The Tuamotu Islands, 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. Blessed with an abundant underwater world of manta rays, lemon and reef sharks, sea turtles and colorful reefs, snorkeling the Tuamotu Islands will take you to another 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.
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.
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 and Fakarava South Pass, 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, at Tetamanu Village.
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.
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.
There is no real 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.
450+ spots have already been featured on Snorkeling Report thanks to people like you. Share your favorite snorkeling spot and help us cover the world map. Your contribution will help the snorkeling community find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
ADD A SPOT
You can’t miss them at the Blue Lagoon; frequently sighted at Tiputa Pass and Avatoru Pass
Occasionally spotted in the passes.
Regularly observed while drift snorkeling the Tiputa Pass and Avatoru Pass
On reef spots, in particular at The Aquarium
On reef spots, particularly at The Aquarium
On all reef spots
Coral reef with a vibrant marine life
Shallow reef and deep pass with sharks and Maori wrasse
Level: Resort nearby
Drop-off and shallow lagoon with blacktip and lemon sharks
Drift snorkeling in a deep pass visited by sharks, rays and turtles
Drift snorkeling in a deep pass visited by sharks, rays and dolphins
Manta ray cleaning station and shallow coral reefs
You must be logged in to post a comment.
In 1768, the day he got close to Tahiti for the first time, French explorer Bougainville is said to have said: “this is heaven on earth!”. There at least is one truth here: French Polynesia is an underwater paradise. With its 14 dream islands (Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora being the most well-known), (...)
Right in the heart of the South Pacific lies the Cook Islands, some of the most scenic and unspoiled of the subregion, comprising 15 islands and atolls. Most of visitors to the Cook Islands choose to stay in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. These two islands are perfect for snorkeling in clam, shallow lagoon (...)
Known as the “soft coral capital of the world” Fiji is home to healthy and thriving reefs, found almost everywhere around its more than 300 tropical islands. There, shallow coral gardens showcase an incredible diversity of reef fish, including angelfish, clownfish, butterflyfish, but also big marine (...)
Where else could you meet turtles and schools of tropical fish in healthy coral reefs, or snorkel at night with huge manta rays, or get face-to-face with a pod of spinner dolphins in shallow, clear blue water? The Big Island is full of surprises and delights - maybe the best snorkeling destination i (...)
Although Easter Island (also called Rapa Nui) is not a leading snorkeling destination, this tiny island located seemingly at the end of the world, at the foot of the moai, offers unforgettable snorkeling experiences. In the absence of coral reefs, there are few snorkeling spots on the island- that c (...)
Maui is the second biggest island in Hawaii and one of the most visited. Along with Big Island, it is one of the best snorkeling destinations in the archipelago. Its 120 miles of coastline are home to dozens of snorkeling sites for all levels, most of them with free shore access. Maui is certainly t (...)
Oahu is the most visited of the Hawaiian islands. Its sheltered waters and easy-to-access beaches make Oahu a good option for shore snorkeling. Hanauma Bay, a gorgeous turquoise bay located only a few minutes drive from Honolulu, is by far the most visited snorkeling spot in Oahu, but there some oth (...)
With its canyons, breathtaking cliffs beaten by the ocean and luxuriant vegetation, Kauai amply desserves its nickname, the Garden Island. For many people, it is the one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Snorkeling in Kauai is not considered the best in the Hawaiian archipelago, but the is (...)