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 Scuba Diving
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With over 800 marine species, French Polynesia is a unique destination for diving. Its 118 Islands offer unlimited resources, in a huge underwater environment.

Lagoons’ crystal waters, impressive underwater cliffs, the amazing Big Blue of the Pacific Ocean are as many environments as there are exciting, surprising and unforgettable dives.
It’s live entertainment on a natural big screen!

 

From beginners to advanced divers, there are diving sites suitable to anyone.
The Society Islands, very popular with tourists, offer a large range of dives, usually easy-graded, nonetheless amazing (Anau and its mantas in Bora Bora…)
In the Australes, not as much frequented by tourists, you may cross path with the impressive whales… (Rurutu)
In Northern part of French Polynesia, the wild and unspoilt Marquesas shelter giant mantas, hammer sharks in its caves and relief. Many unforeseen and surprising encounters….
Wherever you dive in French Polynesia, you’ll be surrounded by many varieties of fauna and flora, like barracudas, humphead wrasse, butterfly fishes, huge gorgonian.

Open your eyes and the show begins!


Diving regulations in French Polynesia

Maximum depths are limited to:
29 meters (95 feet) for level I CMAS, Open Water and Advanced Open Water Divers.
49 meters (160 feet) for level II CMAS, Rescue Divers.
60 meters (196 feet) for higher degrees.

For introductory dives, no formalities are required. Qualified divers will be asked to provide their CMAS or PADI’s card and log book.

Before you go

Please ensure you are in good shape and if not sure, do a medical check. Diving in Polynesia can be quite thrilling and tiring.
If you haven’t been diving for a long time, start with an easy dive.
Check your equipment (pressure gauge, computer, BCD, wetsuit, etc) before packing…this will avoid bad surprises once on the boat.
Don’t forget your diving diplomas, cards and log books.


Flying and Diving

During your stay in French Polynesia, you will be most probably flying between different Islands.
After a dive, and before you go on a plane, please ensure that you wait 12 to 14 hours.
In general terms, we recommend not diving the last day of your stay. Take this time to visit or try one of the many other activities offered on the islands.


Shopping

There are no specialized shops on the islands (even though some shops do carry a very limited stock of diving equipment).
The only shop in Tahiti, specialized in diving, sailing and most aquatic activities is:
Nauti Sport
Fare Ute - Papeete
Tel. : 54 52 15


Photos and videos

Visibility is usually good, even excellent, especially outside lagoons and in passes where it can reach 50 meters plus.
Be aware that the electric power might not be compatible with your own equipment (flash, battery charger?)
Don't forget to protect them from all external factors like sun, wind, sand, salt or water.
Very few diving centers hire photo or video equipment. Some of them have good quality disposable underwater cameras for sale.

You can have your films processed in Tahiti ? however, delay may be long, and prices might be higher than in your home country.

 

I strongly recommend the greatest care when you're shooting a Manta ray or you're doing a close up on the coral.
Other divers will follow, and if you found the underwater environment in a pristine condition, it's because
divers before you paid attention and respected it. Don't forget, you might return in a near future.

Respecting the environment must be your first priority, to decide on your shooting.

See the "Photos & Videos' gallery" section


Training
Every diving centre offer CMAS or PADI courses.

It usually takes 3 to 5 days to complete a level I CMAS or Open Water PADI.

Cruises

More and more operators offer diving safaris (Tahiti aggressor, Archipels Cruises, Aquau Polynesie…)
It’s a great option to travel around the islands, while enjoying access to fantastic diving sites.
You can expect unusual dives in the most secluded diving sites, some of them being not even accessible by road (Eiao in the Marquesas, Kauechi – however they can be quite dear).

Level 2 is usually required.

Please refer to the “Cruises” section


Diving Centers

Equipment
In most centers, diving prices include all equipment (except for the computer and the depth gauge).
However, as it is not always top quality equipment, please don’t hesitate to bring your own.
Even for the most sensitive to cold, a 3 mm wetsuit or shorty are sufficient.
No need for knife or gloves. These are useless, and can be dangerous for yourself, others as well as for the fauna and flora.

Conditions
Certified divers will be asked to provide their CMAS or PADI’s card and log book. All diving certificate are accepted (PADI, CMAS, NAUI…).
However, if you haven’t been diving for a while, you may be asked to do a check dive.
Don’t forget your log book.

Should you wish to do a course, you will need to provide a medical certificate. That can be obtained from your family doctor before you leave, or once in Polynesia (except in the most secluded and small Islands).

