Ocean First in Tahiti 2019

Ocean First   Jul 05, 2022

Ocean First recently returned from the South Pacific, where they experienced a welcome reprieve from winter in Tahiti’s action-packed reefs. Kathy Gagliardo, Ocean First’s trip leader for this expedition, shares tales of their experiences in this bucket-list destination:

With the mounting cold and snow in Colorado, a trip to Tahiti was just what the doctor ordered! A relatively easy set of flights landed us in humid, 85ºF paradise. Most of our group spent a night in Papeete at the Manava resort, where the beautiful infinity pool and ocean lagoon immediately sent us into vacation mode. Gratefully, Tahiti is only 3 hours behind Colorado so the jetlag was minimal.

As quickly as we arrived, we were off to our next stop on Rangiroa, Kia Ora resort. When you conjure up the postcard picture of Tahiti, this was it: a white sand beach, bungalows with personal hammocks and private hot tubs, crystal blue lagoons, and it all topped off with 5-star food and native dance shows. Nothing but paradise. This was originally planned as a non-diving stopover spot, but other resort guests lured us in with promises of interacting with the resident dolphins, and who were we to pass that up? Our reality met our expectation, with dolphin sightings on both dives and a manta in the channel. It was surreal to see these friendly, wild dolphins swim between groups of divers, craving attention from each person before disappearing back into the blue. And our trip had barely begun!

We traveled onwards, this time on a flight to Fakarava Atoll where the French Polynesia Master liveaboard awaited. The Master is equipped to handle 24 customers, so our group of 13 got to befriend a collection of new divers from around over the world. Diving truly is a social sport, and we all embraced the chance to dive together and get to know everyone on our journey. Onboard amenities included a giant sun deck, laundry services, full waste sorting options (compost, plastics, paper), and massages!

The diving conditions in Tahiti are known to be challenging due to very strong currents and many dive centers require advanced or deep diver certifications to ensure divers can safely enjoy the channel dives. Aboard the Master, all of the diving is done off of tenders with the crew doing the heavy lifting of all the gear. The main dives in the area were located in the channels and outer reefs of the atolls. The outer reef tended to have slower currents and large schools of sharks, while the channels tended to be wild rides with a greater chance of seeing pelagic animals.

The majority of the reef in Tahiti is made of stony corals, no fans, whips, rods, or soft corals. The reef fish are abundant but tend to be smaller fish that hide in the corals. We saw tons of butterflyfish of all colors, pygmy and smaller angelfish, and a variety of bannerfish. Imposing yet friendly Napoleon wrasse hung around the divers, adding a great contrast to the copious amounts of small fish.

The true highlight of the trip? Sharks! We were treated to huge schools of grey reef sharks and the occasional blacktip sharks, inspiring more awe than fear. Near the end of the trip during a particularly challenging dive where we hooked into the reef, we saw something that very few had ever seen....a gorgeous marlin effortlessly cruising through the strong currents. Incredible!

There was a lot to celebrate on this trip: 400th dives for both Paula C. and Karen Q., first manta sighting for Kim C., and the first marlin sighting for many of us!

The liveaboad crew were superb and at the end of the week, we felt more like an inner-circle of friends rather than just customers. In a special turn of events, we even got to witness one of the crew propose to another crew member!

Overall, Tahiti was amazing and a place definitely worth visiting, especially for shark enthusiasts. Another great Ocean First trip for the books, I can’t wait for the next one!