good, the bad, and the memorable of my adventures!