For an Introductory dive, no documentation or paperwork is needed.
For minors, parents must give a written authorization.

No insurance is required, as all centers are already insured for any divers taken on board.

Please refer to the “Diving Centers” section


Diving conditions
 
requin gris
Olivier Lavigne

The main three diving types you will find in French Polynesia are as follows:

Lagoon
With its warm temperatures and shallow waters, it’s the perfect place to first time divers, or for re-acclimatization.

Drop-off
Literally a living wall, rich in various flora and fauna, it goes straight down to the depths.
This sort of environment offers spectacular dives, even to the most novice divers.

Pass
Natural channel created on the coral reef, it allows waters from the lagoon to mix up with the ocean.
This is where you’ll find groups of sharks and manta rays.
Due to strong currents coming in (from ocean to lagoon) and out (from lagoon to ocean), most dives are drift dives (especially in the Tuamotu). They are not easy as currents can reach up to 6 knots. It is recommended to carefully listen to your instructor’s briefing.
For security measures, most drift dives are done in incoming currents: either near the pass to be protected from the current, or out in the ocean.

Most diving sites are easily and quickly accessible (around 15 minutes by boat)

Some Islands (Tuamotu, Marquesas) are best for certified divers (even though it also offers good dives to beginners). Others, like Bora Bora, are recommended for all divers, including beginners.

Night Dives
Offered regularly by some of the diving centres. Plenty of thrills guaranteed!

 
requin citron
Olivier Lavigne
Shark feeding
Shark feeding is very common in French Polynesia. However, some centers don’t do it, as they believe it affects the natural environment (refer to diving centers).
During shark feeding, please follow the instructor’s advice and signs. He will bring with him a large piece of fish, which he’ll place at the bottom. Then, you’ll be asked to stay in a semi-circle few meters away. Various fishes and sharks will start gathering, most of them being Lemon, Black Tip and Reef Sharks.…stay calm and relax: this is spectacular but not dangerous.

Wreck dives
There aren’t many wrecks in French Polynesia, but they are easily accessible (between 6 and 30 meters).
In Tahiti: one Cessna, one schooner, one seaplane
In Raiatea: a three masts vessel

Refer to the “Dive Sites” section

Health and Security

Most diving centers are well equipped with qualified staff.
Every Island has at least one nurse and/or a doctor, and largest Islands are also equipped with a hospital (in Tahiti, Raiatea and Nuku Hiva).
Doctors and health specialists, most of them divers, will know exactly how to deal with any situations.
Cares offered are similar to the ones in mainland France, with some restrictions imposed by some of the islands’ remoteness.

Diving accidents
The Mamao Hospital in Papeete (ph. 42 62 62) is the only one equipped with a recompression tank.
It has very modern facilities and highly qualified staff.
In case of an accident in one of the island, the person is quickly evacuated to Mamao hospital.

Depending on the pollution level in some lagoons (especially Tahiti), otitis externa can be developed by divers. Nothing dramatic, but it can spoil your stay. To avoid this sort of problems, we recommend a drop of sweet almond oil in each ear before diving. Once back, don’t forget to rinse thoroughly with fresh water.

Natural dangers
If you respect environment rules and security recommendations, diving in French Polynesia is as safe as anywhere else.
Marine life is not interested by human beings however, if scared it can have defensive reactions.
Before diving, it is therefore essential to learn about various fishes you may meet and to listen to the instructors.
Underwater is not your natural environment. To make sure everything goes smoothly, it is essential to respect it, be careful, and avoid touching the flora and fauna.
Please make sure you control your buoyancy and do not damage the environment with your fins.

When experiencing difficulties, do not panic, as things might get worse. Simply warn your group leader and once back on the ground, consult a doctor in case of a bite, or if symptoms persist.

There are some species, in French Polynesia, which may be potentially dangerous if we don’t pay attention:

Corail de feu
Corail de couleur brun clair aux extrémités blanchâtres. En cas de contact, une sensation de brûlure apparaît et persiste pendant plusieurs minutes. Evitez de vous gratter (facile à dire !), pour ne pas étendre la zone infectée.
En général, les douleurs disparaissent après quelques minutes sans laisser de séquelle.
Vous pouvez consulter un médecin, qui vous prescrira une pommade apaisante.

Oursin
Fréquent dans les lagons, leur piqûre n’est pas venimeuse, mais douloureuse.
Soyez prudent en vous promenant dans les lagons, portez des chaussures en plastique ou des palmes.

