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Tahiti - Moorea Trip


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#1 pablo

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 08:04 AM

INTRODUCTION

There are always risks when you travel. On that score we were unlucky, getting in only one day of 2 dives each due to bad weather. The season of the year you choose can impact your enjoyment. Weather (cyclones in our case), rain, runoff, and surge made for poor diving even when we did get out. But no one can blame a tourist destination for those factors.

However if you're planning to go to Tahiti, diving or not, our response is "What's you're second choice?" I'm a believer in underpromising and overdelivering. French Polynesia reverses that: they overpromise and underdeliver - big time.

LODGING & FLIGHTS

We stayed at Club Bali Hai. Took Hawaiian Air via Honolulu from LA.

COSTS

If you're not rich and wish to visit French Polynesia, save your money for a long time ahead. It's terribly expensive and the values are poor. We're upper middle class and I spend money fairly easily, but if we pay premium dollar x 3 then we expect to see premium value x 3. This is a place where tourism is far along on the downhill side, yet they still want to monstrously overcharge for everything. Some travel books explain this and even make a point of the whole thing as if once they've issued a disclaimer then that means everything should be okey-dokey now. But this place has fine-tuned ripoff and squeeze to a high degree.

- Cabs: More expensive than stateside cities, and rates go up during non daylight hours. We sat down at 5 AM to wait for 6 AM to arrive in order to cut the cab fare by one-third from the airport to the ferry landing since we had nothing better to do with our time anyway. A lady taxi driver finally said "Get in" and took us to the ferry landing for the standard daytime rate, then after we unloaded (ourselves) proceeded to berate us with "Tahiti cost lot money. You no have lot money you no come to Tahiti!" and the drove off in a huff. Gas and rental cars are very expensive, although we did get a one-day rental from Hertz at the Papeete airport, of all vendors and of all locations, for $45.
- Food: Outrageous prices. Plan on $75 for dinner for two. Maybe some people from New York or S.F. pay that kind of money all the time and think nothing of it, but we figure we've lived high on the hog for an evening out if we go over $35.) Just a large container of bottled water costs over $5. We bought breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner food and simply ate in our room (or took a lunch with us) most of the time. One night out for dinner at a nearby hotel buffet cost us $150! You may easily pay that much in New York, but we don't consider NY someplace we wish to visit, either.
- Lodging: There is a range of choices but they are all healthily overpriced. There are "surcharges for electricity," ridiculous charges for local phone calls, etc.
- Credit card acceptance is only middling, and almost no merchant will accept one for less than $20 to $25 minimum purchases.
- What actual "supermarkets" you do locate charge to use shopping baskets and often you must buy the sacks for the groceries!
- Phone and Internet: High cost, high minimums, and poor availability.
- Trademark "Black Pearls": Your local jeweler can get them at a better price than anything you'll find in French Polynesia.
- Etc.

DIVING

We researched dive operators before going and came to the conclusion that Top Dive was the best. So we prearranged to dive with them. They were reasonably nice, but not overly anxious to please by any means.

The dive groups were small, but the boats were also small and poorly equipped. The were no rinse tanks of any kind onboard. The setup to deal with U/W photography was almost nil.

The facility itself was clean, well equipped, and handled Nitrox competently. Equipment was good although we used our own.

The divemasters were good - we saw the normal range of some friendly and some not as much so.

The diving was awful for our visit but that due to the bad weather and not the dive operation or the destination.

GENERAL

For the most part, French Polynesians have no clue about real service. The general attitude is one of cold politeness. There are always exceptions, but largely they seem to merely tolerate tourists.

You can usually find someone who speaks enough English to get by on the basics, but French is the predominant language (until you get to some of the smaller islands where the native languages are more common).

Above water scenery is great overall.

The Papeete airport has only one air-conditioned area for those long waits: upstairs in the "self-serve" eating area; depending on the season you visit that may not matter, but it's good to know.

The old "Les Truck" transportation is available, but getting around in French Polynesia is a challenge unless you wish to spend half your budget on transportation.

