Tuamotu Archipelago

The Tuamotu, a remote, pristine archipelago, scarcely touched by the outside world, offers some of the best snorkeling in the South Pacific. The archipelago sit on the eastern part of French Polynesia, with 77 atolls spanning a distance of over 900 miles. The most visited atolls are Rangiroa (the largest atoll in French Polynesia and second largest in the world), Tikehau and Fakarava. This is where the vast majority of the tourism facilities are located.

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Unlike the “high islands” of Tahiti or Moorea, the Tuamotu atolls are flat, ringed with white sands and shaded with coconut palms. The archipelago is a diving mecca, world-renowned for diving with sharks (10 shark species are commonly spotted in Rangiroa), but also with other big species as manta rays or dolphins.

The Tuamotu are not a destination for shore snorkeling, although it is decent in some places, as off the shore of the Kia Ora Resort in Rangiroa. To reach the best spots, you will have to plan excursions to remote reefs and motus located in the immense lagoons.

Snorkeling Tuamotu Rangiroa
The Blue Lagoon, Rangiroa atoll

The most popular tour in Rangiroa is the Blue Lagoon (a lagoon within a lagoon, with incredibly blue waters), where you can snorkel with blacktip and lemon sharks above a sandy seabed (1-hour boat trip from Avatoru). If you prefer reef snorkeling, the Aquarium, just 5 minutes by boat from Avatoru and Tiputa piers, is one of the best –and most accessible- options.

The Tuamotu are the perfect place to enjoy a drift snorkeling through one of the passes, these narrow cuts in the atolls (the most popular being the Tiputa Pass, in Rangiroa), letting the swift current carry you amongst the fish and corals. Avatoru Pass in Rangiroa or the south pass of Fakarava (Tumakohua, also known as Tetamanu Pass), are also great drift snorkeling options.

If you dream about encountering manta rays, then head to Tikehau atoll. In the “Pearl Farm”, island’s most famous snorkeling spot, you will encounter manta rays that come to this cleaning station to be scoured of parasites by little cleaner wrasses, in less than 10 meters of water.
When to go to the Tuamotu Archipelago?

There is no really high or low season to go snorkeling in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Lying just below the equator, the islands are warm and mostly sunny all year-round, tempered by a steady sea breeze. There is significant rainfall throughout the year on the atolls. The warmer and rainiest season runs from November to April, while the weather is at cooler and drier between May and October. This is the best time to visit the archipelago.

Snorkeling Tiputa Pass

Where to spot them?

Lemon shark

At the Blue Lagoon

Manta ray

In Tiputa Pass and Avatoru Pass

Double-saddle butterflyfish

On reef spots, in particular at The Aquarium

Threadfin butterflyfish

On reef spots, in particular at The Aquarium

Ornate butterflyfish

On reef spots, in particular at The Aquarium

Sixbar wrasse

On all spots

Convict surgeonfish

On all spots

Raccoon butterflyfish

On all spots

Achilles tang

On reef spots

Green Chromis

On all spots