Some of the best shark diving in the world, spawning groupers and the most luxurious liveaboard!
'I look forward to meeting you and to exploring these waters by your side. I will share with you my experience in marine conservation and ocean innovation, and together we will tell our adventures in this unique underwater paradise to thousands of people worldwide, sharing our passion for the sea.’.
Pierre Yves Cousteau
Situated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean this island archipelago is home to some of the most wondrous dive sites, where hundreds of hungry sharks gather in schools to be joined by manta rays and bottle-nosed dolphins.
Diving Rangiroa’s reefs and channels you can expect to see grey reef hammerhead, black tips, silky, tiger and silver tip shark species cruising the reef, hunting on schools of snapper and fusiliers. Whilst drift diving through the 1200m wide channel at North Fakarava Island, you can experience incredible shark action, see huge Napoleon wrasse and witness marbled groupers spawning.
Our diving itinerary takes you through the Tuamotu Island chain, with a 10 night loop from Rangiroa to Fakarava (or vv), which maximises the time spent in this area.
Dive sites are typically channel or “Pass” dives and the route planning for each trip is highly dependent upon the incoming and out-going tides for each island. We dive the optimum tide for each site to bring you the ultimate in pelagic fish action. Strong currents to be expected and it is therefore recommended divers have experience beyond beginner level to ensure maximum enjoyment. Dive sites also include outer reefs, plateaus and coral gardens found with the lagoon, where currents are less intense and many smaller creatures can be found.
During this expedition we use the Cousteau Divers site assessment methodology and provide participants with educational and awareness-raising material.
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
Jacques Yves Cousteau
The following is a description of the dive sites we may visit during your liveaboard safari as the M/V French Polynesia Master cruises between Rangiroa and Fakarava. We have included the highlights; however the yacht may also stop at numerous smaller islands along the way including Arutua, Kankura and Niau. A typical diving day will see you cruising through channels and exploring the outer reefs of the atolls, yet there are numerous of shallow dive sites within the Tuamotu Archipelago, each with stunning hard corals, sheltering all manner of crustaceans and molluscs.
On a typical day we offer up to 4 day dives however the 4th day dive may be substituted for a night dive when the boat is anchored within a lagoon.
The diving day may be scheduled as follows:
• Light Breakfast followed by a briefing and Dive 1
• Full Breakfast, relaxation period, briefing and Dive 2
• Lunch, relaxation period, briefing and Dive 3
• Snack relaxation period, briefing and perhaps Dive 4 where possible
Guests may also take the opportunity to visit the islands and walk upon the pristine beaches.
Tiputa Pass - Dropping in at the outer edge divers can hook in to the reef wall and watch the amazing shark display. Hammerheads, tiger shark and huge schools of grey reef shark are the main draw. Drift on the incoming tide through The Canyons, where schools of big eyes hang out and mantas can be seen hanging in the cross current. End the dive at Shark Cave where white tips typically come to rest. Other common fish species are grouper and Napoleon wrasse.
Tiputa Reef - On the ocean side of the pass the reef plateaus out at 20m into a magnificent coral garden. Schools of barracuda, turtles, white tip sharks, small wrasse and many colourful reef fish species can be seen. Mantas put in an occasional appearance, bottle nose dolphins too.
Deep Blue - Or simply ‘‘The Blue’’ is the deep water on the ocean side of Tiputa Pass. Here we drop divers directly from the boat to descend to 20m and hang in the blue as the sharks are tempted up to the shallower depths by dropping stones. Expect to see grey reef, silky and silver tip sharks as well as bottlenose dolphins.
Nuhi Nuhi - A shallow coral garden where angel fish, butterfly fish, anthias and all manner of small creatures can be spotted. Look out for leaf fish.
Mypristis - The coral reef acts as a nursery for grey reef sharks in season. Typically divers can see large numbers of marbled grouper and many anemones with resident clown fish.
Tehere Pass - The strong currents through the pass mean divers can literally hang like a flag in the breeze! Reef hooks are essential if you want to stay and enjoy the hundreds of grey reef sharks hunting on fusiliers. Tuna, dolphins and swordfish can also be seen. The seabed and wall is more rubble than coral reef so simply drift in the current and enjoy the large pelagics.
Pakaka Pass - A more gentle drift than the Tehere Pass brings you through a pristine coral garden with table and staghorn corals. Silver tip and black tip reef sharks are seen darting in about the shallow corals, whilst numerous eagle rays are frequently sighted.
Otugi Pass - The 400m wide channel is best dived on an incoming tide for the schools of grey reef sharks and silvertips.
Teahuroa - The outer reef wall is where huge schools of snapper congregate. Reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse, barracuda, surgeon fish and big eyes join them, whilst manta ray sightings are possible too.
Garaue Pass - The northernmost channel of Fakarava Island and arguable the best site in the region for consistent shark sightings. The pass itself is 1600mwide and should only be dived at slack water due to the very strong currents. Starting at the outer wall we encounter the huge ‘‘wall of sharks’’ where hundreds of greys congregate. Black tip, white tip, hammerhead, tiger, silky and oceanic white tip are amongst the other species seen. Napoleon wrasse, surgeon fish and the typical schools of big eyes and yellow snapper swarm over the reefs, joined by turtles, morays and lionfish. In June and July, large numbers of grouper aggregate to spawn, a truly spectacular sight. Manta rays also visit.
Maiuru - A submerged plateau on the outer edge of the pass, levels out at 18m into a lovely hard coral garden. At the ‘drop off ’ you can encounter shark activity, whilst over the reef paddletail snapper and barracuda form large schools. Manta rays and eagle rays come by for cleaning and a quick meal and there are plenty of smaller creatures including nudibranchs and crabs to spot amongst the corals and sponges.
Ohutu - The second plateau starts at 12m and drops to 30m with vibrant corals this is a superb place to watch manta rays.
Avaturo Pass - Strong currents are to be expected but bring forth a wide range of pelagic species from reef sharks to tuna and the occasional sailfish.
Restaurant Pier - This shallow site is perfect for an afternoon dive where schools of snapper, black tip reef sharks and Napoleon wrasse are common with a stunning atmosphere for photography.
The Astral Star, a long range cruiser built by Codecasa and designed by Camper Nicholson, will undergo a full refit prior to her re-launch as the French Polynesia Master, in May 2016.
Guests may choose between lower deck, middle deck and upper deck cabins, each are en-suite and have individual air conditioning units. Communal relaxation areas are split between the middle and upper decks comprising of a spacious indoor dining area, camera set up station and guest storage drawers, lounge bar with comfortable bench seating and plasma screen, shaded outdoor seating area and a sundeck.
Dive equipment is set up and stored on the rear of the middle deck. All guests are allocated an individual set up station, with under bench storage for masks, fins and other personal items. A central camera table can be used to store prepared equipment ahead of the dive, with dedicated rinse tanks provided. Divers can take advantage of the on deck shower hoses or use the starboard side deck head to rinse off between dives.
The Captain and our team of Waterproof Expeditions and Cousteau Divers welcomes you on board this special trip to one of worlds' most stunning islands.
The most spectacular pelagic diving on the planet!
This journey is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Captain and to rediscover the unique underwater world in the Galapagos Islands. Our mission is to continue to inspire the future generations with the Cousteau legacy, and hope you join us to make this happen !