Anticipate a mosquito problem if you don't utilize a good repellant.

CONCLUSIONS

Even taking into account our bad luck weather the diving is only medium so far as we're concerned - OK but definitely not world class. (We've heard that the island of Rangiroa is really good; maybe some of the other out-of-the-way islands also have better diving.)

Tahiti is a has-been destination, rundown, declining, and foolishly squandering what little remains of goodwill towards their main revenue source: tourism. Probably some of that can be attributed to French socialism and arrogance, and typical native malaise. But when we heard of some local hotel executives meeting to brainstorm the boosting of tourism we could only say "Duh!" This country has priced itself out of the reasonable tourist market, their infrastructure is poor, the place is dirty, and their attitude towards visitors is awful. Go somewhere else where your visit will be more appreciated and receive better value for your money.

#2 ronrosa

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 09:07 AM

Hello Pablo:

Fellow video hobbyist here. Sorry to hear of your disappointment. I am considering a Tahiti vacation for my 10th anniversary. I do live in NY so I am used to high prices. But, I do expect quality for my dollar.

Couple of questions if you don't mind.

If you removed the cost of things, did you or would you have enjoyed your time there ? I ask, not because I like to spend money, but if I am aware of the costs ahead of time, I can be prepared and expect the high prices.

My sister loves all inclusives while I don't. So if she went to a non all inclusive she would probably not enjoy herself. Knowing that, I take her complaints with a grain of salt. We just have different likes and dislikes.

What other places have you vacationed ? Just trying to get an idea of the kinds of places you've been and liked.

#3 imasleeper

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 01:42 PM

Sorry to hear about your trip, Pablo.

My wife and I were there three years ago for our honeymoon and I would have to agree with your assessment. We found Tahiti proper to be overly developed and incredibly expensive. We stayed at the Intercontental on Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora where the breakfast buffet averaged $30 a person, lunch about the same, and dinners in town or at the resort were pretty close to $75 a person for average french cooking. We felt we were getting a steal when we found a menu item that consisted of two small pastries, a small glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee for $15. When I found a place that offered a burger and a beer for $8 I thought I had died and gone to heaven:-)!

We found Moorea, and Bora-Bora much more to our liking but costs remained high.

The diving was expensive by world standards and ok if you are after big stuff (I like little stuff!)

In the end we had a nice honeymoon;-) but I don't think we will go back!

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#4 DesertEagle

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 09:00 AM

Pablo, how was Club Bali Hai?

Back in the summer I was also looking at Moorea. In the end, I chose Fiji mostly due to the diving. It was also a very friendly place and the prices were reasonable.

Did you book through a travel agent?
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#5 pablo

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 04:19 PM

Club Bali Hai was just middle-of-the road. Only reason we selected that one was because my Dad had an unused RCI week and they do RCI exchanges. The best resorts on Moorea, listed by our preference, are:

1 - Sheraton
2 - Pearl
3 - Intercontinental

We booked through the RCI stuff although you can do it directly or through agents as well.

#6 Seriola

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 10:53 PM

pablo, when did you go? if you go during the rainy season you've gotta be willing to rough it a little... :blink:
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#7 mrbubbles

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 12:19 PM

We had a similar experience on rangaroa a few years ago. Everything was way overpriced. as americans the french who run most things were so rude and anti american they went out of the way to hassel us. I also would not recommend that area

#8 ChrisJ

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 06:55 AM

Sorry about your experience.

We honeymooned in French Polynesia for 2.5 weeks.
4 nights in three islands Moorea/Bora-Bora/Papeete, in that order.
All in Sheraton/Starwood Properties (I wanted the star-points)

Yes I agree with you that it is EXPENSIVE. We saved some $ by buying "groceries" and taking Les Truck whenever possible. We also made use of the concierge and available transport that the hotels had for free.

Overall we had a great experience. The Tahitians we encountered were very friendly, speaking in English or my conversational French. BUT IT DOES REALLY HELP TO SPEAK FRENCH, you get to ask/know where the good cheap eats are at, haggle in markets, and totally immerse yourself in the experience.