Cône
Mollusque pouvant projeter un aiguillon venimeux si vous tentez de le ramasser.
Entraîne une paralysie musculaire, suivi d’un arrêt cardiaque et respiratoire.
Sous l’eau, les conséquences peuvent être graves.
N’essayer jamais de ramasser un cône (et de manière général aucun mollusque).

Poisson pierre
Spécialisé dans l’art du camouflage, ils sont pratiquement invisibles.
Leur nageoire dorsale est hérissée d’épines venimeuses.
Eviter de poser la main sur les rochers ou de vous promener dans le lagon pieds nus.
La douleur peut être très douloureuse, consulter un médecin dés que possible.

Murènes
Malgré son aspect peu encourageant, elle n’attaque jamais, si elle ne se sent pas menacée.
Evitez de mettre la main dans des cavités.
Elles ont la réputation de ne pas lâcher leur prise et leur morsure peut s’infecter gravement.

Raies pastenagues
Dotés d’aiguillons venimeux à la base de la queue, elles vivent enfouies dans le sable des lagons. Elles sont inoffensives si on ne leur marche pas dessus (n’oubliez pas de mettre des chaussures).
La blessure peut être très douloureuses et s’infecter.
Vous verrez souvent des promenades avec " rencontre avec des raies ", n’ayez crainte, les accidents sont extrêmement rares, l’animal étant plutôt intéressés par la nourriture et les caresses.

Barracuda
Grand poisson allongé et d’aspect métallique. Ils possèdent des dents très acérées.
Curieux, ils sont attirés par des objets brillants.

Rascasse volante, poisson lion
Poissons gracieux, ils possèdent de grandes épines dorsales venimeuses qu’ils peuvent utiliser s’ils sont menacés.
La douleur est intense.

Requins
En Polynésie, peu d’espèces sont théoriquement dangereuses pour l’homme.
Les plus dangereuses croisent au large et s’approchent rarement des côtes donc des sites de plongées.
Evitez simplement de les provoquer (encore moins de les toucher) et tout ira bien.
Plonger avec des requins en Polynésie, démystifie souvent la mauvaise réputation que le cinéma et les légendes lui ont donnée. Animal assez craintif, celui-ci aura plus souvent peur de vous que vous de lui.

Autres accidents
En marge de la plongée sous-marine, il y a la cigûatera. Cette maladie se contracte en consommant du poisson de lagon infecté par la maladie.
Attention, si vous consommez ou pêchez du poisson de lagon, renseignez vous auprès de la population locale pour connaître les espèces et les lieux non infectés.

Autre danger alimentaire : la tortue, sa chair est souvent toxique et de toutes façons sa pêche est strictement interdite.
Refusez toujours dans consommer.


Faune et Flore

La Polynésie Française et ses îles est réputée mondialement pour la qualité et la diversité de ses fonds sous-marins. Les espèces pélagiques sont souvent les vedettes des plongées, mais ne doivent pas faire oublier la beauté des tombants recouverts de coraux et la multitude colorée de poissons de récifs.

 
roses de corail
Olivier Lavigne

Coraux
Il faut avouer que ce n’est pas en Polynésie que l’on trouve les plus beaux coraux.
Vous survolerez malgré tout de magnifiques massifs de corail dur le long de tombants vertigineux.
Coraux durs, corail de feu, rose, gorgone

Crustacés et invertébrés
Pas présents partout, vous débusquerez peut être un minuscule nudibranche (Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora) ou un crustacé au fond d’un trou.
Nudibranche, langouste, crabe

 
poisson papillon
Olivier Lavigne

Poisson du lagon et de récif
Plus de 700 espèces ont été recensées.
Ils vous accompagneront dans toutes vos plongées. Leur couleur et leur forme très variées vous offriront un très beau spectacle.
Des plus petits (papillon, perroquet) au plus imposants (napoléon, baliste), sans oublier murènes et banc de perches.
Poissons Empereur et Royal (Paraharaha)
Poissons cocher (Paraha tore)
Poissons Papillon (Paraharaha)
Poisson Chirurgiens (Maito)
Poissons trompettes (Aupapa tohe tupou)
Perroquets (Paati opu tautau)

 

Balistes titan (Oiri pao)
Mérou céleste (Roi)
Perche jaune à bandes bleues (Taape)
Becs de canne (Oeo)
Napoléons (Mara)
Murènes javanaises (Puhi iari)
Carrangues bleues (Paaihere)

Poissons du large
Certaines espèces sont exceptionnelles (espadon, voilier), d’autres beaucoup plus présentes (bécunes, barracuda).
thon, espadon, barracuda

 

Tortues
On trouve 2 espèces de tortues : la tortue verte et la tortue à écaille, plus petite et souvent toxique.
Présente partout, mais en petit nombre.

