I counted the blacktip sharks gracefully gliding past our small dive group as they went about their midmorning rituals. They seemed unaware of our presence in their underwater world, about 100 feet below the incredibly clear water’s surface. When I reached 70 in my counting exercise, I was only about two-thirds of the way across the ever-moving wall of sharks in Fakarava’s South Pass.
As I floated, watching, what caught me by surprise was how calm and controlled my breathing remained at that depth with all of that activity happening on every side. As my body gently swayed with the current, the sheer beauty of the scene unfolding before me far outweighed any thoughts of fear or anxiety. A sense of peace washed over me as I watched in awe of the life simply existing in this undersea world.
Bora Bora, Tahiti and essentially all of French Polynesia occupy the prime spots on many bucket lists, their positioning bolstered by images of crystal-clear waters in gradients of blue, deserted white-sand beaches with reaching palm trees and dreamy overwater bungalows. For scuba divers, even more enticements may just nudge the destination to the No. 1 spot on the list.
With water visibility at about 130 feet, temperatures ranging from 79 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 84 degrees in summer, and a difference of only about one-half degree from the surface to 166 feet below, you may be hard-pressed to find better diving conditions. Add world-class dive sites with myriad options of open water to advanced diving including lagoons, drop offs and passes, plus more than 1,000 species of marine life and 20 shark species, and diving in French Polynesia becomes even more appealing to those eager to dive in. Marine life is so rich here, in fact, scientists consider the 2.5-million-square- mile Polynesia sea zone the “richest aquarium on Earth.”
During my week-long French Polynesian dive trip, I visited the islands of Tahiti, Fakarava, Rangiroa and Bora Bora, diving into the “aquarium” off of the latter three with TOPDIVE, realizing each of the islands has its own personality. Fakarava in the Tuamotu Islands archipelago, for instance, is known not only for the wall of sharks but for its rich coral reef systems, vibrant schools of fish by the thousands and underwater passes with swift-moving currents that ramp up drift diving to seemingly warp speeds.
Likewise, marine life abounds in the waters surrounding Rangiroa, the world’s second-largest atoll, also found in the Tuamotu Islands. Here, 240 islets loop together more than 110 miles to completely encircle a deep lagoon known as Moana-tea, or Peaceful Ocean. On the other side of the chain of islets lies Moana-uri, or Wild Ocean, where you may spot larger marine life such as whales, manta rays, sharks and dolphins while drift diving. A highlight of one of my Rangiroa dives occurred when a pair of curious wild dolphins came close to check out our odd-to-them “pod.”
The calm, crystal-clear lagoons of Bora Bora in the Society Islands archipelago are full of marine life as well; bright, tropical-colored fish dart in and out of lively coral gardens while manta rays dance over underwater canyons.
Discover plenty of fun topside on non- diving days, too, like a personal Fakarava tour with Enoha, an islander who also shares a lagoon-front art gallery with his wife, Cécile. Or go off-roading on an ATV with Heiarii and Fakarava Adventure. Choose your own freshly harvested oyster (and, therefore, pearl) at a pearl farm, or hop onto a bike and explore the islands on two wheels. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sitting back, relaxing and soaking in the stunning atmosphere surrounding the islands, especially after a day of diving.
Options for staying in French Polynesia are as varied as the dive sites and islands themselves. Choose from traditional Tahitian guesthouses, or pensions, such as Tokerau Village on Fakarava; a beachfront hotel like Hotel Kia Ora on Rangiroa, reopened in July; or a luxury resort such as Conrad Bora Bora Nui.
On the boat ride back to the north side of the island after our two dives in Fakarava’s South Pass, TOPDIVE dive master Mana and I chatted about the wonders of the underwater world we had just witnessed.
“If I could live my life underwater, I would,” Mana said as he gazed at the horizon. After spending a week in the undersea world of the Islands of Tahiti, I wholeheartedly understand his sentiment.
INFO TO GO
Daily, eight-hour direct flights arrive from Los Angeles (LAX) in Papeete, Tahiti (PPT), on Air Tahiti Nui. Once in French Polynesia, inter-island flights are available to more than 25 of the 118 outlying islands, making island hopping fast and easy.
In July, French Polynesia reopened borders to international tourism from all countries. All travelers must have a negative COVID-19 test carried out within three days prior to their international air departure and must present the certification receipt on the Electronic Travel Information System. During the stay, visitors must self-test four days after arrival in the Islands of Tahiti.
United Airlines is the first U.S. airline to launch a rapid COVID-19 testing program for travelers. Beginning Oct. 15, United customers traveling from San Francisco International Airport to will be able to take a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test before their trip.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs and account for nearly 48 percent of the U.S. private sector workforce. And small- and medium-sized businesses outpace all other sectors as one of the fastest-growing in the United States. InterContinental® Hotels Group (IHG) goes above and beyond to create opportunities for this segment with its IHG® Business Edge program, voted Best Small- to Mid-Sized Business Program in Global Traveler’s 2019 GT Tested Reader Survey awards.
Winter- and Christmas-loving travelers may already know Rovaniemi, Finland, as the home of Santa Claus Village, a year-round tourist destination. However, nature- and sustainability-minded travelers might be pleased to learn the man in red is working on a new project: making his village completely carbon-neutral over the next five years.
We took a taxi to the Halekulani from the airport. At the entrance, the Halekulani team was ready, willing and able to take our bags and swiftly set us up for registration, escorting us to our room, No. 1657. I had last stayed at the Halekulani years earlier, and I have a lot of fond memories. Halekulani is a mainstay on the edge of Waikiki, and I have always considered it a haven from all the bustle. You can walk almost anywhere and return for the serenity here.
Are you looking for a truly unique travel experience and considering a new vehicle? The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program is the perfect solution to create your own refined adventure of a lifetime. You can custom order your new Volvo, tailored to fit your needs and desires. They will fly you to Sweden to pick up your Volvo so you can drive and explore Scandinavia and Europe on your terms for up to two weeks.
The Chatwal Lodge will debut in Bethel, New York, 90 miles north of New York City, April 1, 2021. The lodge, nestled on a 30-acre, environmentally protected piece of land, offers panoramic views and a quiet mountain sanctuary.
Princess Cruises sold two vessels, Sun Princess and Sea Princess, in accordance with parent company Carnival Corporation's plan to remove less efficient ships from its fleet. The buyers were not disclosed in the announcement.
IHG® Business Edge provides small- to midsized enterprises with benefits and confidence to navigate the evolving business travel environment.
After five months of quarantine, one of Latin America's longest lockdowns, Colombia lifted travel restrictions for international travelers.