I agree with you about Papeete declining. I would have been happy without that leg of our trip.

As for the diving, we dove with Top Dive in Moorea and Papeete. Moorea was on-par, but Papeete was a great dive (the submerged plane.) In Bora Bora we had a private dive that was recommended by the hotel, it was one of the best dives we ever had.

Talking to my friends who honeymooned in elsewhere locations, Tahiti is not THAT overpriced. I had a friend who honeymooned in Hawaii and spent more. Speaking of Hawaii, there are places JUST as run-down in the non-tourist areas you speak of in Tahiti.

We went in November of 05 so it was the rainy season, but we expected it.
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#9 pablo

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 09:28 AM

I replied to some of the messages here by their emails which were sent to me, but I'll try to respond here to all...

First, I agree that there are some places that are as expensive as Tahiti, but I generally don't go there for vacations myself. And most of those still deliver on their expensive costs, whereas to me Tahiti does not. A taix driver was really upset with us that we waited until 6am (our flight arrived at 4:30 AM) until "night" rates dropped. I'm not cheap but we didn't have anything else to do and it was as easy to wait at the airport as it was at the Ferry landing. As soon as she dropped us off - where we had to unload our own bags - she proceeded to chew us out: "Tahiti cost lot money! You no have lot money you no come to Tahiti! We only met one other person who was that rude but it was indicative of the common tone in the minds of many. We also found some wonderful exceptions. But for us Tahiti is out of the question for the future.

As for the weather, note that in my initial post I pointed out that we knew we weren't going in the prime weather season, so we did not blame any of that on French Polynesia - and still don't. They can't help what mother nature throws at them. We just returned a week ago, and still remember the locals mentioning how they hadn't seen that muchn continuous bad weather for 30 years.

I think if anyone is goint to Tahiti I would recommend the July-Nov timeframe as that would be better weather.

Diving: Guess we're spoiled but after Palau last year Tahiti diving (what we did at least) was very tame, even for the "big stuff."

Places we recommend: Palau, Fiji, Costa Rica (not so much for the diving, though but a wonderful place to visit with a great amount of activities that are fascinating), Phillipines, etc.

#10 ronrosa

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 10:28 AM

For me, the draw for Tahiti is it's natural physical beauty. At least from how it looks in the pictures I've seen.

I'm considering it for a 10th anniversary trip. Although I would dive while there, I don't consider it a dive trip or a dive destination. If the diving is so-so that wouldn't bother me as much as if the islands, lagoon, mountains etc., were not as nice as what I see in the pictures.

I guess the best analogy I can think of is Kauai Hawaii. I go to Kauai Hawaii because it is the most beautiful place I've been to. My expectations of Tahiti are that it is step up above Hawaii in terms of physical beauty. Is that a reasonable expectation ?

#11 Drew

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 07:43 PM

Pablo
I'm sorry you didn't have a good time in Tahiti. I also understand your disappointment and how you think you've mispent your $$$ on a bad vacation but I think your opinion is a little harsh.

COSTS

If you're not rich and wish to visit French Polynesia, save your money for a long time ahead. It's terribly expensive and the values are poor. We're upper middle class and I spend money fairly easily, but if we pay premium dollar x 3 then we expect to see premium value x 3. This is a place where tourism is far along on the downhill side, yet they still want to monstrously overcharge for everything. Some travel books explain this and even make a point of the whole thing as if once they've issued a disclaimer then that means everything should be okey-dokey now. But this place has fine-tuned ripoff and squeeze to a high degree.

Value is something that is subjective. Tahiti has many islands and can be uber expensive. However, the logistics of getting supplies to the South Pacific should give you an idea of why it costs so much. To expect otherwise is just... well... unrealistic.

