It’s just shy of eight in the morning and already a dozen hotel
guests are smearing on coconut-scented sunscreen at Bathy’s Club, a
small dive shop in the Moorea Beachcomber InterContinental Resort.
Owner and manager Juan-Pedro Duran Lopez is busy passing out
wetsuits while his office assistant carefully checks diving
certification cards. At the pier outside, two boats cough to life.
Onboard, dozens of aluminum tanks reverberate like wind chimes as
divemasters pack them in racks, making room for coolers full of
bottled water and oranges.
Lopez is pleased with the bustle. When asked if it is always
this busy, he nods.
“The secret is out, at least for most people,” he said. “Look
around. We are on probably the most beautiful island in the world.
But if you aren’t putting on a mask and fins, and you aren’t
jumping into her lagoons, then you are missing out on the whole
other side of paradise.”
Plunging through the looking glass to catch a glimpse of the
other side of paradise is something that more and more visitors are
doing these days. Captain Paul Stone of the Tahiti Aggressor, the
only liveaboard dive boat that plies these waters, said his boat is
booked months in advance.
“We are in one of the top diving spots in the entire Pacific, if
not the world,” he said. “People come here for a dive vacation, not
to do some diving on a vacation.”
His observation hasn’t eluded savvy travel agents who are fast
discovering that where dives were once mainly a tag-on activity for
Tahiti-bound travelers, they have since become the vacationer’s
The islands’ rising popularity as a scuba destination has as
much to do with its warm, crystalline waters as it does the wealth
of sealife. Tahiti is part of the vast Indo-Pacific coral reef
system that spans the globe from the Red Sea, across the Indian
Ocean and through the Pacific.
As an upscale travel destination, Tahiti and her islands also
have a highly developed and efficient tourist infrastructure.
Professional dive operations with the latest equipment are
ubiquitous throughout the five island groups.
With so many operators to choose from, it’s important to help
your client find a good fit that matches their skill level and
enthusiasm. Find out whether your client is interested in simply
sampling scuba during a one-day resort course, or whether they want
an intense, weeklong adventure exploring unnamed reefs from a
Regardless of their plans, encourage your client to bring their
own mask, snorkel and fins. There is nothing more liberating than
an impromptu snorkel off the back deck of a bungalow. And while
most hotels rent gear, finding a good fit can sometimes be a
Unless your client is a serious scuba enthusiast generally
someone with more than 50 logged dives the best option is to book
conservatively. Most clients will find that one or two diving trips
per island is plenty of time underwater. A two-tank morning dive
generally costs around $110, and rental gear like wetsuits,
buoyancy vests and regulators cost an additional $20 per day.
Earning commissions on dive vacations can be done through
accommodation bookings or dive packages, or a combination of both.
Hotels and resorts usually offer commissions between 10 and 40
percent for accommodations, while associated dive shops give
commissions ranging from 10 to 15 percent for dive packages. The
Tahiti Aggressor pays agents commissions of 12 percent on
individual bookings and 15 percent for six or more clients.
Most casual resort diving takes place in the Society Islands of
Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. Diving in the Societies is ideal for
recreational divers and usually involves short boat rides (under a
half-hour) across lagoons to explore shipwrecks and coral gardens.
More advanced divers can join trips beyond the outer reefs of Bora
Bora and Moorea where mantas and dolphins play.
About 200 miles northeast of these islands is the low-lying
Tuamotu group a world apart, both above and below the water. Unlike
the Society Islands whose verdant spires rise thousands of feet
from the sea, the 77 Tuamotus necklaced across 700 miles of Pacific
are true desert isles flat atolls tufted with palm trees are
inhabited mostly by coconut crabs and seagulls.
Nobody, however, comes to these islands for the topside
“People come here for the sharks,” Mike Veitch said. “Lots and
lots of sharks.”
A Canadian divemaster on the Tahiti Aggressor, Veitch has worked
throughout the South Pacific aboard the Aggressor fleet, and he
said he has never seen shark action like this.
“In Palau, which is known for shark encounters, we would have
schools of 15 to 20 reef sharks at a time and that was pretty
exciting.” Here, he said, divers are sometimes swimming through
schools of 200 sharks.
The reason there are so many sharks in the Tuamotus is also the
reason it has some of the most advanced diving in the world. Stone
explains that the atolls are flushed twice daily by the tides,
creating dynamic currents that draw bait fish, which in turn
attract sharks. Divers here need to be comfortable with fast drift
Despite or perhaps because of the high-octane diving, he said,
guests keep returning. Perhaps they are discovering the secret to
seeing the other side of paradise.
“After one week on the Aggressor,” Stone said, “they all say the
same thing. ‘If we had known what the diving was like in Tahiti, we
would have come much sooner.’”
Aquatica Dive Center
Offers several beginner dives and a number of more advanced
excursions, including wreck dives.
Also on the main island, it visits more than 30 different dive
Located at the luxurious Moorea Beachcomber InterContinental
Resort, this is the island’s only PADI five-star diving center.
One of the largest PADI-certified operations on the island with
shops on Bora Bora, Moorea and Rangiroa.
Runs the only liveaboard dive boat in French Polynesia. They offer
weeklong journeys through the Tuamotus with stops at the Rangiroa,
Apataki, Toau and Fakarava atolls.