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Dive Review of TOPdive/Pension Havaiki/ Relais de Josephin in
French Polynesia/Rangiroa, Fakarava

TOPdive/Pension Havaiki/ Relais de Josephin, Apr, 2011,

by Elizabeth Crapo, ID, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports). Report 6410.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Palau, Chuuk, Yap, Guam, Bali, Hawaii, Bermuda, Key West
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 78 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 100 to 150 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Simultaneous backroll entry, stay with the group due to strong currents
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters N/A Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Great animals, but strong currents make all aspects, from entering the water with the camera to maintaining position long enough to get a photo, challenging.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments The diving in the atolls is exponentially better than the main islands. (I dove Bora Bora in 2009 and was underwhelmed.) If you are diving both the atolls and the main islands, go to the main islands first, otherwise they will be a letdown in comparison.

Fakarava was by far better than Rangiroa in almost every way. Bigger, healthier coral, many more sharks (dozens at once), lots more fish, better dive shop.

While I saw some sharks in Rangi, there weren't the schools of them that I saw in Fakarava. To be fair, I wasn't able to do the "shark dive" on Rangiroa because the currents were ripping out to sea the whole three days I was there. If you have your heart set on doing this dive, you will want to stay longer than that in order to increase your chances of favorable currents - they only do the pass on an incoming current so people don't get swept out to sea. The one thing Rangi had that Fakarava didn't was the dolphins. I'd never seen one undewater before.

I dove with TOP Dive on both islands. I had some leftover coupons from my 10-dive package I'd purchased in Bora Bora that I'd hoped to use. Although it turned out the coupons expire after 1 year, the Fakarava shop still gave me a small discount, which was nice. Good people at the dive shop. The only negative about the operation was the lack of reef hooks during one of the dives where you spend 5-10 minutes holding onto the reef to watch the sharks go by.

I wasn't as impressed with the Rangi shop, though. They have expensive pouch-style weight belts in a model that apparently falls off on a fairly regular basis, as mine did on my first backroll - even though I was holding it as well as I could, while holding my camera at the same time (given the difficulty of having one's camera handed down when there is a strong current, like that day, we had to roll with them). I think the end caught on something, as we were packed on the boat like sardines and I had to wear a belt that was too long since they ran out of my size. They claim I must not have fastened it correctly. "We often see this happen with this weight belt," the divemaster said afterward, as he demonstrated how people often put the strap in the buckle crookedly, causing it to not fasten tightly. (Hmmm... If it's that common, is it maybe time to get another brand of weight belt? Just saying. I've never managed to put the strap on my belt, or any other belt, like that. And, I've done many backrolls without incident.) Since it was allegedly all my fault, they made me pay for it. Wait, it gets worse...A fellow customer's nice Henderson wetsuit went missing from the drying rack at the shop (I wonder if they compensated him for it, or if they decided it's not their responsibility to keep an eye on the gear in their shop). And even worse still...one morning the boat ran out of gas! Fortunately we were in the lagoon on the way to Avatoru Pass. If we'd been diving Tiputa, we would have been outside the lagoon by the time it happened. The staff was very nice, with the exception the manager who made the decision about the belt. As much money as I'd spent at TOPDive establishments over the past couple of dive trips, I would have appreciated the benefit of the doubt, since it's impossible to know what went exactly went wrong. Especially after the out-of-gas incident. They may have been able to make me pay for the belt, but they can't make me dive with them again. If you do, I would recommend bringing your own belt, as I will be doing on all future dive trips.

Accommodations: On Fakarava, I stayed at Pension Havaiki, which I liked. The owner has a pearl farm, and had a pearl in the oyster deal where you can pay 25 euro (or so) and you pick your shell and get to keep whatever is inside. He opens it for you had does the demonstration of how the oysters are seeded to grow the pearls. The meals were good, and the bungalows (with fan) were comfortable. On Rangiroa, I stayed at Les Relais de Josephine. The bungalows were nice and the food was good. It's right on Tiputa Pass, so you can look out from the patio at the current, and know if it's possible - or not, in my case - to do the shark dive that morning/afternoon. It's a nice view, at least.

Topside: I went to the Green Lagoon (which was nice) on Fakarava, and the Blue Lagoon (which was incredible) on Rangiroa for my "dry" days. Both are worthwhile.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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