Northeast of Tahiti in the Tuamotu Island Chain, the snorkeling off Rangiroa Island is known for its giant clams and shark encounters. Known for the best snorkeling in Polynesia, the Tuamotu archipelago consists of Rangiroa, Fakarava and Tikehau. The island of Rangiroa is located about 220 miles northeast of the island of Tahiti. It is the largest atoll in the southern hemisphere. The atoll barrier reef creates a protected lagoon that is habitat to plenty of black-tipped reef sharks. The best time of year for Rangiroa snorkeling is during the winter months from May to September when there is less rain and the surf is calmer.
The best Rangiroa snorkeling is off Motu Nuhi Nuhi, which is a small coral islet located just inside the lagoon at Tiputa Pass. During a Motu Nuhi Nuhi snorkeling dive, you may encounter giant calms, triggerfish, convict surgeonfish, unicornfish, parrotfish, damselfish, snappers, butterflyfish, wrasse, angelfish, barracuda, moray eels, manta rays, black-tipped reef sharks and white-tipped reef sharks. This boat-accessed snorkeling dive site has waters ranging from 3 to 10 meters deep. The west side of the islet was protected waters locally known as The Aquarium. This dive site is good for beginners and offers a colorful coral garden with good bio-diversity. The east side of Moto Nuhi Nuhi faces Tiputa Pass, which offers 10 meter deep waters with strong currents that are frequented by turtles, manta rays, black-tipped reef sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, and the occasional hammerhead shark. There is usually plenty of current in Tiputa Pass and is best as a drift-dive.
The other popular snorkeling dive site is off Kia Ora Resort. While there isn’t much coral, there is plenty of marine life. During Kia Ora snorkeling, you may encounter yellow-banded pipefish, long-nose surgeonfish, red-tooth triggerfish, black triggerfish and shrimp gobies.
To reach the Rangiroa snorkeling by air, there are regular inter-island flights on Air Tahiti from Fa’a’a International (PPT) near Papeete, 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. In case you are coming from the Cook Islands, Air Tahiti also serves Cook Islands to Fa’a’a Airport.
Overall, Rangiroa is the 5th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 13 snorkeling dives in French Polynesia.