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Dive Review of Te Ava Nui/Havaiki Pension in
French Polynesia/Fakarava atoll

September, 2003, an Instant Reader Report by Laura Todd, CA, USA
Report Number 791
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Palau, Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, Bahamas, Bay Islands, Sea of Cortez
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, currents  
Water Temp
78   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
80   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Due to very strong currents, the drift dives are a group thing, with DM
signaling where and when to be.  Wall dives are limited to 1 hour.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
2 stars  
Shore Facilities  
2 stars  
Am not a UWP, but...........  there are no accomodations on either boat or
shore for photographers aside from a big set of shelves that could be used
to work on cameras.  The boat ride could be fatal to your camera; the
driver only knows 2 speeds - full stop and full out, which means that with
the slightest wind in the lagoon, both you and your camera will spend most
of the 20 minute trip airborne, only occasionally crashing down into the
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
4 stars    
This is the biggest pass in all of Polynesia, and I was ready for just
about anything to swim up beside me.  What I mostly got was sharks - the 
mantas, whales and hammerheads did not make an appearance.  But the shark
wallpaper is pretty impressive with literally dozens of blacktips (5-6'),
smaller white tips and the occasional big lemon.  They get really close; be
sure to look behind you.  We also could count on the big Napoleon wrasses,
barracuda and dogtooth tuna.  Not much in the way of small stuff.  The
coral is much nicer than say Rangiroa, in the same vicinity.  The weather
was beautiful and the sea was utterly flat.  Be ready for the ripping
current.  On the last day, there was an especially nice vertical swirling
bait ball of hundreds of sennet-looking fish with baby black tip sharks
cruising through.  Overall, the diving was good with the potential to be
great.  The same can't be said of the dive operation, however.  There is no
bathroom at the shop - guys are encouraged to pee off the dock and the back
of the boat, women wherever.  There are two hard bottom inflatable boats
with safety gear and drinking water.  The lagoon is often rougher than the
ocean due to wind and the local driver is a maniac who goes at full
throttle no matter what the conditions; count on getting beat up and
bounced around.  I found sitting down in the bottom of the boat with my
back up against the stern minimally painful.  They offer only 2 dives per
day, one each morning and afternoon.  After each, there is an inexplicable
hour alotted to drinking tea and hanging around.  As is typical here, they
do transport you to and from your lodging.  They use large steel tanks,
which means most folks won't need a weight belt (very cool), but the things
are sooo heavy and the staff acted like it was an imposition to have to
carry them.  There is a little bit of anti-French discrimination going on. 
Each morning the owner would give the briefing in French, adding
"current more than yesterday" in English, then ask in English,
"you understand?"  The staff encouraged divers to hang on to and
pull themselves along the coral.  Now there's a bunch of Japanese beginners
who think that's how it's supposed to go. There was also the constant
promise of a day trip to dive and picnic around some uninhabited motus that
never materialized.  The owner did choose to take a group of (mostly)
beginners whose skill level he had no idea about (it became clear) to one
of those shallow crevice/tunnel type sites with skylights, etc. that can be
quite pretty.  However, even in calm seas the surge put this site
completely beyond this group.  One person repeatedly hit her head on the
ceiling of the tunnels, and everybody crashed into something or somebody at
least once.  The owner led this bunch into more than one dead end and
pointed out absolutely nothing.  I found a nudibranch, some cool shells and
a few little sharks on my own.

If Havaiki were to add a solar hot water heater, they would easily be the
best small pension in all of Polynesia.  The setting is exquisite on a
small white sand beach.  Your bungalow is within arm's reach of the
gorgeous turquoise water.  The fabulous view faces the pass and the sunset.
 Each bungalow has a small and large bed, porch, private cold water bath
and is simply but lovingly decorated.  We had no bug problems but mosquito
nets are provided.  Kayaks and bikes are free to guests.  Snorkeling right
out the door is decent.  There are nice touches like a drying rack on each
porch.  I could go on for days about the food: whole mahi mahi, roast lamb,
fresh parrot fish, all with exquisite sauces, pasta carbonara, homemade
soup, each meal better than the last.  Desserts were on the simple side. 
Clothilde and Joachim run a pearl farm and will let you watch whatever
process is underway.  When we were there, they had tons of "D"
quality pearls for $6 each, and good prices on very high quality ones, but
not much to choose from in the middle.  Night life consists of  the sunset
accompanied by Clothilde's potent rum punch.  Word to the wise: rinse off
your beach chair first thing - thier adorable boxer "Cassis" is a
sweetie but has the unfortunate habit of peeing on them.  
Re getting there: Don't take the weekly Hawaiian Air flight from Honolulu. 
They stranded us for FOUR DAYS on the return.  On day #2, they actually
woke up a planeful of people at 2am, put them on the aircraft for a 5am
"departure" only to announce that the part was not yet in Tahiti
and probably wouldn't be for two more days!!  I got my self out of there on
the next Air Tahiti Nui flight (night flights meant I was only awake for 48
hours unlike alot of my fellow strandees) and am eagerly awaiting the many
first class round trip tickets Hawaiian is no doubt busily printing.    
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