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

April, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Elizabeth Crapo, ID, US
Sr. Reviewer   (9 reports)
Report Number 6410
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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

choppy, currents  
Water Temp
78   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
100   to 150    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Simultaneous backroll entry, stay with the group due to strong currents  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
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  
Great animals, but strong currents make all aspects, from entering the
water with the camera to maintaining position long enough to get a photo,
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
3 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
1 stars   
4 stars    
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 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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