This May, Fisheye Expeditions brought 25 adventurers to the exotic and sharky waters of Tahiti and the Tuamotu Island Chain in French Polynesia. Not only was the diving off the charts in so many ways…but the trip was just that much better because of the positive and happy vibes from each and every one of our guests. From countless sharks to mantas to dolphins, bonfires on the beach, daily sunset happy hours and Tabatha & Josh getting engaged (UNDERWATER!) …I don’t think we stopped smiling, laughing and celebrating for 14 solid days!
Our adventure started in Tahiti where 22 of our group members met up for a pre-cruise add-on at Manava Resort to rest up after our flights, relax by the infinity pool…and to dive with TIGER SHARKS! We started out with a day to chill…some went snorkeling with DPV’s, a few rented a doughnut shaped boat with an umbrella filled with beers to enjoy out on the water, others drank mojitos by the pool and ate fresh tuna prepared the local Tahitian way…all in all it was the perfect way to start the trip.
The next day our group was split into two for our diving plan with Fluid Diving in Tahiti. One half started with reef dives to warm up and check out their camera gear while the others jumped straight into the action of the two tank Tiger Shark Dive experience! What a thrill!
The Tiger Shark Dive is hard to put into words…other than it is just positively epic. You start with a 20-30 ride out to “White Valley”, which provides a stunning view of Tahiti’s lush hills on one side and Moorea’s dramatic landscape on the other. While the crew puts the fresh tuna heads in the bait box, you suit up for your dives. You can expect to see 6 species of sharks …white tips, black tips, grey reefs, chunky lemons, big nurse sharks and of course the guest stars, Tiger Sharks. Not only is there variety but there are loads of them. You can see anywhere from 40-70 sharks on one dive.
The best way to get a sense of this experience is to check out this video shot by Mikko Varpiola.
As soon as we arrived at the dive site I knew it would be amazing when I saw the crew get veryyy excited — they spotted three big females right away! As we descended on the line, I saw the lemons sharks (which are huge) on the bottom in the distance and for a second thought they were the Tigers…until one passed by and completely dwarfed the lemon sharks. That gets the blood pumping! The Tigers we saw were BIG (4.5m/15ft) and feisty…and possibly pregnant. To get an idea of the size and scale of these amazing beasts check out this photo that Yuxin Guo grabbed of me capturing the shot right next to it below.
After the very first dive, one of my guests said to me, ”Ok, after that…it doesn’t really matter whatever else happens on this trip…I can go home happy now!” Well that was music to my ears but I knew that there was much more in store for us…and that we were just getting started. The rest of our group echoed that sentiment as I quietly hoped that the group the next day would have as much luck as we did. The next dive was even better than the last and delivered a huge cherry on top in form of a beautiful manta ray that visited us on our safety stop!
I am delighted to report that the group the following day had another amazing Tiger Shark day with very close up encounters (one even got hit by the Tiger’s tail!). And of course that led to a couple of nights of celebrating with sunset cocktails at the pool bar. Add in some pearl shopping, dining at Tahiti’s world famous food trucks and island tours…our group made the most out of our time on Tahiti and was raring to go for the French Polynesia Master.
After 3 fun filled days in Tahiti our group flew off to Rangiroa to meet up with the French Polynesia Master, which would be our home for the next ten nights to cruise through the Tuamotu island chain. The boat is massive and comfortably holds 25 guests. The cabins are comfortable and well appointed, the dive deck is huge and the very top deck is the best place to enjoy your surface intervals and daily sunset cocktails (one benefit to having no night dives on the trip).
One of the best things to know about this trip…and boat…is that it is the only liveaboard that serves French Polynesia (other than private yachts). Our cruise started in Rangiroa and ended in Fakarava — two places you can dive from land based operations. But we also visited 4 other areas (Tikehau, Apataki, Toau and Kauehi) that would not be possible to dive any other way. Talk about exclusive diving…we were the only ones in the water!
We started off our diving at Tikehau Tuheivava Pass for our check out dives before heading to Rangiroa for two full days of super exciting diving. Aside from schooling fish and some sharks…the main attraction were the pods of super friendly dolphins that would come in very close to divers for some love and interaction. At first I wondered if this was not so cool for the dolphins…until I realized that these encounters very much happened on their own terms…and required lots of rubs and belly scratches! It was like spa time for the dolphins. As if that was not enough, we had a few lovely encounters with mantas and spotted a few sailfish!
