Sign Up for Our Monthly Asia Newsletter
It might seem unnecessary to pay for a snorkeling excursion in French Polynesia’s Society Islands, where the water is generally gorgeous, calm and filled with healthy coral reefs and myriad marine life. That’s how I was feeling after one snorkel excursion in the waters of the island of Taha’a, followed by an afternoon on Paul Gauguin’s private Taha’a motu, which boasts equally beautiful water for underwater adventures. But, as sacrilegious as it may sound, snorkeling, even in Bora Bora, can get boring — if you don’t know and appreciate what is floating in front of you.
As we parked our boat in a secluded lagoon surrounded by Bora Bora’s reef, I realized that Diveasy’s Eco Snorkeling Tour would be neither a waste of money or time. The distinguishing element of the excursion is Laurent Graziana himself, who actively guides the entire three-and-a-half-hour experience. As a teenager, Laurent lived in Tahiti and, after convincing his photographer wife to move from France to French Polynesia five years ago, he now owns Diveasy and leads its eco-snorkeling and diving trips with a passion for sharing and maintaining the beauty of Bora Bora.
He caps his trips at six participants so that he can reduce human impact on the well-preserved reefs as well as to ensure guest comfort and learning. After setting up some towels to block the sun from scorching my back, he began our lesson. He provided us with picture cards that identified the fish, shells, corals and other marine life that we would see in the surrounding reefs and explained their properties. He also shared general information about Bora Bora, which is sinking due to its weight and erosion, but will be survived by its coral reef, which is endemic, alive and growing. During this pre-briefing, many dots were connected for me — I realized what I had seen underwater in the previous days and felt very lucky that I hadn’t stepped on a sea urchin or collided with fire coral. I couldn’t wait to get into the water and spot branching coral, parrot fish and the polyps that make the entire ecosystem possible.
After explaining other safety guidelines, Laurent provided me with a shorty wetsuit to protect my skin and increase my buoyancy. He then explained that, upon biting down on his snorkels, music as well as recorded information plays. We followed him into the water, teeming with marine life and exploding with sound. Snorkeling is not necessarily a stressful activity, especially in waters that are as calm and attractive as Bora Bora’s, but the classical music, assurance that I was properly outfitted and our pre-briefing eliminated any of my latent anxieties, allowing me to comfortably breathe underwater and focus on what I was seeing. During our underwater trek, Laurent would play pre-recorded explanations of the notable marine life we encountered.
The excursion can be booked on the Diveasy website or, for clients onboard the Paul Gauguin, through the ship’s travel concierge. Since groups are limited to six participants, bookings should be made as early as possible. All excursions onboard the Gauguin must be made 24 hours in advance and clients should be aware that the desk is closed from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Laurent provides his special snorkels, which are available in English, French and Japanese, as well wetsuits and fresh fruit for the boat ride back. Guests should bring their own fins and can store their belongings in the boat’s lockers. The excursion costs $122 per person.
Bora Bora // © 2012 Mindy Poder
Laurent Graziana owns Diveasy, which offers snorkeling and diving excursions in Bora Bora. // © 2012 Mindy Poder