Polynesia Tahiti Aggressor
French Polynesia exists almost as much in the imagination as it does in reality. Just say "Bora-Bora" and an idyllic version of paradise is instantly conjured in the mind of the listener. Mention Tahiti to divers and their minds bend to the sea and sharks. They're impossible to miss, always at the hazy blue edge of visibility. It's as if they've taken it upon themselves to be the official undersea escort through the hard coral forests of this remarkable corner of the world, and they just demand our attention. Tahiti and Her Islands, which are spread across more than a million square miles of ocean, are loaded with piles of underwater adventures. But that's a great deal of space to cover. Which is why I'm on the Tahiti Aggressor: I'm greedy and want to see it all.
Only 7.5 hours from the West Coast of the United States, Tahiti is much easier to get to than the exotic sheen of our dreams would let on. But no matter how exotic the sheen, the reality of anchoring at a place like Opunohu Bay on Moorea, or in the electric blue of Bora-Bora Lagoon, is breathtaking. Beginning in April, the Tahiti Aggressor will bask in the romantic shadows of the Society Islands of Tahiti: Bora-Bora, Moorea, Raiatea, Huahine and Taha'a.
The Aggressor generally follows a weekly itinerary, but daily dive sites are selected based on conditions and guests' preferences. The mother ship remains at anchor while the divers gather in a comfortable skiff to reach each site. Your dive gear is set up and stays in the same spot on the skiff all week. Air and nitrox fills are done between dives, and the only energy you need to exert is opening the door to the salon for meals.
Granted, I'm a pirate at heart, but even people with delicate stomachs and a preference for elegance will be comfortable on the Tahiti Aggressor. Most of the divers stay on board for two weeks which probably reveals more about the diving in Tahiti than anything I can say. But once you have your dive gear set up and come up from your first dive, it's hard to pack up.
The company isn't bad, either. On board, we were with divers from Russia, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, Finland, Canada and the United States. But who needs to talk when the universally popular marine creatures dolphins, mantas, sea turtles, Napoleon wrasse, anemonefish and sharks show up with extraordinary frequency off these islands?
And speaking of sharks, it's not unusual to see up to six species within the space of a few days. Off Moorea and Bora-Bora, bold and brawny lemon sharks top the pecking order, with zippy blacktips, grays and whitetips along with sleepy nurse sharks skirting the edges, giving the big guys some space. Torpedo-shaped silvertips and even the occasional tiger come by to say hello.
In Bora-Bora Lagoon, at a site called Anau, you're virtually guaranteed to see manta rays, and in the main pass there's a site that seems to be the place to be seen if you're a spotted eagle ray.
Raiatea features acres of hard corals and a Napoleon wrasse that likes to introduce itself by invading your personal space. And everywhere you go in Tahiti, whirlwinds of double-sided butterflyfish, snapper and surgeonfish light up the reef with waves of color.
Special thanks to the Aggressor Fleet, Air Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Tourisme.