From Rangiroa we headed off to the atoll of Apataki Tehere where our group got their first taste of seeing huge amounts of sharks…like 100’s! But it would certainly not be their last. The diving in French Polynesia is “pass diving” (diving in between two atolls) where their is plenty of current, which draws in the pelagics. The best dives are always on the incoming currents, which bring the most action. Given the strong currents, we only dive from sunrise to sunset, which means you can really only get 1-2 incoming currents a day (if you are lucky). The rest of the dives are done on the outside corners, where there is less current and chance to slow down to smell the roses…and count the reef fish.
From Apataki we moved to the atoll of Toau and the Otugi Pass. We had plenty more action at this spot…but I would say the highlight was watching sharks hunt a massive school of big eyes. It was like watching a symphony on the reef as the sharks would come in for a pass and this massive school of red fish would move like a wave in the wake of the grey reefs…magic!
After our exciting dive day in Toau, the crew had arranged a very special surprise for us — a trip to a beautiful atoll for a sunset bonfire with snacks and of course cocktails. This was the beautiful spot our group took the obligatory group photo:) It was a gorgeous spot and a super fun evening!
Our next stop was Kauehi - Arikitamiro, where we got the chance to dive in the legendary pool of sharks! It’s like a coral amphitheater…filled with loads and loads of sharks! There were also some beautiful reefs filled a lovely variety of hard corals. And we also saw loads of coral grouper…who were starting to aggregate in preparation of their spawning event, which was due to occur in few weeks. We were able to witness a lot of courtship and fighting between groupers, which was pretty special to witness.
From Kauehi we steamed to Fakarava South, which was a huge highlight of the trip, for two days of jaw-dropping diving. Here we spent lots of time in the South Pass at the “Shark Observatory”, which was shallow with mild current and full, full, full of sharks! There is no doubt why they call it a “wall of sharks”!
On the first afternoon, we had the chance to visit an idyllic beach on our surface interval in South Fakarava.
In South Fakarava, we also witness loads of coral grouper aggregating and had some amazing photo ops under the shallow docks at the end of the pass.
Aside from all our amazing underwater encounters, we had a very, very special dive where Josh proposed to Tabatha…underwater! It was planned with the dive guides, videographers, photographers and fellow divers perfectly. At the end of one dive, our guide led us up to shallow sandy patch where everyone gathered around in a big circle. Tab was somewhere in the back shooting video wondering what the heck was going on. Finally we were calling her over and started pointing something out to her….a message in a bottle!
At this point she cottoned on and looked up at Josh who was sitting right in front of her and gave her a little nod. She opened the bottle and pulled out a canvas that said “Will You Marry Me” on it…and when she looked up Josh was there with a tiny treasure chest in his hand…which had the ring! She put on the ring and they kissed…and then we all celebrated!!! Sand was thrown (which was not such a great idea for the photos), regs were purged and tanks were banged in celebration. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the house. Later that night we celebrated with many bottles of champagne at sunset and into the night and wished them both a happily ever after!
Aside from all the super exciting diving, the boat lifestyle was amazing. Wake up, little breakfast, dive, big breakfast, dive, lunch/nap/chill on top deck, dive, sunset happy hour (which was represented in full effect every day) followed by a hearty dinner and desert. The chef kept our bellies full and happy and the crew took excellent care of us. We were all sad to have to say good bye at the end.
We ended the trip in Fakarava North Pass, which offered panty of fish, sharks…and current! It was thrilling way to end the dive trip…with more manta sightings as well!
Writing this, my heart is full of joy and gratitude for what an epically beautiful trip this was…not just because of the loads of sharks, dolphins, mantas, sailfish, crazy cool dives and fun topside events…but mostly because of the people who decided to join me. Thanks to all of you for being such a special part of this amazing adventure — it would NOT have been the same without you! Can’t wait to share another adventure together!
And for those of you who didn’t make this one…be sure to catch the next one (yes, there will be another!)...or hop on one of our other exciting upcoming trips. I look forward to the chance to adventure together!