THE ISLANDS OF TAHITI The allure of the South Pacific needs little selling: turquoise unpeopled lagoons, those over-water bungalows that ooze romance, and sunsets more dramatic than any TV program. Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia, a country of 118 islands and atolls clustered into six groups.
For the Pass Diver
Many islands in French Polynesia offer pass diving: Timed perfectly with the twice-daily changing tides, it’s a roller coaster of water pulling you in or out of the lagoon. All the while, dolphins, sharks, tuna, manta rays and more take advantage, hunting as the rush of water compromises the abilities of most fish. You’ll also rub fins with turtles and schools of black triggerfish and butterflyfish. For the Shark Diver With almost more sharks than people, French Polynesia is a top spot for shark encounters. Three species are most prevalent — lemons, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks — with a total of 16 species cruising the atolls. Several operators head to open ocean for silvertip encounters, which might induce vertigo among divers unused to a lack of visual landmarks. Feeds off Moorea regularly attract three varieties, including blacktip reef sharks. Inside the Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa, the Canyons is a sheltered spot where you can watch countless whitetip sharks claim their spot on the food chain.
For the Captain
Several of the same bareboating companies operating in the Caribbean offer fleets of similar yachts here. Tahiti is a yachting hot spot, partially due to the undeveloped islands reachable only by boat. This is the sort of adventure growing harder to collect: Anchor, then swim ashore to gather coconuts, and barter with locals for fresh fish. As for needed sailing skills, those with basic coastal navigation will do fine.
For the Whale Watcher
The shallow warm waters attract humpbacks annually to calve and mate again before returning to Antarctica. Peak season for nearly guaranteed encounters is August to October, with occasional sightings in the months before and after. A few of the more-popular islands with established tour operators include Moorea, Tahiti and Rurutu. Note that this is an activity you will absolutely want a guide for; experienced crews know how and where to drop snorkelers to maximize in-water viewing.
For the Honeymooner
Tahiti is synonymous with over-water bungalows — a thoroughly romantic experience. It’s a luxurious but once-in-a-lifetime indulgence that you won’t soon forget. Your front porch is so ridiculously clear, you can skip using a mask and just lounge while watching schooling reef fish pass. Perhaps the most luxurious way to get back in touch with nature, the bungalows seduce you with a rhythm created by waves, tides and sunrises. — BM