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Taking the Big Plunge in Fakarava

Discussion in 'Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands' started by marpacifica, Dec 22, 2007.

  1. marpacifica

    marpacifica Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Once upon a time in Micronesia, but now bubbling i
    Kia orana all you Polynesia-philes!

    Looking for some tips on diving, flights, and hotels on Fakarava.

    I'm finally taking the BIG PLUNGE, aka marriage (Mewwied?), in the South Pacific in Dec. 2008, and we will be honeymooning in Fakarava.

    I searched the threads, but info is over a year old and I'm wondering if anyone has more recent reports or websites that might help me in my research.

  2. leeaf

    leeaf Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Auckland, New Zealand
    Hi marpacifica

    I'm also thinking of going to Fakarava in mid-2008. Its unfortunate no one has replied to your thread as I am also after some first hand info. What have you come up with so far with your internet research? What are you thinking in terms of accommodation? It looks like you would need to stay at two places in order to dive both passes.



    CARHILL Nassau Grouper

    Hey Marpacifica,

    Your getting married!! and she isn't even PG?? What up with that?? All I know about Fakarava is that they have a very good CODIS system. So what out the FEDS may catch up with ya there. Buy the way has she done a back ground check on you yet?
    From the photos on the web Fakarava dosen't look as nice as Saipan.

    Still on a little rock in the Pacific
  4. marpacifica

    marpacifica Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Once upon a time in Micronesia, but now bubbling i
    Hey Leeaf and Dale,

    Thanks for your replies, and sorry it took me so long to get back here...one of my new year's resolutions is to reply faster to my e-mails, hahahaha.

    Fakarava atoll is pretty flat, not as hilly or scenic as Saipan, but the reef is fabulous. I found some cool videos, the first one of the place where we'll probably stay, the Maitai Hotel/Resort

    YouTube - Hotel Maitai Dream Fakarava

    and some sharks in South Pass

    YouTube - Tumakohua(South Pass), Fakarava, French Polynesia

    landing in Fakarava from the cockpit's view

    YouTube - Atterissage à Fakarava

    taking off from Fakarava from passenger's view

    YouTube - Taking off from Fakarava - French Polynesia

    Dale, the feds and California finally caught up with me. Dang. Thought I could dodge them for a while, but you know the saying about death and taxes being inevitable.
    How are the beach babe shoots you've been doing on Saipan????
  5. Manuel Sam

    Manuel Sam Barracuda

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boston
    First of all, congratulations on your big plunge. And may I also congratulate you on the choice of going to Tahiti - these islands are really as pretty as has been described by many, and the waters are incredibly blue and clear - just like Blue Corner in Palau on a good day.

    I dove in Fakarava in 2005 and 2006, some land-based, and some liveaboard, when the Tahiti Aggressor was still based in the Tuamotos doing the Fakarava to Rangiroa runs.

    Air: I flew BOS-LAX, then on to Air Tahiti Nui. You may need to overnight in Papeete before flying on Air Tahiti to Fakarava. Unless you're willing to splourge, stay in town at either the Hotel Le Mandarin or the Hotel Tiare-Tahiti - they're in the $100-150 range - and save your money for the Maitai-Fakarava, which is going to gouge you out of a few chunks of flesh.

    You could drive around the island of Tahiti, which I did (nothing spectacular), or arrange for a tour. But if you are scrapped for time, rather than tour Tahiti, I'd recommend taking the ferry across to Moorea, which is a much prettier island with nicer beaches and either rent a car or go for a tour there.

    Bora Bora is supposed to be even prettier (I didn't go there) and a great honeymoon island, but you have to fly there and its' a lot of money for just a day trip.

    As for what else to do on the island of Tahiti, Papeete is probably best for shopping - T-shirts, black pearl jewelry, etc. For a decent meal at a very decent price, go to the Papeete waterfront plaza at around 6:30pm for Les Roulottes. Over a dozen street vendors set up here and cook up a storm, mostly Chinese, but a good Steak Frites (Steak and fries) can be had for about $10.

    Fakarava is indeed a very flat atoll. The strip of land that separates the lagoon from the pacific Ocean is no more than about 400 ft. wide. December is the start of their summer, so be prepared for the heat and especially the sun. There are also mosquitoes at dusk.

    There are two settlements in Fakarava: Roatava in the north and a really small settlement in the south called Tetamanu. There are also two channels - one north and one south - thru which the water comes in and out, and these are the signature dives of Fakarava.

    As far as hotels, the Maitai is it - and for a honeymoon, I wouldn't do it any other way. The other option is to stay at any of about a dozen guest houses. I stayed at one called Tokerau Village, fairly new and run by a nice family, about a 5 minute walk south of the Maitai. I had mosquito issues there and if anyone were to stay there (or anywhere else besides the Maitai) I would recommend going to a camping store and buying a mosquito net for sleeping. I used dental floss to hang it up.

    The bungalows at the Maitai have ceiling fans. The few people that I met on the Aggressor who stayed at the maitai said they didn't have mosquito issues, so maybe the celing fans keep them at bay.

    Down south in Tetamanu, there is a very rustic resort run by Sane and Annabel Richmond. Really nice folks, a really fntastic location with outstanding diving, but it's not the place for a honeymoon. The bungalows are rather basic, no hot water, hardly any lighting, and even tho there are mosquito nets, you will be donating a lot of blood.

