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When planning your trip to French Polynesia, you’ve probably seen these photos of bathers in crystal-clear water, surrounded by sharks and hundreds of butterflyfish. Chances are, these photos were taken at Toopua Shark Sandbank, a sandbar in the Bora Bora lagoon very popular with day-trippers. This spot offers a unique underwater spectacle in less than 3 feet/1 meter of water.

Sharks and butterflyfish in Bora Bora Lagoon
The Shark Sandbank is one of the most spectacular locations in French Polynesia.

How to get to the Shark Sandbank snorkeling spot?

Toopua Shark Sandbank is one of the busiest snorkeling locations in Bora Bora. It is located in the southwestern part of the lagoon, in front of Motu Toopua.

You can visit Toopua Shark Sandbank on day trips, which often include this location in their itinerary. Prices generally range from 15,000 to 18,000 Francs per person (125 to 150 Euros), including lunch. Check with the tour operator to make sure this spot is included in the itinerary.

If you are staying at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, located at the southern tip of Motu Toopua, you can kayak to the site (approximately 1500 meters).

Toopua Sharks Sandbank snorkeling map
Toopua Sharks Sandbank snorkeling map, Bora Bora.

Water entrance for snorkeling the Shark Sandbank

You will enter the water from your boat (or your kayak). The area is very shallow, less than 3 feet/1 meter.

The Shark Sandbank snorkeling exploration tips

Toopua Shark Sandbank is located on a sandbar on the back reef of Bora Bora. The water level is low, less than 3 feet/1 meter over the whole area.

Toopua Sharks Sandbank, Bora Bora
The Shark Sandbank, with Motu Toopua and Bora Bora main island in the distance.

The seabed is mostly sandy, with occasional rocks and small corals scattered in the area. The main reason for visiting this location is to observe the many blacktip sharks that live around the sandbar.

Dozens of them can be seen coming and going between the boats. Sometimes, the sharks are accompanied by golden trevally, whose juveniles are known to swim next to large fish or marine mammals.

Pink whiptail ray at Bora Bora
A Pink whiptail ray.

In addition to the sharks, a few huge whiprays are also present on the sandbar. They often come to meet bathers, as they are used to being fed by some guides.

Around the boats, you’ll also spot large schools of threadfin butterflyfish. The spectacle created by sharks surrounded by these brightly colored fish, in clear turquoise water, is majestic.

Snorkeler observing sharks at Toopua, Bora Bora
Snorkeling with sharks is one of the best underwater experiences in French Polynesia.

Around the scattered rocks and corals, there’s not much to see apart from a few whitetail dascyllus, lagoon triggerfish and gobies.

Restaurants and accommodations nearby

This spot is located in the open sea. Day trips usually include lunch.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth3 feet/1 meter
  • Water entranceFrom a boat (snorkeling tour) or from a kayak
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsCost of a snorkeling tour (or free from the shore by kayak)

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.