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Located in Fakarava Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Tumakohua Pass is famous for its “wall of sharks.” The endless supply of food here attracts sharks and brings scuba divers from all over the world to see them. For snorkelers, it is also a beautiful site to discover, both in the pass which can be explored by drift snorkeling and on the reef flat which can be snorkeled freely from the island shore. In the area, you will discover coral reefs inhabited by Napoleon wrasse, several species of sharks, and a myriad of colorful fish.

Tetaman Village House Reef
Tetamanu Village’s house reef seen from the dive club pontoon.

How to get to the Tetamanu/Fakarava South Pass snorkeling spot

Tumakohua Pass and Tetamanu Island are located south of Fakarava Atoll, about an hour and a half by boat from Rotoava and the airport. To visit Tetamanu, you can book a stay in one of the island’s guesthouses (Tetamanu Village, Tetamanu Sauvage or Motu Aito), or make the day trip from Rotoava (from $100 pp.).

Fakarava South Pass/Tetamanu snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Tetamanu & Fakarava South Pass

Fakarava South Pass has drift snorkeling. It is advised to enter the water only during incoming current (from the ocean to the lagoon). The dive club can inform you about current/tide times.

For drift snorkeling itinerary (itinerary 2 on the map), it is advised to enter the water from a boat, near the white buoy (water entrance 1 on the map). Ask to the dive club if they can drop you. Alternatively, you can enter the water from the shore, behind the church, but the water entrance here is tricky (from a reef flat, too shallow at low tide – water entrance 2 on the map). For shorter (and easier) drift snorkeling, enter the water from pontoon 1 (water entrance 3 on the map).

To snorkel the areas close to the resort (pontoons/”pools” areas, area 1 on the map), you can enter the water from the pontoons or from the beaches.

Snorkeler observes a Napoleon wrasse at Tetamanu Village
Tetamanu is one of the world’s best snorkeling spots to encounter the Maori wrasse, also known as Napoleon.

Tetamanu/Fakarava South Pass snorkeling tips and recommendations

Two areas are recommended for snorkeling Tetamanu & Fakarava South Pass:

1.) Tetamanu Village pontoons/pools areas (zone 1 on the map).

The “pools”, two small natural lagoons found between the jetties (zone 1 on the map), are a perfect start for beginners. Here you’ll swim with almost tamed Napoleon wrasse and dozens of blacktip reef sharks that come here to enjoy the leftovers from the restaurant. From time to time, grey sharks and whitetip sharks also come up to the flat.

School of snappers under Tetaman Village jetty
A school of one-spot snappers under the restaurant jetty.

Have a look under the jetties: in the shade, you’ll find huge schools of snappers, trumpetfish, groupers, moray eels, and resting Napoleons.

In the healthy coral areas at the top of the drop-off, you’ll discover the diversity of Polynesian marine life, including about 10 species of butterflyfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, schools of yellowfin goatfish, and Moorish idols.

Shallow coral reef at Tetamanu Village
The shallow reefs near the pontoons are great areas to spot reef fish.

2.) The reef flat and the pass deeper areas (itinerary 2 on the map).

The exploration of the pass consists of letting yourself drift with the current, but only during the incoming current.

If you start from the white buoy, you will snorkel over the “shark wall” (↕65ft/20m), where about a hundred grey reef sharks patrol in the current. If you are lucky, you may spot in the blue, green sea turtles, manta rays, or other species of sharks including occasional sicklefin sharks.

Fakarava South Pass sharks wall
Fakarava’s famous “shark wall” seen from the surface. There are usually about 100 to 150 grey reef sharks that gather here.

On the drop-offs that border the pass, you’ll spot many fish around dense and colorful corals. Local sea life includes the Napoleon wrasse,  which is a Tetamanu snorkeler’s favorite sighting.

Around 15 individuals, including 2 or 3 bright green terminal phase males, live around the village. Peaceful and inquisitive, swimming with this unique fish will leave you with an unforgettable memory.

Gray shark and whitetip shark Tetamanu
If blacktip sharks are the most common in Tetamanu, two other species are frequently seen on the house reef: the grey reef shark (above) and the whitetip reef shark (below).

You can exit the water from one of the jetties, or extend your snorkeling and drift to the yellow buoy. Be careful though, as the current gets stronger past the restaurant.

Restaurants and accommodations nearby

Two guesthouses, Tetamanu Village/Tetamanu Sauvage, and Motu Aito are set up along the reef.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Protected areaRéserve de Biosphère de Fakarava
  • Maximum depth100ft/30m in the pass, 6ft/2m on the reef flat
  • Water entranceFrom a beach/a pontoon (for snorkeling the reef flat) or from a boat/a flat (for drift snorkeling in the pass)
  • Potential DangersBoat traffic. Use the dive buoys provided by the dive club
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsCosts of the stay on the island or snorkeling tour from Rotoava

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

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.