- Cabs: More expensive than stateside cities, and rates go up during non daylight hours...
- Food: Outrageous prices. Plan on $75 for dinner for two. ...
- Lodging: There is a range of choices but they are all healthily overpriced. There are "surcharges for electricity," ridiculous charges for local phone calls, etc.
- Credit card acceptance is only middling, and almost no merchant will accept one for less than $20 to $25 minimum purchases.
- What actual "supermarkets" you do locate charge to use shopping baskets and often you must buy the sacks for the groceries!
- Phone and Internet: High cost, high minimums, and poor availability.
- Trademark "Black Pearls": Your local jeweler can get them at a better price than anything you'll find in French Polynesia.
- Etc.

Well, again, fuel costs, storage, electricity generation all costs money and requires oil imports. Poultry is mostly local but much is imported. You have to be realistic with your expectations on prices. There is always a premium of expecting amenities in remote locations. The world seems smaller now with flights and communication, but doesn't mean it's the same everywhere. It is still basicly a remote island in the pacific.

Tahiti is a has-been destination, rundown, declining, and foolishly squandering what little remains of goodwill towards their main revenue source: tourism. Probably some of that can be attributed to French socialism and arrogance, and typical native malaise. But when we heard of some local hotel executives meeting to brainstorm the boosting of tourism we could only say "Duh!" This country has priced itself out of the reasonable tourist market, their infrastructure is poor, the place is dirty, and their attitude towards visitors is awful. Go somewhere else where your visit will be more appreciated and receive better value for your money.


I'll have to disagree with you on several points. I've been to Tahiti 6 or 7 times, the last time in 05. I have no problem with their service and all of the service staff I've met are friendly and helpful. Sure they are not the same as in the US in terms of polish and training but then again, I don't need them to be. The 'typical native malaise' ,as you put it, is part of the culture where they are just more relaxed about things, a trait I happen to find endearing. Papeete is a dirty rundown city, but show me a city that isn't all that rundown (ok Singapore is an exception). I still like going out to see how the locals live, work and party. That to me is part of the experience of travelling.
I've been on other islands and yes I speak french almost fluently, but as an american, I never experienced any attitude that wasn't universal to all. Again it's a cultural difference, or indifference as it were.
Unfortunately Pablo, your expectations were perhaps too high and research can't tell you everything about a destination. Yes Tahiti is expensive, very expensive, more so now with rising oil prices and the € so high and the $ taking a nose dive.

Ron, BoraBora is probably the more scenic of the islands that is easily accessible. For 10 year anniversary, I you'll have to forgo you V1 camera but the Sofitel Bora Bora is magnificent and quite secluded. Great for the romantic portion of the trip.
I found Tahaa and Raiatea(sp?) to be even more gorgeous with the amazing lagoons. If you understand what tahiti offers, I doubt you'd be disappointed.

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#12 pablo

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 09:24 PM

Well, to each his own. For us, Tahiti is not any kind of reasonable bargain compared to other places in the world.

I researched this on the web, and noted an unusual number of negative reports on French Polynesia - many more than could be attributed to the occasional bad experience. I think they have a serious problem and are on the downhill side.

We don't intend to return.

Edited by pablo, 07 February 2007 - 09:45 PM.


#13 loftus

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 05:08 AM

I think this is developing into an interesting thread that can be applied in a more general sense to the tourism industry in general. Most of the destinations we visit are mature in the sense that they have been providing tourist type services for a long time. I think Drew's argument regarding the laid back attitude may apply to those few places left where tourism is almost non-existent, or in very early stages of development, I do not think it is an excuse for places like Tahiti where tourism has been around for a long time, and the locals should be well aware of the value of tourism for them.
The Caribbean is a great example of how people can actually make a conscious effort to improve their attitude, or at least avoid creating a negative impression. Sadly, in my travels in the Carribean, there is a distinct difference based on the 'mother culture'. British and to a lesser extent, the Dutch Islands have made a much stronger conscious effort to cultivate tourism by educating their populations as to the value of tourism than the French Islands have. The Caymans, and more recently the Bahamas, are good examples of this. Guadelupe and Martinique are examples of deriorating attitudes IMHO.

Edited by loftus, 08 February 2007 - 05:10 AM.

