The MOST popular snorkel dive spot in French Polynesia.
Monday 8 January 2018 06:21 GMT
Northwest of Tahiti, the snorkeling in Moorea is well-known for its dozen protected dive spots with diverse marine life. The Moorea snorkeling spots are located within the lagoon that is protected by the remaining atoll barrier reefs. While some consider Moorea snorkeling to be some of the best in the world, it seems like those stories come more from the scuba community doing deep water dives and not from those doing the lagoon snorkel spots. With the high mountains and fast moving rivers, the water clarity in the lagoon can be adversely affected during the rainy summer season from November to March where it can rain for many days straight. In this summer season, the lagoon visibility can be down to 10 feet, while in the drier winter season from April to October the visibility can be up to 60 feet (hardly exceptional).
The lagoon snorkeling is known for scattered coral patch reefs in sand flats that provide habitat for hundreds of species of colorful tropical reef fish, stingrays, black-tipped reef sharks and giant clams up to 20cm diameter. The best Moorea snorkeling can be found at the following dive sites in order of level of difficulty from beginner to advanced.
On the northwest side of Moorea, the easiest snorkeling dive is in the artificial lagoon of the InterContinental Moorea Resort where the ReefQuest underwater snorkel trail is located. While the lagoon has consistent gentle currents, the beginner snorkelers enjoy the numerous man-made reefs with plenty of transplanted coral and giant clams. These formations provide habitat to plenty of reef fish, and you may even see a 3 to 6 foot black-tipped reef shark cruising through the protected lagoon. During ReefQuest snorkeling, you may encounter threadfin butterflyfish, starry pufferfish, trumpetfish, picasso triggerfish, turtles, moorish idols, wrasse, unicornfish and surgeonfish. The ReefQuest snorkel trail showcases the transplanted coral on the artificial reefs within the InterContinental lagoon. The snorkel trail does exit the lagoon and follow the buoy line near the Moorea Dolphin habitat, but the currents get much stronger outside the artificial lagoon.
Also nearby, the Aquarium snorkeling dive site is located to the northeast of the InterContinental outside of the artificial lagoon. There are numerous scattered coral heads in water from 5 to 15 feet deep. During Moorea Aquarium snorkeling, you may encounter longfin bannerfish, pennant bannerfish, moorish idols, banded sergeant fish, spotted box fish and tangs. In addition to the usual reef fish, you may encounter stingrays, sea turtles and an occasional black-tipped reef shark. When snorkeling out from the InterContinental, you’ll first need to cross the channel to the northeast of the turtle sanctuary. The channel is known for a strong current, so it is best to start heading out about a half hour before low tide (i.e. slack tide).
Off the northwest side of Moorea, the snorkeling at Stingray World offer an intimate experience with the namesake marine life. Located in the Tiahura Marine Park to the northwest of the InterContinental Moorea Resort, the Stingray World snorkeling area is considered a sandbar off the deeper channel and has a water depth of roughly five feet. This is a boat accessed snorkeling dive site usually only frequented by boats coming from the InterContinental dock, so its not too crowded. During Stingray World snorkeling, you will typically encounter a half-dozen stingrays and up to three dozen circling black-tipped reef sharks.
Also in the Tiahura Marine Park on the northwest coast, the Coco Beach snorkeling spot is located between Motu Tiahura and Motu Fareone. In waters from 3 to 10 feet deep, there are plenty of reef fish and stingrays among the scattered colorful coral heads. During Coco Beach snorkeling, you may encounter flowery flounder, yellowfin goatfish, squirrelfish and solderfish. While this is a popular stop for snorkel boat tours, there is usually a strong current between the motus. Most snorkelers come out on a snorkeling tour boat, but the alternative is to use the boat provided by the rustic Coco Beach Restaurant on Motu Tiahura (+689-72-5726), which has a very small one-way fee if you plan to eat at the cafe.
Off the east coast of Moorea to the north of the Vaiare port town, the snorkeling at Temae Plage Publique offers shallow waters protected by a barrier reef. This may be the best snorkeling on Moorea with very healthy coral and anemones. The coral heads are vibrant with plenty of trumpetfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, anemone, clownfish, giant clams (20cm), stingrays, hawksbill turtles and black-tipped reef sharks. The Temae public beach is located just northeast of Hotel Sofitel Moorea. From the public beach, you’ll want to snorkel to the east for about 700 feet offshore against the current out to the edge of the lagoon. The coral heads are truly amazing and there is good water clarity. It is best to attempt about an hour before low tide when the current slack. In addition to the public beach, there are some good coral heads just to the north of the Hotel Sofitel resort.
Further south along the east coast is the Moorea Lagoonarium snorkeling destination. Located offshore on Motu Ahi, the boat-accessed Lagoonarium (lagoonarium.e-monsite.com) provides beginner snorkelers with a protected environment to see marine life.
Off the northshore of Moorea, the snorkeling at Plage Publique de Ta’ahiamanu in ‘Opunohu Bay provides good shore accessed coral formations. Depending upon currents, there could be good visibility. Look for the Mareto Underwater Trail with five stations to find. Further north offshore and to the west of the Hilton Resort is the Anemones snorkel spot. Anemones is a shallow water lagoon dive with good marine life. The water depth is roughly 5 feet deep. During an Anemones snorkeling dive, you may encounter anemones, sea turtles and black-tipped reef sharks.
On the southshore to the east of the village of Atiha are two good snorkeling dive spots. Both are accessible from the road side parking and there are some hidden stairs built into the rocky shore line. Good water clarity can be found among the scattered coral heads.
Off the northshore of Moorea, the snorkeling at Papeto’ai Point is popular for encounters with spinner dolphins and scorpionfish. This is a shore-accessed dive site with parking from the informal boat ramp at the point. Make sure to use a diver down flag since there is nearby boat traffic.
Off the northshore of Moorea to the northwest of Papeto’ai Point, the snorkeling at Rays Corridor is known for its cruising eagle rays and white-tipped reef sharks. Within the lagoon, the water depth ranges from 5 feet to 50 feet deep. While you could access this dive site from shore, you may find it more convenient to access by boat. This is a beginner level boat-accessed dive spot, but watch out for boat traffic. A diver down flag is recommended.
After a long day of snorkeling, there are several good apres dive places to hang out including Hotel Tipaniers Beach Restaurant, Hotel Kaveka wharf restaurant and the Moorea Beach Club.
To reach the Moorea snorkeling from Tahiti by air, fly into the Moorea Temae airport (MOZ). There are regular inter-island flights on Air Tahiti from capital city of Papeete on the island of Tahiti via Fa’a'a International Airport (PPT) which takes about 10 minutes to go the 12 miles. In addition, there are some inter-island flights from some of the other nearby islands on Air Tahiti. The main international airlines serving Fa’a’a Airport are Air Tahiti Nui (Los Angeles), Hawaiian Airlines (Honolulu) and Air France. To continue on to one of the many islands within French Polynesia, the inter-island airline is Air Tahiti. Due to unusual flight times with long layovers on Tahiti, you might appreciate the day room rentals at the Intercontinental Tahiti.
In addition to the regular inter-island flights, there is a daily ferry service to the east side port of Vaiare from the island of Tahiti, which takes about 45 minutes.
Overall, Moorea is the 1st most popular snorkel dive spot of all 13 snorkeling dives in French Polynesia.