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Dive Review of Master Liveabaord in
French Polynesia

Master Liveabaord: "French Polynesia Master Liveaboard ; Look before you Leap", Jul, 2018,

by MAX WEINMANN, GA, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 15 Helpful votes). Report 10388 has 7 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 2 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 3 stars
For most of us,diving in the Tuomoto Islands is a bucket list destination.I know it was for me, having planned and hoped about this for around 2 years, especially after seeing the Blue Planet scenes of the grouper spawning and wall of sharks. And so it was with tremendous expectations and excitement that I arrived to finally board the French Polynesia Master Liveaboard.

There were about 20 passengers in all; the majority already familiar with the photographer leader of the trip, Michael Aw, who had chartered the vessel especially to experience the grouper spawning.

Despite being led to believe the vessel was new, it had in fact undergone many refits. Nevertheless, the cabins were spacious and pleasant, but the design left it awkward overall having to navigate through doors opening into corridors leading to inevitable accidents and knocks that were avoidable. There was a spacious sun deck which was a pleasure to experience and unwind from the days diving. Some cabins opened directly into the eating area and so experienced a great deal of noise.

The crew were pleasant and helpful and the captain is an experienced man who is very accommodating.

The food was below expectations. For some reason, the lead photographer on the trip did not want any fish or lamb served so mainly pork and chicken were the staples. My companion who is vegetarian received a poor diet of limp lettuce, noodles,rice and some vegetables ; unimpressive as notice was given a great deal ahead. This was despite the Master Liveaboard credo of "catering to special dietary requirements"

For underwater photographers, the camera areas were woeful and not at all as shown in the advertising. The boat takes approximately 20-24 divers and there is barely enough room for 6 rigs at best.

The dive guides were good people and extremely detailed briefings were given which were unhelpful as many of the plans were discarded during the dive and without notice or discussion. While the waters can be challenging it soon became clear that outer corners of the channels were the preferred site to dive irrespective of the briefing. We discovered later, as told to us by the dive guides, that the company demanded a policy of extreme caution. If in doubt abort the dive, since they had apparently encountered some diver issues early on while becoming established in Tahiti. So with a ripping current, some dives were aborted after 20 minutes, leaving divers griping and angry about wasted time and effort.

Tahiti diving is not for the novice or unfit diver.The level of experience of the guides was quite variable and it showed. After a few days of getting to know them, they were nice folks encumbered by what seemed to be unreasonable limitations and policies, and exacerbated for us by limited communication. One guide ranting, "I hate my job, I hate my job", for which he apologized, but explained that he was hamstrung by policy. By contrast, we as divers are used to diving with a degree of autonomy, taking responsibility for observing the outlined plan and for our own and our buddies safety. Unfortunately, communication was flawed in many ways, and not because of language differences. Rather by attitude and policy. As an example, 4 dives per day was advertised, "we will offer 4 day dives, yet the 4th day dive may be substituted by a night dive." Upon arrival, this policy had changed without notice to strictly 3 dives per day. Preempting our disappointment by discussion would have been the professional thing to do.

Of course we saw thousands of grouper as they lay dazed and quiet on the sea bed awaiting spawning, and the wall of sharks, but that was a given in Fakarava. Once the spawning was over, the tour lead said he had not considered the post spawning itinerary, which was uninspiring. On the positive side,a night dive was organized but ironically was limited to the lead photographers friends with 4 divers (including himself) and 2 guides. This did not sit well with most of us as it was performed without discussion or consultation regarding our expertise and comfort level of night diving with sharks.

Lectures and photographic instruction were a fiction promised on the brochure, but consisted only of pics from his travels and tours which he ran. To the untrained eye it could have appeared as unabashed self promotion.

This would contrast starkly with our experience on Rangiroa with Top Dive, who knew the area well and where we encountered dolphin, Marlin, turtle, barracuda and more. It reflected very badly on the sites chosen by the liveaboard team and our leader.

Apart from the lead photographers groupies, many of us us were quite unanimous in our disappointment with the liveaboard, it's policies, choice of sites and the overall experience. What had been a bucket list destination was saved by pure luck having extended the trip to Rangiroa where we would encounter a more professional group of knowledgeable dive guides who were intimately familiar with the dive sites and conditions.

Overall, I just cannot recommend the French Polynesia Master Liveaboard, nor the lead Michael Aw who, sadly, did not demonstrate much "customercentric" leadership. One would have hoped that when making such a financial commitment to a leader's skill, veracity and knowledge that he/she would rotate through all groups lending advice, expertise and knowledge to all. In the end, it felt like I was merely there to sponsor his goal of photographing the spawning.This was a great disappointment as clearly there was much that could have been shared.

Whether or not the gripes by the crew were real or not I will never really know, but I think it's important to share their personal impressions and thoughts as the trip is indeed very costly with last minute costs being required up to the 2 weeks prior to departure. But after the startling comparison to a different dive operator during the same trip, which was far superior in attitude, professionalism and performance, I would have to say that the land based operators remain my selection of choice, (more of that in a coming review).

I will definitely return to Tahiti, but it will be land based for now.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving New Guinea, GBR, Sea of Cortez, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, Palau
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 80-85°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60-80 Ft/ 18-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Divers were restricted according to experience/qualifications. Master diver and beyond were allowed to 30 meters, while more junior divers only 20 meters
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Great subject matter, but it's meaningless if you don't get to see it as the guides are limited in knowledge and apparent policy.
Boat is very poorly equipped for photographers. If the room for camera gear was as large as the rinse tank it would be OK, but it's tiny.
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Report currently has 7 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Sean Brady in NY, US at Mar 10, 2019 15:10 EST  
Thank you for such a clear and frank review. By lead do you mean the photographer who chartered the boat, or the lead dive master from Master? I just scheduled our trip to Tahiti and am building from others experiences to plan out itinerary.
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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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