Requins
Peu d’espèces sont potentiellement dangereuses pour l’homme et celles ci sont faiblement représentées en Polynésie.
La plupart des requins de Polynésie sont peureux. N’ayez donc aucune crainte, les accidents sont extrêmement rares.
Si vous ne les provoquez pas, il n’y a aucun risque. N’essayez pas de les toucher, de les nourrir, ni de les bloquer dans une grotte ou de les réveiller.
Ils viendront vers vous naturellement par curiosité ou attirés par de la nourriture apportée (shark feeding).
Suivant les sites et les îles, on pourra rencontrer : pointes noires, aileron blanc de lagon ou de récif, citron, gris, tigre (très rare), dormeur et 2 espèces de marteaux

Raies
Raies aigles et pastenagues sont fréquentes dans toutes les îles.
Les raies mantas, sont plus rares, mais vous aurez de grandes chances d’en trouver à Bora Bora, aux Tuamotu et aux Marquises (plus ou moins suivant la saison).

Dauphins
Ce sont des dauphins à long bec.
A Tahiti (pointe des pêcheurs), Moorea et dans certaines îles des Marquises, vous pourrez les contempler toute l’année depuis la surface ou en snorkeling.
Aux Tuamotu, vous aurez peut être la chance de plonger avec eux.

Baleines
Rurutu dans l’archipel des Australes (entre juillet et octobre) est un lieu privilégié pour plonger avec ces géants des mers (baleines à bosses).
Mais ces rencontres restent rares et dépendent de beaucoup de facteurs que l’on ne maîtrise pas, il n’est donc pas certain d’en voir, même à la bonne période.
Vous pourrez également en rencontrer (mais plus rarement plonger avec) dans tout le reste de la Polynésie (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Rangiroa, ..).

Voir la rubrique 'Les Espèces


Protecting the environment

 

The ocean invites us to visit and observe its environment. To ensure this lasts, we must learn to act as a guest and not as a conqueror.
Unfortunately, and despite its richness, the underwater world in French Polynesia is not spared by pollution, and consequences of uncontrolled fishing.
Despite being one of the main natural resources of French Polynesia, we can regret that the government is slow to intervene in that field.

Diving can also be blamed for environment degradations. Species have fled away some areas, following deterioration by numerous anchorages, and extensive use of the sites.
To respect natural environment (and make others respect it), these are some basics rules:

  • Use une bouee d’amarrage on each site and prohibit anchorage usage.
  • Control your buoyancy
  • Don’t use fins that are too long
  • Don’t touch rocks or corals
  • Don’t touch or remove living animals or plants
  • Don’t wear gloves or knife
  • Attention aux coups de palmes et aux instruments qui traînent (octopus, mano, …)
  • Photographs must be careful when taking picture not to damage anything when leaning on any natural support
    Clean all your rubbish or any you may find
  • Don’t feed the fishes – they don’t like most of our food

By respecting these few rules, negative consequences of our acts will be limited compared to other damages caused by pollution or others.

In the United States of America, the following organizations are fighting to protect the underwater world:
- CORAL (the Coral Reef Alliance) 510.848.0110 www.coral.org
- Ocean Futures 805.899.8899 www.oceanfutures.com
- Cousteau Society 757.523.9335 www.cousteau.org
- ReefKeeper International 305.358.4600 www.reefkeeper.com
- Project AWARE Foundation 714.540.0251 www.projectaware.org

 
In France, François SARANO is trying set up a Charter for responsible divers. We encourage this great initiative.
Should you wish to contact him, these are his details:
Longitude 181 Nature, 12 rue La Fontaine 26000 Valence
Tél : 04 75 55 43 77 Fax : 04 75 43 34 03
www.longitude181.com - [email protected]


Snorkling

This is a great way to discover a colorful marine life, even when you are not a certified diver.
In shallow waters, we recommend not to use fins and rather wear plastic sandals. This will avoid any damage on coral.

It is forbidden to remove any living animals or plants. It is also not recommended to place your hands in any cracks!

Some diving sites are easily accessible when scuba diving or snorkeling. Get the maximum out of it, it’s free!



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