By Mark Kolsen
I spent a month snorkeling French Polynesia in February 2022. I flew into Papeete (Tahiti) and then spent two weeks on Moorea, a week on Bora Bora, and a week on Raiatea.
Snorkeling Moorea – The Best
If you have less time, spend it on Moorea: Temae Beach (next to the Sofitel) is both lengthy and beautiful, with by far the best snorkeling among the three islands I visited. The most gorgeous shades of lavender and purple I’ve never seen.
Most of the best coral lies in front of the Sofitel, so when you enter the Temae Beach parking lot, drive as far as possible towards the Sofitel’s overwater bungalows, and then enter the water as near as possible to them.
Snorkeling is also good off Tipanier Beach across from Motu Tiahura; enter the water in front of the Hotel Tipanier; to your right (as you look at the water) you will see a blue lane used by boats; use that lane to snorkel out to the red buoys in deeper water, as the near shore water is very shallow and swimming over and around the nearshore corals is difficult.
If you’re into tours, you can take a much advertised “snorkel while feeding the stingrays and nurse sharks” tour that takes you to the motus; it’s fun and reasonably priced.
Snorkeling Bora Bora
Bora Bora is dingier and less fun to snorkel; its only public beach has no coral in front of it. A boat tour to the “coral gardens” was worth it: the guide coaxed a moray eel out of its den, the largest moray I have ever seen.
Bora Bora also has an isolated shallow reef where a few mantas hang out; after snorkeling it for 20 minutes, I encountered two of them (photo), and for a full 30 minutes they swam at and around me, inspecting me all the time. It was the most “magical” snorkeling experience of my life. IF you intend to snorkel in Bora Bora and would like to know the spot where these mantas apparently hang out, comment and I will do my best to pinpoint the location.
Raiatea has some beautiful reefs surrounding its motus, but unless you’re a very strong swimmer, you need a kayak or boat to reach them. If you book Raiatea’s top rated airbnb, the owner will happily take you out to snorkel the motus. Raiatea is a beautiful island, much less touristy than Bora Bora.