By Patricia R Ogden – (Southern California)
Here is my Moorea and Bora Bora snorkeling trip report from April and May 2011. We stayed at the Hilton Lagoon on Moorea and Bora Bora and at the Sofitel on Bora Bora.
Overwater bungalows at the Hiltons were spectacular – snorkeling from the bungalow was very good in Moorea, and OK in Bora Bora. The Bora Bora Hilton faces the open water, with only bungalows numbered in the 100 series with a shore or hill view. The Chapel at the Hilton was very beautiful – I would love to get married there but I already am.
The Sofitel on Bora Bora has very good snorkeling off the motu, their best site. The Sofitel on Moorea is also a lovely setting. We requested the boat shuttle from the shore drop us there and we swam back to the Sofitel motu dock and took the boat shuttle back. I saw a Giant Moray Eel here, the only one on the trip.
The Sofitel basic garden bungalows are average, with no light when you close the sliding glass door or windows, which you must for privacy. Nice staff. Hilton food was average. Sofitel was better than average. A hamburger was about $25-30, a tropical drink $15, glass of wine $12-15 at all hotels. Shuttles to small town nearby for fee. Local fish were best choices.
We went in late April – early May. It rained four days and was somewhat cloudy others, and windy. This weather was disappointing. We’d say to go later in the year. Snorkel visibility was better than average. Water was very warm.
Activity desks at the hotels only provide information about their proprietary offerings, making it difficult to discover snorkeling locations. Their trips offered 30 minute snorkel drops or duplicated visits to see sharks and rays.
Use the tourist pamphlets titled “Island Guide” available in the Papeete Airport and at public visitor information centers, or at tahitiguide.com. These guides were not available in the hotels.
Fodor’s guide does not identify snorkeling separate from diving sites, and most dive sites are too deep for good snorkel viewing.
On Moorea besides the Bora Bora Hilton itself, our best snorkel was at The Lagoonarium Village. We hired a catamaran but there are tours with a pick up shuttle on certain days. The coral garden there is beautiful, and there was also many species of fish. I also did a Hilton Activities Desk trip that left from the Intercontinental to see rays and sharks. They did a coral garden 30-minute snorkel that was very good also.
My husband went deep sea fishing and caught a five pound tuna, the only catch on the boat that day. The captain stated that the very large fish were gone from overfishing.
On Bora Bora we got a dive boat company (Bora Bora Blue at the Pearl) to take us with them, but we had to accept their dive itinerary. We did three locations – one outside the reef at Haapiti. This was deep but I saw a giant triggerfish, sharks, and a cowfish, unusual sightings. Then to Anau, inside the reef, with a lovely coral garden, and frequent ray sightings. I saw a turtle here. The afternoon dive was at Toopua. This was beautiful, inside the reef, but with heavy current. These dives were unsupervised, but OK for confident careful snorkelers. The price was reasonable.
A day trip from Bora Bora to Maupiti was possible using the public ferry, but again, was not offered by the hotel. Inter-island transit mostly goes through Papeete, making island-hopping a time-eater, as do boat shuttle transits on Bora Bora.
Dive centers did not have separate snorkel tours, and weren’t knowledgeable about snorkeling venues either, in general, nor were the hotels, unlike the Virgins and Hawaii vacations we have been on. Plan excursions the day before because not all are offered each day or morning departures are missed while doing planning.
Bora Bora is very very beautiful, as is Moorea. For overall vacation bucks value, Hawaii and the Caribbean are very good alternative choices, if you can give up the dream of seeing the far South Pacific. Ten days is plenty of resort hotel living, too, by the way. Hotel access for snorkeling is private – you must pay a user fee or stay, or eat lunch, depending on the hotel. We were told that the bays were not good for snorkeling. I estimate I saw over 100 species, all different from Hawaii and the Virgins.
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Galen & Nicole – May 18, 2011 – Great Trip Report
Great report on your trip. It is great to read your insights and have them shared here. Thank you.
For those interested, here is another report about the snorkeling in Moorea.
Ann – Jun 19, 2011 – Marquesas-Mantas
Though Bora Bora inside the reef is still the best snorkeling I’ve ever found… Up in the Marquesas, snorkeling with “flights” of baby manta rays feeding in the shallows was outstanding! The big mantas are usually in deeper water, but visible and audible “flying” out of the water and slapping back down, in the bay at Nuku Hiva. It’s an expensive trip, but I found the South Pacific far better for snorkeling than the Caribbean or Hawaii, probably due to fewer tourists and less pollution.
CCRider – Apr 10, 2016 – Sofitel Private Island, Bora Bora
Presently staying at the Sofitel Private Island Resort at Bora Bora. This resort is situated on an island (motu), in the eastern part of the Bora Bora lagoon, about a half mile from the main island.
On the back side of the island is a beautiful coral garden, which is frequented by hundreds, if not thousands of people everyday, especially when the cruise ships are in port. We call it the pee garden, and are thoroughly disgusted with it, especially after seeing the tour boats arrive with their masses.
The water along the shoreline of the main island is polluted with sewage, and cloudy, and should be avoided.
Luckily for all who live and vacation here, the lagoon is constantly being flushed out with fresh crystal clear sea water. As a result, there is still some amazing snorkeling to be found. We have been taking the hotel’s kayak out to the reef, approximately one mile away from the island. Gliding over about six feet of the most amazingly clear water we have ever seen, and tying it up to buoys which someone has placed at convenient locations along the reef.
It’s apparent that the reef has been over-fished, but there is still plenty of variety and numbers, albeit smaller fish than you would expect. The coral however is breathtaking, both in color and abundance.
There is another great snorkeling spot on the tip of the motu next to the one we are staying on, where we had close up viewings of Spotted Eagle Rays, Giant Moray Eels, and huge schools of many varieties of needlefish, tangs, etc.
Dave – Feb 16, 2018 – Snorkeling Moorea, Bora Bora, Raitea Report 2017/2018
We chartered a catamaran in Raitea and sailed from there to Taha’a and Bora Bora. Before our sailing adventure we spent time in Moorea. We stayed at the Sofitel. There is some very nice snorkeling here in very shallow water (three feet). You can go out to the reef as well from here. Very nice beach. Not crowded.
In Bora Bora we found some great snorkeling off To’opua. We anchored there for three nights. There is lovely snorkeling in 15 feet of water along the motu. But you can swim or kayak out near to the reef where you can snorkel in four feet of water with 30 stingrays. Look for the morning tourist boats that come to feed them. Wait until they clear off, and then go snorkeling by yourself!
The “Aquarium” on the other side of the island near Motu Piti is full of wonderful fish, some nice coral bommies, but lots of tourist snorkelers.
If you are on a yacht you can anchor in 20 feet of water near Taurere Point. You can paddleboard over to the Aquarium in about 30 minutes, or dinghy over in 10 minutes. There is a decent drift snorkel off Point Taurere in about five feet of water.
Another less reported snorkeling area is on Raitea off Opoa near the reef. There is a small island there where you can beach your dinghy. This reef is very good. You will find great coral in about 6-7 feet of water, lots of fish, some black tip sharks.
Nicole & Galen – Jul 18, 2020 – More French Polynesia Info
For anyone interested there is some more information about snorkeling sites in Bora Bora on this page, and a story about snorkeling Rangiroa, French Polynesia here.