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#14 Drew

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 01:25 PM

I think Drew's argument regarding the laid back attitude may apply to those few places left where tourism is almost non-existent, or in very early stages of development, I do not think it is an excuse for places like Tahiti where tourism has been around for a long time, and the locals should be well aware of the value of tourism for them.
The Caribbean is a great example of how people can actually make a conscious effort to improve their attitude, or at least avoid creating a negative impression. Sadly, in my travels in the Carribean, there is a distinct difference based on the 'mother culture'. British and to a lesser extent, the Dutch Islands have made a much stronger conscious effort to cultivate tourism by educating their populations as to the value of tourism than the French Islands have. The Caymans, and more recently the Bahamas, are good examples of this. Guadelupe and Martinique are examples of deriorating attitudes IMHO.


Loftus, I think you have to define "attitudes." Tourism has been around a long time in Tahiti, and part of the charm is the culture of the polynesians. If you are saying they all should lose their culture to appease tourists who want things more like home, then I for one am against that. It is not an "excuse" to be true to their own culture. Most Tahitians I've met have been super friendly , warm and helpful, whether they are in the service industry or not (The one who wasn't was the mother of my then girlfriend , so she doesn't count :lol:) I've also had taxi drivers in manhattan try to take the long way just to get the fare up and bitch and moan when you don't tip them enough afterward. They're all out to earn money, just as you do to go on these trips. Just because we are on holiday doesn't make them less frustrated as the cabbie at home. There are rude people everywhere in the world. And the other issue is that something that is rude in one culture isn't in another.
Some of the generalities being mentioned here are just as bad as the ugly, crass, warmongering american tourist or the rude, snooty, smelly french. It's unnecessary. Visiting a foreign country for a holiday is about fun and memories. Don't let a few individuals having a bad day (or life) ruin it for you. Obviously, if you didn't have fun, don't go back (as Pablo has already said). There's no need to disparage an entire population or destination.

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#15 loftus

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 03:02 PM

Well I've never been to Tahiti, so I certainly cannot comment about Tahitians. My general point is simply that some places clearly make far more effort than others to recognize that tourism is the industry that provides jobs and puts food on their table so to speak. They will recognize that tourists having a 'quality' experience, should not be arbitrary if they want people to return, and refer their friends. The principles are no different to any other business. Of course one will find friendly and unfriendly, honest and dishonest everywhere. I simply think that if islands who depend largely on tourism, are smart, they will recognize that quality is not an accident, it takes a conscious effort by business community and even government, to educate individuals who may deal with tourists of this fact.
Folks in Cayman are certainly laid back, yet by educating their service and general population of the value of tourism to their island, they have improved the quality of services provided to tourists, and the difference is quite noticeable. And Cayman is not cheap.
Other islands in the Caribbean, have obviously not made this effort, and it's clear at every level, irrespective of whether there are friendly people around or not.
Tourism is a 'global' industry, and those who want to compete have to realize that it actually takes some effort to be successful when tourists have choices. Tourists do not have to be 'appeased', just made to feel they are getting value for their money.

Edited by loftus, 08 February 2007 - 03:04 PM.

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#16 Drew

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 09:31 PM

As for value, it's subjective. While pablo and mrbubbles won't be returning to Tahiti because of value, obviously the annual increase of tourism and more international routes would suggest that others have found they get "value" despite the high prices. The only absolute is that some people won't be happy in certain places for whatever reason, be it price, food, weather or the color of the water. And I agree being in tourism means that service is important. I also encourage all to write about their experiences, good or bad. However, it is important to recognize that while tourism dollars feed the people in these destinations, it is reasonable to manage expectations based on cultural differences including what is rude and isn't etc.

If my Pirates of the Caribbean history doesn't fail me, Grand Cayman aka Tortuga is a relatively "new" with history dating from 1700s. That and the immigrant influx to support the new tourism and financial industry, gives it a unique blend of 20% non-"indigenous" immigrants with no cultural ties to the island life, except they wanna live it. They support a lot of the service industry in Cayman.

