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Dive Review of Paul Gauguin Cruises in
French Polynesia/French Polynesia&Cook Islands

Paul Gauguin Cruises, Sep, 2009,

by David & Candy Cohen, FL, USA ( 1 report with 1 Helpful vote). Report 5119 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Having vacationed on both cruiseships and liveaboards, we found the best of both worlds in the Paul Gauguin (PG), a floating 5 star hotel which cruised us to locations too small for large ships and too remote for smaller liveaboards. Our 14-day itinerary took us through the Society Islands and Tuamotus of French Polynesian and the Cook Islands. The PG also caters to divers, offering a unique sea-level platform (the “marina”) to launch dive boats or to receive boats of local dive operators. This marina also provided a convenient place to rinse, hang and store our gear. Martin, Julien and Robert rounded out Marina Supervisor Dominique Tehei’s team of experienced dive masters. All took great care to understand our individual needs and quickly learned our actual capabilities.

We flew via Air Tahiti Nui into Papeete. While the airport took some time to clear customs and immigration, we were impressed with the efficiency of getting us and our gear settled into the Intercontinental. Arriving late at night, it’s very easy to wake up adjusted to the new time zone. After a delicious breakfast, we set up a late morning dive with Bathy’s, the onsite dive operation, at a site called 3 Wrecks. The 3rd wreck disintegrated a while ago, but there was a plane (actually an old “flying boat”) and another boat. Fishlife was both plentiful and approachable, highlighted by a huge scorpionfish who allowed divers to tickle his chin. Bathy’s is a well run operation with a roomy diveboat.

The next day, we boarded the ship and received the customary dive releases. Once completed, we brought our completed forms and C-cards to Dominique who discussed our experience and reviewed additional diving opportunities. Our first port, the next morning, was Huahine, where we dove with a local operator at Fa’a Miti. There we enjoyed anemonefish, scorpionfish, lionfish, humphead wrasse, angelfish, triggerfish, eagle rays, unicornfish and schools of butterflyfish, Moorish idols, grouper, snapper, jack, parrotfish and bright blue Christmas tree worms. We also saw many colorful clams that produce Tahiti’s beautiful black pearls.

Our next port was Aitutaki where the PG team joined a local operator who led our group diving Arutanga Pass. There we were greeted again not only by schools and schools of fish, but by several big eels and a couple friendly green sea turtles who posed for pictures.

After a couple windy days at sea and a change in itinerary, we were happy to dive Miri Miri (the Mushrooms) with Hemisphere Sub in Raiatea. In addition to our usual suspects we encountered a few dozen black-tip reef sharks swarming like flies. Our next dive produced even more black-tips, silver-tips and a few gray reef sharks. Afterwards, a few of us added a sunset dive on the Nordby, a shipwreck downed 100+ years ago. Here we saw lionfish, porcupinefish, scorpionfish, a well-camouflaged leaf-fish, eels including bright blue eels and orange corals open and feeding. While I love them, I was happy not to see the sharks at night!

That night, we cruised on to Bora Bora where we spent a couple days diving Tapu and Toopua with the PG dive staff. Bora Bora was breathtaking and teeming with fish and sharks. This time the abundant black-tips were accompanied by several larger lemon sharks. We also saw moray eels, turtles, triggerfish and were serenaded by male humpback whales.

We reluctantly left Bora Bora for Rangiroa where we had the most spectacular dives of the trip … drifts dives in Tiputa and Avatoru Passes. We dove with Top Dive, a local operator again arranged through PG. We boarded their zodiacs from the PG marina and bounded out the Tiputa Pass to the outer reef. We planned to ride the current back into the pass. It was only this site where safety dictated that we ascend together, so it was great that PG had grouped divers based on capability. If we thought the fish were abundant previously, multiply that by 100! We saw many turtles moving coral seeking their favorite meal of black sponge. Eagle rays glided past us only to be replaced in our line of sight by a manta ray and his two remora sidekicks. The manta danced by us and circled back for another pass. As if this weren’t wonderful enough, we next heard and saw a pair of bottlenose dolphins playing together -- first at the surface and then descending to greet our local dive master. By now, we were so thrilled, we didn’t want to leave the water at the end of our dive. That afternoon we headed out to drift the Avatoru Pass. Here again we enjoyed the sea turtles and again saw a manta ray although only swimming above us at the surface. A bit later we saw dolphins above us leaping out of the water. While we saw no whales, we felt like them as it was challenging pulling ourselves back into the zodiacs! These were the only boats with no ladders or steps above the engine to help get back aboard, but everyone had a good laugh at each other as we flopped around the boat after hauling ourselves up (and getting helping hands from above and below). Only the locals pulled off a graceful reentry.

Moorea was our last port and site of our last dives: the Ledges and Shark Gallery. Surrounded by bountiful fishlife including several leaf-fish and numerous black-tips, gray reefs and lemon sharks, we also met the friendliest turtle with a penchant for female divers. He gazed deep into our masks (as if to say “do you have any black sponge for me?”) As our tanks emptied, we ascended and reluctantly bid our new friends farewell – promising to return.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Numerous adventures to Hawaii, the Caymans, Honduras, Aruba, Mexico and our own back yard in Florida.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 80-84°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 80-120 Ft/ 24-37 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dominique Tehei and his crew on the Paul Gauguin quickly assessed diver abilities and experience, worked incredibly well with divers of all levels and grouped divers by experience. Only restriction was for safety when pass diving in strong currents where we ascended together but still within our experienced group.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

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 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Facilities for underwater photographers are available and arranged as needed. As just a few of our divers had underwater cameras housings to manage, it was simpler to use the shower facilities than a separate fresh water rinse tank at the watersports platform (called the “marina”). There was a large table available for setting up cameras, but the photographers on our cruise were all shooting digital therefore mostly prepping, downloading and recharging batteries in their staterooms. The real star of the cruise was the marine line surrounding us on every dive. Dominique Tehei, marina supervisor, was also shooting digital and did an excellent job capturing special moments of all the divers enjoying sharks, turtles, eels and the like. The Paul Gauguin dive crew hosted a divers “get together” on the last night of the cruise and presented a slide show with remarkable photos from the cruise. This collection of photos made a wonderful addition for many of us who take so many pictures of others that we never have photos of ourselves with the marine life.
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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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