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Snorkeling in French Polynesia


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We will be doing the 11 day Windstar Star Breeze Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands cruise this October. My wife and I are experienced snorkelers and, in fact, are PADI certified scuba divers. However, we gave up scuba several years ago as our age, the hassle of dealing with the equipment, and the ever rising costs seemed to make the cost benefit ratio tilt back to snorkeling.

Anyway, the descriptions that I have read about the ship's snorkel excursions always talk about the importance of wearing water shoes. Aren't people wearing fins when snorkeling? I can swim a lot longer with fins than without.

Any other snorkeling tips or excursion recommendations would be appreciated.

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These are ones that we've done and I feel I can recommend.  They may not be the best; but, we thoroughly enjoyed all:

 

Raiatea:    Brunoi Fabra     http://www.tahaa.net/       J

                           L’excursion bleue - 3 snorkel stops and islet lunch

 

Bora Bora:   http://www.puresnorkeling.com/. A Private all day or half day snorkel.  Max 8 per high                               speed boat

 

Fakarava:  http://www.fakarava-divelodge.com/contact-fakarava.html

                      fakaravaexplorer@hotmail.com  Ato Lissant

                      snorkel lunch  blue lagoon     

There is also a drift snorkel at Ta'haa if you get there.  Not really for Newbees.  One we haven't done yet, but we have booked for this March is on Rangirora and is a Drift Snorkel operated by 6 Passenger.  Here's how they describe their program:

Several steps are programmed:

-    First stop,  Traditional snorkeling at the Aquarium site, which is shallow water and protected from the current.

-    Second stop, A drift in the Tiputa pass, only when the current is incoming. Just let yourself be carried in the hope of crossing the "bigs". Or simply the pleasure of drifting a long distance without having to make the slightest effort.

-    Last but not least, we will search for dolphins, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops), on the ocean side to observe them, and try to swim and play with, without disturbing them!

Equipment: all inclusive (fins, mask, snorkel and wetsuit). But everyone is free to bring their own gear.

 

 

Hope this helps,

Greg

 

 

 

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Tahaa drift snorkel and Bruno (Raiatea) on his last stop are the same place. The high light is of course the drift snorkel. The drift can be done with fins or shoes, your choice though most do wear fins. 

 

The aquarium on Rangiroa is best with fins as the water is 20 - 25 feet deep. The pass requires fins. 

 

Pure Snorkeling takes you to a few places that fins are needed.

 

Fakarava with Ato is a fun excursion. One place you will want fins the other 2 places you go to can be done with reef shoes.

 

If your an advanced snorkeler use fins  ... 

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The Windstar Tahiti trips REQUIRE water shoes for the Coral Gardens snorkel- mostly because of having walk over sharp dried coral pieces walking from start to finish for 3 runs. I have snorkeled extensively in Tahiti on WS ship's. But Coral Gardens is the only WS excursion I recommend. You'll get more for your money with independents. But use WS for CG- excellent. Book now as it fills up fast. I can't think of any other snorkel excursions WS offers besides Coral Gardens that would need shoes. Wear your fins and bring your own equipment if possible.

 

The only other independent trip I know of that requires water shoes is the Blue Lagoon independent in Rangiroa. (Do the Aquarium and drift snorkel Tiputa Pass instead (The 6 Passengers)

 

Other excursions I would recommend: (we are also experienced snorkelers and former divers)

Moorea- Mermaid Private tours ($$$ but worth it). Dr. Poole's whale trip, but don't waste your time outside of whale season (you're at the tail end- still worth it.) Hilton's Day pass- very reasonable, great lunch, good snorkeling. Moorea Moana tours- great shark and whale expedition snorkel expedition.

Raiatea- As mentioned Bruno L' Excursion Bleue, but he does stops at pearl and vanilla farms which I hate. His shark stop is superb, better than all the islands. His stop at Coral Gardens is fine but not as long as WS. If WS gives up on ship's tours only- still do Coral Gardens with them. The rest independently.

And woo-hoo....Raiatea Jet, best seadoo on the islands. Superb way to snorkel around Tahaa. Dolphins were near jumping over us.

Bora Bora- the best for me (even better than Pure Snorkeling, Lagoon Service) is H2O Bora Bora and Tohora Bora Bora, 4-6 people only so you get a lot more ground covered. Usually more experienced snorkelers too, so you aren't waiting for snorkel lessons for the inexperienced. No lunch provided but drop you off at restaurant Matira beach for lunch. Or half day offered. I don't need lunch with the "authentic" Polynesian experience.

Fakarava- everyone seems to love Ato, Fakarava Explorer. It is a great day but only 2 snorkel stops besides the blue lagoon (only for those who like snorkeling in 2.5' of water!) Another option is O2 Fakarava, a dive shop that offers snorkel tours of Pufana Pinnacle- short but very good.

Huahine- Huahine sailing charter. Not a lot of snorkeling but beautiful day on small sailboat. 4 person minimum to book. A better option is to rent a car and stop where you want. The day pass at Le Mahana hotel is great and about 20 miles from dock on a beautiful drive- I think best snorkeling on the island. WS used to have a 3 hour snorkel but I don't see it offered now.

 

One last recommend from Papeete is Tahiti Lagoon Paradise- recommend the shipwrecks tour. It is VERY expensive but I negotiated a decent rate. Only 2-4 people. 8 miles from pier.

 

Fingers crossed WS lets go of the insane requirement for ship's only tours. Makes sense for them but not for us. Our last WS was an 18 day Twice the Tahiti in 2020. Doing the same again in 2022.

 

That's all folks.

