French Polynesia Liveaboard Diving – All You Need to Know

French Polynesia - the name alone brings to mind idyllic atolls in clear, turquoise waters, luxurious resorts, and astonishing white-sand beaches. But there is more to this popular honeymoon destination than meets the eye. Below the water, there are thriving marine ecosystems with exceptional pelagic life. Dazzling coral reefs, ripping pass dives, and some of the top shark dives in the world are dotted among these far-flung atolls. And you know what else? Joining a liveaboard safari is one of the best ways to experience it all. Dive into our essential guide about French Polynesia liveaboard diving and get inspired for your next vacation.

Where to go liveaboard diving in French Polynesia.

The Tuamotu Islands.

The Tuamotu Islands are the main destination for French Polynesia liveaboard safaris and offer some of the best scuba diving in the world. 

This chain of just under 80 islands and atolls stretches across an area roughly the size of Western Europe, making it the largest chain of atolls in the world.

There you will find paradise atolls with azure lagoons, thriving coral reefs, black pearl farms, and idyllic pink sand beaches. But most notably, the passes of the atolls are busy with more pelagic life than you could wish for.

1.Rangiroa Atoll.

Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus and the second-largest atoll in the world, consisting of more than 240 islets completely encircling a deep lagoon. 

This vast atoll is a premier French Polynesia liveaboard destination that offers exciting dives with jaw-dropping pelagic encounters. It is one of the best places to go diving with sharks.

There are visiting whales, a resident pod of dolphins, marlin, eagle rays, occasional manta rays, silvertip, grey reef and hammerhead sharks in Rangiroa’s rich waters. 

Pass diving in Rangiroa is action-packed and exhilarating, making it ideal for experienced divers.

The Tiputa Pass is one of the most popular passes and offers fast-paced current diving among thriving coral landscapes that host dolphins, sharks, schools of pelagic fish, and sometimes even manta rays.

  • Visit from January to March for large groups of eagle rays and hammerhead sharks.
  • Visit from August to October to spot manta rays and humpback whales.

READ MORE: WHY DIVING TIPUTA PASS SHOULD BE ON YOUR DIVE BUCKET LIST.

2. Fakarava Atoll.

Fakarava Atoll is so unique it has been classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and so vast that some French Polynesia liveaboard itineraries involve diving only there. 

The clean, warm waters of this famous atoll host a remarkable array of life and a diverse selection of landscapes above and below water. There are vibrant coral formations, seagrass beds, kopara ponds, primary forests and lush coconut groves. 

Together they host rare, protected species, including some that are found nowhere else on Earth. This precious ecosystem and ‘Garden of Eden’ deserves to be on the diving wish list of any scuba diver.

Much like Rangiroa Atoll, Fakarava offers incredible shark diving but with some additional shark species, including lemon sharks and occasional tiger sharks.

As well as sharks galore, Fakarava’s dive sites are busy with schooling pelagic fish and eagle rays.

Garuae Pass is the largest navigable pass in French Polynesia and is hundreds of meters wide. This enormous pass is the most popular place to dive at Fakarava and hosts ‘walls of sharks’. 

Diving there is not as demanding as Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa and yet it is equally as rewarding.

  • Visit during the full moon of July for marbled grouper spawning season, which attracts hundreds to thousands of grey reef sharks.

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3. Tikehau.

Tikehau Atoll sits close to Rangiroa and has an almost unbroken ring of coral reef surrounding its lagoon. There is fantastic diving at this atoll, mostly around the pass, with plenty of sharks and pelagic fish. 

But the real highlight is surely the density and diversity of colorful fish this atoll hosts.

This small atoll is teeming with colorful reef life and was thought by Jacques Cousteau to have the highest concentration of fish life in the Tuamotu Islands.

Tikehau is also one of the most reliable places in the Tuamotus for snorkeling and diving with manta rays. 

READ MORE: 11 GREAT REASONS TO GO DIVING IN BORA BORA.

The Marquesas Islands.

The rugged Marquesas Islands are very different from the Tuamotu Islands, with jagged peaks, lush forests, tumbling waterfalls, and breath-taking volcanic scenery. 

This wild island group is the farthest away from any landfall on Earth and offers a remote diving experience.

Whilst there are not many French Polynesia liveaboard safaris in this area, they do happen occasionally, and you can also stay at the islands and go diving from there.

Unlike the Tuamotu Islands, the Marquesas can have low visibility waters due to plankton blooms. Whilst that can be frustrating for divers, the plankton attracts large manta rays.

As well as numerous manta rays, the Marquesas have dramatic seamounts that host countless schooling fish and reef sharks. You might even see scalloped hammerhead sharks.

Time your trip right and you can also meet the playful melon-headed whales these islands are famous for.

  • Visit during January and February for melon-headed whale breeding season.

GET 5 ESSENTIAL TIPS TO MAKE BOAT DIVING EASIER.

Experience needed:

French Polynesia liveaboard safaris are best suited to divers who have a minimum of 50 logged dives, plus a Nitrox Diver and Drift Diver certification (or equivalent experience).

French Polynesia also has strict diving rules:

Best time to go French Polynesia liveaboard diving:

May to October is the sunny, dry season in French Polynesia and an excellent time to visit. You can however go diving in French Polynesia all year.

Are you ready to find out more about diving in French Polynesia? 

Check out French Polynesia’s top dive sites and centers using MyDiveGuide. It is the easiest way to find the right atolls and dive experiences for you.


EXPLORE FRENCH POLYNESIA’S TOP DIVE SITES AND TRAINING CENTERS.