Diving with Sharks in French Polynesia
By SDI Ambassador Olaf Fischer
French Polynesia is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with its crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and breathtaking coral reefs. But the islands also have something else to offer, something that many divers dream of: the opportunity to dive with sharks. Lots of them. One of the best places to experience this is in Tetamanu, a small village on the Fakarava Atoll, which is known for its vast shark populations.
Tetamanu is a small village located on the Fakarava Atoll, which is one of the largest shark sanctuaries in the world. The village is mainly owned by family members and takes about an hour by boat from the main villages in Fakarava. The incredible ecosystem of the Fakarava Atoll is a registered UNESCO biosphere reserve. It is one of the most beautiful and diverse underwater environments in the world, with a wide range of marine life, including manta rays, dolphins, and sharks.
Best Time to See Sharks in Tetamanu
The moderate current at the southern pass of Fakarava offers almost perfect conditions and an endless supply of food for all kinds of sharks. The southern pass is the best place to see sharks in Tetamanu. They gather to rest during the day and form an immense ‘Wall of Sharks’ in the channel of this amazing atoll. An impressive and slightly frightening sight even for the most experienced divers among us. Depending on the in or outgoing current, you can sometimes see more or less sharks in the pass. At day time you want to drop into the pass on the ocean side of the reef when the current is incoming.
Encounters with Sharks in Tetamanu South Pass
When you are finally in the water, let yourself drift along the reef, carefully holding on from time to time, so that you can appreciate the breathtaking beauty of your surroundings and experience the magic of Fakarava, an endless wall of sharks. The sharks are not aggressive. It’s the opposite. They are actually pretty shy, and you need to approach them very carefully if you want to get a closeup. Once in a while, one curious shark leaves the group to check out the divers but drifts back to the group afterward. The current will eventually take you to the shallow area, where you can enjoy a magnificent coral garden and marvel at the wondrous display with all the different colors of the beautiful coral.
Shark Species in French Polynesia
French Polynesia is home to over 16 species of sharks, including blacktip, grey reef, and lemon sharks. The most common shark species in French Polynesia is the blacktip reef shark, which can be seen in large numbers in the lagoons and passes. The grey reef shark is also a common sight, and it is known for its curious nature, often approaching divers for a closer look.
Other Marine Life in French Polynesia
French Polynesia is not just about sharks. The islands have a rich and diverse marine life that is worth exploring. The coral reefs are home to an array of colorful fish, including trigger fish, parrotfish, and butterflyfish. In addition, manta rays, dolphins, and turtles can also be spotted in the waters around French Polynesia.
Conservation Efforts in French Polynesia
Conservation efforts are crucial to protect the marine life and ecosystem in French Polynesia. In 2019, the French government created a massive marine protected area (MPA) surrounding the Gambier Islands and the Marquesas Islands. The MPA covers 1.7 million square kilometers and includes 65 islands and atolls. It is one of the largest protected areas in the world and aims to protect the biodiversity of the area, including its shark population.
In addition, there are several conservation organizations working to protect sharks and other marine life in French Polynesia. One such organization is the Pew Charitable Trusts, which has been working with local communities and governments to create shark sanctuaries in the Pacific Ocean. The organization has been instrumental in establishing the shark sanctuary in French Polynesia, which covers over 4 million square kilometers and is one of the largest in the world.
Video by Olaf Fischer
French Polynesia is a beautiful destination for divers who want to experience diving with lots and lots of sharks in their natural habitat. The opportunity to dive with sharks in Tetamanu is a unique experience that should not be missed. With its rich and diverse marine life, French Polynesia is a must-visit destination for any diver. However, it is important to remember that conservation efforts are crucial to protect the ecosystem and marine life in French Polynesia, including its shark population. By supporting these efforts, we can ensure that future generations can also enjoy the beauty of the underwater world in French Polynesia.