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#17 pablo

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 08:32 AM

Tahiti has been experiencing a decline in tourism. Club Med, for example, closed their operation on Moorea; now it's the Sheraton. I think the reason is that French Polynesia has a problem with their tourism attitudes.

If there were only spotty reports of people having a bad experience in Tahiti that would just be life. But when there's a systemic growth of such problems then that tells me they need to make some changes. And until they do, I can't recommend to others that they spend there money in Tahiti while there are so many other places where I think they can get better value for their $$. And of course that's my opinion, but I gave as honest a report. Having dive reports is not very useful if people can't tell the story as they really experienced it. Those who wish are free to go find out for themselves.

#18 Drew

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 09:21 AM

Pablo, I'm grateful for your report and am truly sorry for your bad trip. I only wish to relate my great experiences in French Polynesia as a foil to your bad experience. It all works out to balance itself out.
As for tourism in Tahiti, I think all the south pacific islands were hit after 9/11 and the years that followed. I think you'll find that visitor increases from 2004 onward, especially for the Australasia market. As for Club Med Moorea, it was suffering since the 90s. Club Med is known for activities and well Moorea wasn't that known for stuff like that (older kids club, adult themed but not great). Plus the competition from other resorts made it unprofitable. It was actually closed in 2000 for lack of bookings. Bora Bora still does ok (without a kids club too) if I'm not wrong. I personally think Moorea is the least likeable island of French Polynesia.

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#19 ronrosa

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 11:55 AM

This thread is useful because people are providing specifics. Much more useful than some of the reports I read on other boards where people don't give specific reasons why they didn't enjoy a place.

Drew, what don't you like about Moorea ? It was my impression that a Bora Bora & Moorea trip was a good combination for a 10 night trip.

#20 Scuba_SI

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 12:49 PM

Having travelled extensively around French Polynesia i'd like to add my 2c to this one!

I have been diving in:
  • Rangiroa
  • Apataki
  • To'au
  • Kauehi
  • Fa'aite
  • Bora Bora
  • Riatea
  • Taha'a
  • Huahine
  • Mo'orea
  • Rurutu
The only two i wish i had dove are Tahiti and Tikehau.

I was working for most of those, but went as a guest to quite a few. The diving in the Tuamotus is phenomenal especially around Christmas for the Great Hammerheads, March for mating Grey Reefs, and September-ish for the Humpback Whales (much better in Rurutu though). This is Blue water diving though, and whilst you know you will see sharks, you can't guarantee the other stuff. I don't think i had many weeks in 2 years where we didn't see 5 species of shark, at least 1 manta and some dolphins.

When you compare it to some of the other big animal areas (Eastern Pacific) where you have a higher chance of poor viz, cooler water and rock rather than reef, having a bad weeks diving in the Tuamotus is still pretty good!

You are diving in a very unprotected place, and when the weather goes bad it really sucks, but that's just the way it goes!

Personally, i wouldn't bother with Bora-Bora, i found it to be overpriced and the diving to be no better than Mo'orea, yes they have Mantas, but when i was there the new resort being built had scared them away from their usual cleaning station ( i went there twice, over a year apart, the second time for free, or else i wouldnt have gone!).

As for the attitude of the French towards non-english speakers i think that its true that they do treat someone differently who doesn't speak French, but that's the same in France so don't take it personally!! The Tahitians are very warm people who will normally go out of their way to help you if you know a few words in Tahitian or French.

I also think that the attitude of the French towards Americans got a little worse when the US changed the rules about flights in transit having to disembark, meaning on their flights to and from the homeland they had to put up with TSA, which isn't a fair reflection of a Nation (USA), as i don't think many Americans enjoy it either! Not an excuse but may help you to understand.

Yes Tahiti is silly expensive, but i think it is worth it if you do your research and know what to expect, oh and take a phrase book for some banter with your French guides.

Nauticam Rossa / 5Dmk3 / A7r / EM-1 / S110

http://vimeo.com/lembehmuckdiver

www.nad-lembeh.com: 2:1 diveguide ratio for June / July 2014!!