 

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Cruising out of Barbados last year Windstar did not provide fins nor did the tour operators on some of the islands. Something about the fins damaging the coral?? Is this the case in some areas of French Polynesia?

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Despite damage to coral they are surely worn in FP. I can tell the differences in beds we've returned to over the years. WS and other providers were lending snorkel sets in Nov 2019 but don't know what will be now with COVID.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I started looking at the Windstar excursions. It looks like you can do the same snorkeling trip from two different stops. Is this one:

 

Tahaa: Coral Garden Drift Snorkeling (Strenuous)

3 hours - Approximate Tour Departure 8:15 AM • $0.00 $135.00 

Ride by covered motorized boat to the west coast of Tahaa to discover the beauty of the island. You'll leave the boat and walk across an uninhabited motu(islet) off the coast. Start your snorkeling experience from the other side of the motu, and your guide will lead you as the current will carry you through the shallow lagoon on the way back to the boat. The area teems with a spectacular variety of tropical fish and amazing corals. The richness of this coral garden is unique in Polynesia.

 

the same as this one?:

 

Raiatea: Coral Garden Drift Snorkeling (Strenuous)

3 hours, 30 mins - Approximate Tour Departure 8:30 AM • $0.00 $129.00 

Ride by covered motorized boat to the west coast of Tahaa to discover the beauty of the island. You'll leave the boat and walk across an uninhabited motu (islet) off the coast. Start your snorkeling experience from the other side of the motu, and your guide will lead you as the current will carry you through the shallow lagoon on the way back to the boat. The area teems with a spectacular variety of tropical fish and amazing corals.  The richness of this coral garden is unique in Polynesia!

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That sounds like it's the same excursion. I wish they were listing it on two separate days for our May cruise. Right now, they're only offering that excursion for Taha'a on our trip, and there's only one available slot left, so my wife & I are waitlisted. 

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More than likely the same excursion, just from a different PU location. One of our favorite places to snorkel though I wouldn't call it Strenuous ... your drifting. As long as your confident on maneuvering your self as your drifting though the coral/water you will be fine. If your a bit big though the middle there can be places where you could scrape yourself if you can't maneuver through the passage. I've taken at least 15 rides through the drift snorkel  .... only once did I gat a little scrape but then again I'm a bit 'rounded' :)

 

Here is the drift ... something the Better Half and I put together.  Enjoy  ....

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Tahitianbigkahuna said:

More than likely the same excursion, just from a different PU location. One of our favorite places to snorkel though I wouldn't call it Strenuous ... your drifting. As long as your confident on maneuvering your self as your drifting though the coral/water you will be fine. If your a bit big though the middle there can be places where you could scrape yourself if you can't maneuver through the passage. I've taken at least 15 rides through the drift snorkel  .... only once did I gat a little scrape but then again I'm a bit 'rounded' 🙂

 

Here is the drift ... something the Better Half and I put together.  Enjoy  ....

 

 

 

5 hours ago, Zukini said:

That sounds like it's the same excursion. I wish they were listing it on two separate days for our May cruise. Right now, they're only offering that excursion for Taha'a on our trip, and there's only one available slot left, so my wife & I are waitlisted. 

 

Thanks. Looks amazing!

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Zukini,

I'm near certain that they'll add an afternoon trip when you're there. When we did the last 18 day Twice the Tahiti two years ago, they added afternoon sessions both times. Our friends were sweating it until a month before the cruise when the extra excursions were added. WS surely knocks themselves out trying to keep us all safe and happy, and doubt that this will be any different. Still blows me away that it's sold out on your cruise so early.

 

And Ravinblue next summer we're doing Twice the Tahiti again and have Coral Gardens booked for both days at Motu Mahaea. It really is that good. The beauty is unworldly.

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/19/2021 at 1:33 PM, Tahitianbigkahuna said:

More than likely the same excursion, just from a different PU location. One of our favorite places to snorkel though I wouldn't call it Strenuous ... your drifting. As long as your confident on maneuvering your self as your drifting though the coral/water you will be fine. If your a bit big though the middle there can be places where you could scrape yourself if you can't maneuver through the passage. I've taken at least 15 rides through the drift snorkel  .... only once did I gat a little scrape but then again I'm a bit 'rounded' 🙂

 

Here is the drift ... something the Better Half and I put together.  Enjoy  ....

 

 

 

I signed up for this excursion, but I am not sure what you mean by "as long as you are confident on maneuvering yourself as you are drifting through coral/water you will be fine" means.  I have snorkeled a lot, but my husband hasn't, but I don't know what kind of maneuvering I need to be able to do for this drift snorkel.  It looks amazing and I sure would like to do it.  Thanks!

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, travelovingnurse said:

I signed up for this excursion, but I am not sure what you mean by "as long as you are confident on maneuvering yourself as you are drifting through coral/water you will be fine" means.  I have snorkeled a lot, but my husband hasn't, but I don't know what kind of maneuvering I need to be able to do for this drift snorkel.  It looks amazing and I sure would like to do it.  Thanks!

 

Can you steer yourself through current  .... that is the question you need to answer for yourself 😉

Edited by Tahitianbigkahuna
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TBK's description of "maneuvering yourself drifting through coral" is an apt description. You don't need to be a strong swimmer, but definitely comfortable with using your arms and fins to twist your way through the water. Something like swimming in the ocean with small-medium size but gentle waves coming at you. I'd not call myself a great swimmer but I can maneuver ok when I need to avoid an obstacle. If you're a decent snorkeler you are a good candidate. There are 80 year olds out there in good shape who have no trouble at all. Rashguard, pants, gloves, watershoes. They really don't take up much space and this is not to be missed.

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