    As far as diving, I dove both times with Serge and Carinne at Fakarava Diving Centre. Google them and you should find their website. These people are top notch and their boat holds a max of 6, maybe 8. I'm sure that they can pick you up at the Maitai dock.

    They used to be based at the Maitai but are now located a few hundred yards north of the Maitai. The Maitai has another outfit running the dive operations now - I have no experience with them.

    Like I said before, the best dives are the channel dives with the incoming tide. Sometimes the current will be up to 5 kts. but that's when there is a frenzy of activity with the sharks. The channel in the north is pretty wide so the sharks are more scattered. But down south, the channel is much narrower, so the sharks will be in a denser pack. Serge runs weekly trips to the south in addition to the dives on the northern channel.

    In the northern channel, halfway thru the drift, you will come upon what is called the Valley. There is a humongous congregation of fish here in humongous schools, along with sharks patrolling nearby.

    The wall dives are pretty neat too, and you might see some other goodies like dolphins and other types sharks besides grey reefs. December is a good time for Great Hammerheads in Rangiroa, and it might also be for Fakarava.

    Serge also does occasional trips to Toau, an atoll to the northwest of Fakarava.

    Hope this helps.

    All in all, you will not regret going there for the diving.
  6. Mike Veitch

    Mike Veitch Dive Charter

    good report Manuel.. i concur with what he says!


    I used to work on that Tahiti Agg. for 2 years.. as did another member of this board who was probably on the boat when you were there
  7. marpacifica

    marpacifica Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Once upon a time in Micronesia, but now bubbling i
    Wow, Manuel, thanks for the oodles of info.

    We have booked for Maitai for a week. As for air -- we will be coming from the Cook Islands (where we're getting married), but have to overnight in Pape'ete so will definitely check out your recommendations for hotels.

    Thanks for the tip about the mosquitos. Will stock up on DEET, as I hate mosquitoes having lived in Africa and gotten malaria a few times. I know there's no malari in Fakarava, but just the sound of mosquitoes divebombing my ear really gets to me.

    Where in Boston do you live? Are you a member of the dive club that feeds the fish at the N.E. Aquarium? We're in the North End.

    We just watched a DVD about Rangiroa called Coral Reef Adventure. Lots of sharks in a 5 knot current. Looking forward to the action at South Pass.

  8. Manuel Sam

    Manuel Sam Barracuda

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boston
    You are welcome.

    "Mosquitoes divebombing your ears" - I know all about that, especially while you sleep.

    Oher tidbits of info that I didn't think of before:

    I'm sure that you know by now that the Maitai has a meal plan and it's mighty steep. On the other hand, it's not like you can walk down Hanover Street and choose tonight's restaurant. In Fakarava, there isn't much. Furthermore, I can only recall one small grocery store and it's not walking distance. So you might want to bring a few more snacks than you normally bring (if you can) for in between meals.

    The wall dives that I mentioned previously are on the outside of the atoll, on either side of the mouth of the channel, and they are typically done on the outgoing tide. There is some diving inside of the lagoon, but it's comparatively ho-hum and the viz isn't great.

    I live a block away from Symphony Hall. I am a member of the NE Aquarium, but not the Dive Club.

    The times that I dove Rangiroa in 2005 and 2006, the sharks were not as plentiful as in Fakarava at recreational depths. Back when I first read about Rangiroa on Skin Diver magazine, it was reported that you could literally walk on hundreds of them when you jumped in. I guess too many tourists making noisy bubbles have driven them deeper. I suspect that the DVd that you saw might have been filmed at deeper than 130 ft. The French (CMAS, I think) have different certification levels that allow diving beyond recreational depths.

    If you have any other questions, feel free to email me.
  9. hfl1

    hfl1 Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: CA, USA
    Hi, I was on Fakarava for winter holidays Dec 07, stayed at the Matai Dream diving with TopDive and did several North Pass dives- awesome. I certainly saw more sharks than on Rangi at recreational depths (ie recreational being 30-40ish m), really hundreds per dive (vs 10s per dive on Rangi)

    best dives are the incoming current through the pass, timing will be dictated by tide tables. Most days involved an 'easier' dive on the outside of the atoll at the channel mouth (the reef slope is in better shape than most of FP at present) and a more advanced drift in the substantial current arriving into the lagoon. The depth profiles were 22-35m and ~30-40m with undulating terrain respectively; due to tidal/currents we did the deeper dives in the afternoon. I recommend familiarity with advanced profiles/ deco and unlike Rangi, Nitrox was not available there. As I dove repetitively (and the DMs pair switched off on the deeper dives daily), even with only 2 dives a day, I had to monitor my profile as being the most saturated of the group (the DMs were great- CMAS rules- and did cue off my signals for deco). Do expect to spend nearly the entire 45' at a max depth/profile in current for the drift dive.

    Due to timing, I didn't do the South Pass. From the North its a 2.5hr ride so it requires the incoming current to be running at 10am-1pm for a feasible day trip, they do it "weekly" when the timing is right. To be guaranteed that dive, stay down there at the one simple but wonderful Pensione on Tetamanu (reports were great from those that had done it before).

    Matai Dream was great, its pricey but simple and elegant, perfect for a honeymoon. No mozzie problems (December) and good food on the meal plan, which while pricey was worth it (actually there is no alternate) but better than similarly priced food on Rangi where I had more dining options. One of the other frequent divers was staying at Tokerau (3rd visit) and said it was fine and convenient, more economical; there really isn't a lot else!

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