Rangiroa is the largest atoll in French Polynesia and the second largest in the world. The white-sand Motu that make up this atoll are flat and covered in coconut trees, and only two are inhabited. The people that live here make a livelihood out of pearl farming, fishing, copra (dried meat of the coconut) and tourism.
Perhaps the most well-known feature of Rangiroa is its phenomenal lagoon, which is so massive that it has its own horizon! The waters are crystal clear, full of marine life and have a maximum depth of 35 metres. The biodiversity contained within this natural aquarium includes sharks, dolphins, rays, wrasse, tuna, barracuda, giant grouper, and an impressive array of reef fish, among many others.
The calm conditions and shallow waters make diving in the lagoon perfect for beginners and refresher courses. Drift dives through the various passes of the lagoon and out past the outer reef are accessible and suitable for the more advanced diver. Drop-offs, caves, walls, and canyons are some of the underwater topographical features that you can look forward to exploring.
Rangiroa has a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year.
Wet Season – October to April
Rainfall is generally experienced as short, sharp showers that clear up quickly, allowing the atoll to experience up to 8 hours of sunshine per day. The moisture in the air, along with the hot temperatures, contribute to higher humidity during these months. Daytime temperatures reach 29.5°C and drop to 24.5°C overnight. Due to its location, the atoll of Rangiroa is less exposed to tropical cyclones.
Dry Season – May to October
Precipitation falls off during these months and is only really prevalent in the early mornings and evenings. The sun is bright, and temperatures are warm, averaging 28.5°C during the day and dipping to 23.5°C overnight.
The crystal clear, shallow waters of the lagoon host a wide variety of marine species including sharks, dolphins, various species of rays, large pelagic fish, and a multitude of brightly coloured reef fish.
Several passes run between the lagoon and open ocean which are teeming with life, including sharks, dolphins, rays, jackfish, grouper, soldierfish, sailfish, unicornfish, snapper, eels, nudibranch and much more!
There are dive sites for all levels of divers and snorkelers won’t be disappointed with the underwater spectacle in the lagoon.
Diving is conducted year-round. Eagle Rays and Hammerheads are most abundant between January and April, manta rays are most likely to be spotted between July and September, and you have a chance of spotting migrating humpback whales from the beginning of August to the middle of October.
Three dive sites can be visited along this ocean pass. Avatour Reef is a coral plateau ideally situated to spot silvertip sharks, bigeye jackfish, and even African pompano jackfish. Little Pass is a drift dive accessible through the incoming current, where you can spot blacktip and whitetip sharks, moray eels, groupers, and scorpion fish. This dive finishes in the calm waters of the lagoon where you can swim along a beautiful coral garden surrounded by hundreds of colourful reef fish. Mahuta is a drift dive that can only be done if the weather permits and on an incoming current for the best visibility. Drift into an underwater valley with a wall covered in corals and teeming with life, including unicornfish, surgeonfish, fusiliers, snappers, and the occasional manta or leopard ray. Marine life in this area varies from the smallest nudibranch to the largest blacktip sharks. All three dive sites are suitable for all levels of diver with experience diving in currents. Max Depth: 20m
Six ocean dive sites are scattered throughout this pass. Tiputa Reef is a coral plateau giving way to a sudden drop-off teeming with life. Keep an eye out for turtles, whitetip sharks, grey sharks, grouper, jackfish, and barracuda. Myripristis (Soldierfish) Reef is named after the resident school of soldierfish that call this reef home. Other underwater wonders include anemones with their resident clownfish, soft coral, marbled grouper, sharks and rays. At the right time of year, this reef becomes a nursery for grey sharks. The Angle is a drop-off where you can see large schools of snappers and scads continually trying to avoid becoming the jacks, wrasse, tuna, and sharks next meal. This dive is subject to strong currents and, therefore, an advanced dive certification is required. The Blue is a dive site true to its name - stare out into the deep blue and spot barracudas, jackfish, tuna, a variety of sharks, and bottlenose dolphins. A good mastery of buoyancy control is required to visit this dive site. The Step is a drift dive that requires good buoyancy control. The underwater topography includes a step, canyons, and the Motu Nuhi Nuhi. The best way to make the most of this dive is to be patient and stay alert; pelagic encounters can come from anywhere and are always very varied. The Canyons is a drift dive accessible through the incoming current, and the canyons are actually faults within the pass. These faults provide refuge from the current for fish and divers alike. Surgeonfish, wrasse, sharks, and soldierfish can be seen in the pass, and at the major crossing point, manta rays and hammerhead sharks can be seen. Max Depth: 26m
On the island of Tikehau, only a short boat ride from Rangiroa is a Motu in the middle of the lagoon that is wild, untouched, and covered in thousands of nesting birds. Due to the lack of human habitation, these birds haven’t been hunted and, therefore, are unafraid. This is an exceptional experience where you can get up close with birds in their natural habitat.
Pack a picnic and visit one of the hundreds of white-sand Motu that dot the lagoon for a day of relaxing and snorkelling. Take a tour to La Sable Rose (The Pink Sand); a small Motu covered in shells that have been ground down to give the sand it’s pink hue. Visit the Dominique Auroy Estate for a wine tasting experience that you’ll never forget. The estate produces three grape varieties and is located within a coconut grove. Visit a pearl farm to learn about how the pearls are harvested and how the locals are taking steps to farm sustainably and keep their atoll pristine. Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting markets, coral churches, and the cultural centre.
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