Located in Fakarava Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Tumakohua Pass is famous for its “wall of sharks”, which attracts scuba divers from all over the world. For snorkelers, it is also a beautiful site to discover, both in the pass (which can be explored in 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, blacktip reef sharks, and a myriad of colorful fish.

Snorkeling the Tumakohua Pass, Fakarava
The jetty of Tetamanu Village, with the pass in the background.

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

Tumakohua Pass and Tetamanu Island are located south of Fakarava Atoll, about 1h30-2h 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 euro 100pp.).

The reef flat (zone 1 on the map) can be snorkeled freely from the shore. To explore the pass (zone 4 on the map), you’ll have to book a drift snorkeling tour. Do not engage in drift snorkeling without being accompanied by a guide.

Fakarava South Pass/Tetamanu snorkeling map

Entering the water in Tetamanu

To snorkel the reef areas (zones 1, 2 and 3 on the map), the water entrance is made from Tetamanu island’s shore, taking care not to step on coral. For drift snorkeling (zone 4), you will enter the water from your tour boat.

Blacktip reef shark
The blacktip reef shark is easy to spot in and around the pass.

Tetamanu snorkeling tips and recommendations

Two areas are recommended for snorkeling around Tetamanu:

1/ The coral reef edging Tetamanu Island (zones 1, 2 and 3 on the map).

The “pool”, a small natural lagoon found just near the jetty (zone 1 on the map), is a perfect start for beginners. Here, you’ll swim with almost tamed Maori wrasse and other reef fish, that come here to enjoy the leftover food.

Up north, you’ll find a second shallow and sheltered area (zone 3 on the map), freely accessible from the shore. Here, you’ll discover the diversity of Polynesian marine life, including around 10 species of butterflyfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, schools of yellowfin goatfish, and Moorish idols.

Advanced snorkelers can also drift snorkel along the island’s reef (itinerary 2 on the map), accompanied by a guide.

A view of the shallow flats near the pontoon.
The shallow reef around the pontoons are perfect for beginners.

2/ Fakarava South Pass, which borders Tetamanu Island’s western shore (zone 4 on the map).

The exploration of the pass consists of letting yourself drift by the current, between the entrance of the pass and the inner part of the atoll. The boat will then pick you up at the exit of the pass.

Maori wrasse in Tetamanu, Fakarava
Tetamanu is one of the world’s best snorkeling spots to encounter the impressive Maori wrasse, also known as Napoleon.

If you are lucky, you may spot in the blue green sea turtles, manta rays, and several species of sharks. It is sometimes even possible to spot the “shark wall” (↕20-30m) near the water entry point.

On the drop-offs that border the pass, you’ll spot many fish around dense and colorful corals. Local sea life includes the Maori wrasse, Tetamanu snorkeler’s favorite sighting. Peaceful and inquisitive, swimming with this unique fish will leave you with an unforgettable memory.

Coral reef on Tetamanu reef flat
A bluestripe snapper surrounded by squirrelfish.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Three guesthouses (Tetamanu Village, Tetamanu Sauvage, and Motu Aito) are set up along the reef.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaRéserve de Biosphère de Fakarava
  • Maximum depth100ft/30m in the pass, 18ft/6m on the reef flat
  • Water entranceFrom a beach (for snorkeling the reef flat) or from a boat (for drift snorkeling in the pass)
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsCosts of the stay on the island

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.