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Dive Review of Master Liveaboards in
French Polynesia/Marquesas Islands

Master Liveaboards: "Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia Master", Mar, 2018,

by David Marchese, PA, US (Contributor Contributor 17 reports with 25 Helpful votes). Report 10165 has 1 Helpful vote.

Photos Submitted with this Report

Click on an image to see an enlarged version and captions

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments RULES: Regardless of experience, Open Water certified divers are limited to 60 feet, Advanced Open Water and Rescue divers are limited to 100 feet, and Master Divers are limited to 130 feet. Maximum dive time is 1 hour. Divers must stay in groups and with the divemaster (we dove in groups of 4, and they separated groups pretty effectively). The maximum depth/time for the group is limited to those of the diver carrying the lowest level of certification or consuming air the fastest. Most guests were very experienced and carried a Master certification, but we still needed to follow the dive master and dive as a group. A couple of days prior to our trip, a new law was implemented, which limited the number of dives to 3 per day. The “cruise director” explained that all dives need to be logged and that the logs need to be submitted to the “authorities”. Therefore, we were forced to adhere to all these rules.

DIVING: Visibility averaged about 25 feet. It was 10 feet (not meters!) for a couple of dives and about 75 feet on a couple others. There is almost no coral in the Marquesas, so if the critters don’t show up, the only thing left to look at is rocks. Fortunately, mantas were common and friendly. There were several dives where two or three mantas stayed close for 10 minutes or so. Eagle rays were also fairly common and up to a dozen appeared in formation a couple of times. There was one dive where a dozen stingrays congregated in a cave and another dive where 8 to 10 reef sharks occupied another cave. But sharks were generally scarce. At the Hammerhead Sentinel, we saw 3 – 5 hammerheads (mostly in the murk), and another dive drew in 8 – 10 silver tips that answered the “water bottle shark call.” Fish density was pretty good on most dives, but there wasn’t a lot of variety or much unordinary. There were lots of schooling snappers on most dives. We also saw schools of convict tangs, fusiliers, jacks, and barracuda. The low visibility and the need to stay in groups made photography challenging. Overall, the diving was split with 1/3 being pretty darn good, 1/3 ok, and 1/3 being dreadfully boring.

FACILITIES: The French Polynesia Master is about 2 years old, but looks about 10 years old and in need of an update/refresh. It’s certainly not bad, but not what I expected from a new purpose-built liveaboard. The dining area and salon are small for the 15 guests on this trip. The boat holds 24 guests, but that would have been seriously over crowded. The dive deck is large and well laid out, but the camera tables are small and narrow. There is just enough room for about 4 DLSR rigs. Our upper level master cabin was big, and storage space was ample, but the furniture was cheap. For example, our chest of drawers was flimsy and lacked latches. Every time the seas rolled, the top drawer fell out and landed upside down on the floor. And the seas never got rough on this trip. In general, the furnishings on the ship seemed more like household items than the robust, bolted-down items that are standard on liveaboards. That being said, everything was in working order, and the staff immediately fixed anything that wasn’t. Nitrox (additional charge) was consistently 32 – 33% and tanks were filled to 3100 psi. Two hot-water showers and two heads were nice features of the dive deck.

STAFF/FOOD: Staff/divemasters were very good, pleasant, and helpful. Food was plentiful, pretty good, and served buffet style. Coffee and espresso were available 24/7. They had two “Margareta parties”, but other alcohol was at an additional charge. The wine selection was good with most bottles at $30 US.

SUMMARY: French Polynesia is very expensive. Since some of my recent Undercurrent reviews have not been stellar, I was afraid that I may be overcritical (rather than just unlucky) so I conferred with nearly every other guest on board. Everyone was disappointed with the diving on this trip and shared my other concerns, so I’m confident that this is a fair review (but maybe I’m truly unlucky too). It’s probably important to note that the Marquesas are largely unexplored so perhaps there is yet-to-be-discovered potential for these islands and perhaps a season with more action or better visibility.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Turks & Caicos, Bay Islands, Bahamas,
Fiji, Saba, Maldives, California, Revillagigedo, Cozumel, Midway, Kona,
Galapagos, Panama, Palau, Tahiti, Cocos, Tonga, PNG, Komodo, Sulawesi,
Holbox, Solomon Islands, Belize, Komodo, Raja Ampat, Wakitobi, Alor.
Closest Airport Papeete & Hiva Oa Getting There LAx - Papeete - Hiva Oa

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy, no currents
Water Temp 81-82°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 25-40 Ft/ 8-12 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Diving is very restricted and regulated
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Low viz and the need to dive in groups made photography difficult.
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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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