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Dive Review of Paul Gauguin Cruises in
French Polynesia/French Polynesia&Cook Islands

September, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by David & Candy Cohen, FL, USA (1 report)
Report Number 5119
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Numerous adventures to Hawaii, the Caymans, Honduras, Aruba, Mexico and our
own back yard in Florida.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy  
calm, currents  
Water Temp
80   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
80   to 120    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Dominique Tehei and his crew on the Paul Gauguin quickly assessed diver
abilities and experience, worked incredibly well with divers of all levels
and grouped divers by experience.  Only restriction was for safety when
pass diving in strong currents where we ascended together but still within
our experienced group.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
5 stars  
Large Pelagics
  5 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Facilities for underwater photographers are available and arranged as
needed.  As just a few of our divers had underwater cameras housings to
manage, it was simpler to use the shower facilities than a separate fresh
water rinse tank at the watersports platform (called the marina).  There
was a large table available for setting up cameras, but the photographers
on our cruise were all shooting digital therefore mostly prepping,
downloading and recharging batteries in their staterooms.  The real star of
the cruise was the marine line surrounding us on every dive.  Dominique
Tehei, marina supervisor, was also shooting digital and did an excellent
job capturing special moments of all the divers enjoying sharks, turtles,
eels and the like.  The Paul Gauguin dive crew hosted a divers get
together on the last night of the cruise and presented a slide show with
remarkable photos from the cruise.  This collection of photos made a 
wonderful addition for many of us who take so many pictures of others that
we never have photos of ourselves with the marine life.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
5 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
5 stars   
5 stars    
Having vacationed on both cruiseships and liveaboards, we found the best of
both worlds in the Paul Gauguin (PG), a floating 5 star hotel which cruised
us to locations too small for large ships and too remote for smaller
liveaboards.  Our 14-day itinerary took us through the Society Islands and
Tuamotus of French Polynesian and the Cook Islands.  The PG also caters to
divers, offering a unique sea-level platform (the marina) to launch dive
boats or to receive boats of local dive operators.  This marina also
provided a convenient place to rinse, hang and store our gear.  Martin,
Julien and Robert rounded out Marina Supervisor Dominique Teheis team of
experienced dive masters.  All took great care to understand our individual
needs and quickly learned our actual capabilities.

We flew via Air Tahiti Nui into Papeete.  While the airport took some time
to clear customs and immigration, we  were impressed with the efficiency of
getting us and our gear settled into the Intercontinental.  Arriving late
at night, its very easy to wake up adjusted to the new time zone.  After a
delicious breakfast, we set up a late morning dive with Bathys, the onsite
dive operation, at a site called 3 Wrecks.  The 3rd wreck disintegrated a
while ago, but there was a plane (actually an old flying boat) and
another boat.  Fishlife was both plentiful and approachable, highlighted by
a huge scorpionfish who allowed divers to tickle his chin.   Bathys is a
well run operation with a roomy diveboat.  

The next day, we boarded the ship and received the customary dive releases.
 Once completed, we brought our completed forms and C-cards to Dominique
who discussed our experience and reviewed additional diving opportunities. 
Our first port, the next morning, was Huahine, where we dove with a local
operator at Faa Miti.  There we enjoyed anemonefish, scorpionfish,
lionfish, humphead wrasse, angelfish, triggerfish, eagle rays, unicornfish
and schools of butterflyfish, Moorish idols, grouper, snapper, jack,
parrotfish and bright blue Christmas tree worms.  We also saw many colorful
clams that produce Tahitis beautiful black pearls.

Our next port was Aitutaki where the PG team joined a local operator who
led our group diving Arutanga Pass.  There we were greeted again not only
by schools and schools of fish, but by several big eels and a couple
friendly green sea turtles who posed for pictures.

After a couple windy days at sea and a change in itinerary, we were happy
to dive Miri Miri (the Mushrooms) with Hemisphere Sub in Raiatea.  In
addition to our usual suspects we encountered a few dozen black-tip reef
sharks swarming like flies.  Our next dive produced even more black-tips,
silver-tips and a few gray reef sharks.  Afterwards, a few of us added a
sunset dive on the Nordby, a shipwreck  downed 100+ years ago.  Here we saw
lionfish, porcupinefish, scorpionfish, a well-camouflaged leaf-fish, eels
including bright blue eels and orange corals open and feeding.  While I
love them, I was happy not to see the sharks at night! 

That night, we cruised on to Bora Bora where we spent a couple days diving
Tapu and Toopua with the PG dive staff.  Bora Bora was breathtaking and
teeming with fish and sharks.  This time the abundant black-tips were
accompanied by several larger lemon sharks.  We also saw moray eels,
turtles, triggerfish and were serenaded by male humpback whales.  

We reluctantly left Bora Bora for Rangiroa where we had the most
spectacular dives of the trip  drifts dives in Tiputa and Avatoru Passes. 
We dove with Top Dive, a local operator again arranged through PG.   We
boarded their zodiacs from the PG marina and bounded out the Tiputa Pass to
the outer reef.  We planned to ride the current back into the pass.  It was
only this site where safety dictated that we ascend together, so it was
great that PG had grouped divers based on capability.  If we thought the
fish were abundant previously, multiply that by 100!  We saw many turtles
moving coral seeking their favorite meal of black sponge.  Eagle rays
glided past us only to be replaced in our line of sight by a manta ray and
his two remora sidekicks.  The manta danced by us and circled back for
another pass.  As if this werent wonderful enough, we next heard and saw a
pair of bottlenose dolphins playing together -- first at the surface and
then descending to greet our local dive master.  By now, we were so
thrilled, we didnt want to leave the water at the end of our dive.  That
afternoon we headed out to drift the Avatoru Pass.  Here again we enjoyed
the sea turtles and again saw a manta ray although only swimming above us
at the surface.  A bit later we saw dolphins above us leaping out of the
water.  While we saw no whales, we felt like them as it was challenging
pulling ourselves back into the zodiacs!  These were the only boats with no
ladders or steps above the engine to help get back aboard, but everyone had
a good laugh at each other as we flopped around the boat after hauling
ourselves up (and getting helping hands from above and below).  Only the
locals pulled off a graceful reentry.   

Moorea was our last port and site of our last dives: the Ledges and Shark
Gallery.  Surrounded by bountiful fishlife including several leaf-fish and
numerous black-tips, gray reefs and lemon sharks, we also met the
friendliest turtle with a penchant for female divers.  He gazed deep into
our masks (as if to say do you have any black sponge for me?)  As our
tanks emptied, we ascended and reluctantly bid our new friends farewell 
promising to return.
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