76 atolls lost in the middle of the South Pacific, with some of the most beautiful snorkeling spots in the world

Unlike the Society Islands, like Tahiti and Moorea, the Tuamotu islands are flat, covered with white sand, and bordered by coconut palms. This archipelago is a diving Mecca, known worldwide for its sharks (10 species of sharks commonly live in the waters of the region), but also for the observation of other mythical species, such as dolphins, Maori wrasse, and manta rays.

The Tuamotus are not really a great destination for snorkeling from the beach, although there are decent spots here and there on the inner faces of the atolls. To fully enjoy the archipelago, take part in boat trips (many providers offer them in the main villages and hotels), which will take you to the motus and islets scattered around the lagoon. Another specificity of the Tuamotus is the possibility to enjoy drift snorkeling in the passes, these narrow arms of the sea cutting through the atolls, where you will let yourself be carried by the current, accompanied by a guide.

Snorkeling with sharks at the Blue Lagoon, Rangiroa
If you stay in Rangiroa, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the Blue Lagoon, an exceptional site for snorkeling with sharks.

In Rangiroa, you’ll find decent snorkeling on the coral patches present on the inner face of the atoll, for example in front of Kia Ora Resort. However, you will need to take part in excursions to explore the island’s most beautiful spots. The most popular is the one taking you to the Blue Lagoon (a small lagoon inside the lagoon, with incredible shades of blue, located 1 hour by boat from Avatoru), where you can snorkel in the middle of dozens of blacktip sharks and a few sicklefin lemon sharks, swimming over sandy bottoms. If you prefer to explore a coral reef, head to The Aquarium (a 5-minute boat ride from the Avatoru and Tiputa pontoons), where the colors of the corals and fish will delight you. Finally, do not leave the atoll without having tried drift snorkeling in the mythical Tiputa Pass, known to divers all over the world, where you sometimes have the chance to meet a manta ray, dolphins, or hammerhead sharks. A few kilometers away, the Avatoru Pass is also a good option for this unique experience.

Maori wrasse in Tetamanu
Tetamanu, at the edge of Fakarava South Pass, is an incredible location to encounter the fascinating Maori wrasse.

The Fakarava atoll, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, is another mythical diving destination in the Tuamotus. Already, in the village, you will be able to observe blacktip sharks and sleeper sharks from the shore in a few feet of water. If you feel like walking or cycling the distance from the spot to the village, Plage du PK9 is the best option for shore snorkeling in Fakarava, to be considered only when the sea is perfectly calm. Several excursions are also available on the atoll, including those leading to the Blue Lagoon, Bird Island, and the Northern Pass (Passe Nord). But it is in Tetamanu, around the Southern Pass of Fakarava, that snorkeling is truly exceptional. In the pass and on the inner reef, you can see many sharks, a fantastic diversity of fish, and even encounter superb, almost tamed Maori wrasse. The South Pass can be visited during day trips from Rotoava, but many recommend staying there, in the tiny village.

Snorkeling the Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, French Polynesia
The legendary Tiputa Pass, in Rangiroa, offers amazing drift snorkeling.

If you dream of swimming with manta rays, then plan to include Tikehau in your itinerary. The Pearl Farm (La Ferme Perlière) is a cleaning station for these fascinating creatures (where cleaning wrasses rid them of the parasites present on their skin) and will allow you to live this unforgettable encounter, less than 10 meters deep. The mantas are however less numerous than before on the station, and it is not guaranteed to see them.

récif corallien à la Ferme Perlière de Tikehau
Coral and damselfish at the Pearl Farm reef, in Tikehau.

Anaa, Hao, Makemo, and Manihi are also some of the most easily accessible – and most visited – atolls. But with its 76 atolls scattered over more than 1,700km, the Tuamotu archipelago is home to hundreds of other snorkeling spots. Those lucky enough to visit the Tuamotu by boat will be able to reach isolated and still unexplored reefs, for unforgettable underwater encounters.

When to go snorkeling 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 cooler and drier between May and October. This is the best time to visit the archipelago.

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