You either love or hate Tikehau. If you need a lot of action, but are not a diver, look somewhere else. If you like to relax and dive, it’s heaven.
Tikehau means “peaceful landing” in the local language of this atoll in French Polynesia’s remote Tuamotu archipelago. And peaceful it is.
The atoll is essentially two major islands and countless motus (islets) that form a coral ring that stretches out over an area of 27x19km/17x12mi. The vast majority of the local population (500 people) live in the southeast of Tikehau in the village of Tuherahera.
Tikehau is still unspoiled thanks to limited access
There are tourists on the island, but nowhere near to what you find in the Society Islands of French Polynesia.
If you want to come by boat, you need to find one that can get you through the pass. The cruise ships of the area and the freighter Aranui (that also takes guests on board) won’t make it here, as the only pass of the atoll is too small. So if you want to sail, best to find a sailboat that will give you a ride.
Tikehau — home to pink sand beaches
You’ll find miles and miles of deserted white sand beaches in Tikehau — perfect to unwind and think about the meaning of life.
Many motus can be reached at low tide by connecting land bridges made of coral.
In the southeast of the atoll a special kind of coral created much-sought-after pink sand beaches. If the light is right, the heavenly pink aura is truly magical.
Tikehau’s bird island
Many of the motus on Tikehau host an eclectic variety of tropical seabirds. Some of the more rare species found on rocky Motu Puarua are the ground-nesting brown noddies and red-footed boobies.
They are used to visitors and can therefore be easily approached.
Tikehau dive spots
Diving is the main reason for visitors coming to Tikehau.
While making a study here in 1987, Jacques Cousteau stated that this island has the greatest variety of fish in French Polynesia.
Eager to experience this ourselves, we contacted the experts at TOPDIVE Tikehau, our outfitter of choice with whome we had made great experiences in other places in French Polynesia as they are present in all major dive areas.
Here are the dive spot they frequent:
- The Old Pearl Farm: the only dive inside the lagoon and a manta ray cleaning station
- Teonai: stunning seascapes combining large formations and overhanging corals
- Tuheiava Pass: large coral formations with a multitude of fish of all sizes and manta rays
- Shark’s Hole: a vertical wall dive that lets you get up close to different kinds of sharks.
Diving Tuheiava Pass
One of our goals in Tikehau was to catch the manta rays at The Old Pearl Farm, but they were on a “break” while we were there.
Instead, we dived Tuheiava Pass, which was in no way a let-down.
Because this is the only pass in the atoll of Tikehau, there is a strong current going in and out that fills and drains the whole lagoon. Therefore, a lot of fish and sharks like to hang out here.
But also coral lovers will love it here. Every inch of the sea floor is covered in healthy multi-colored hard coral providing shelter to thousands of amazing, small marine animals.
What I liked most about Tikehau was the sheer volume of fish. The schools were so big, they sometimes literally blocked the sunlight filtering through the crystal clear blue water.
But our most stunning encounter was on our fourth and very last dive. We were swimming along a coral bank when a massive 3m/9ft hammerhead shark suddenly passed by about 10m/30ft away.
Now, you might think that 3m/9ft is not that long. Well, for me, this was one hell of a big fish, and underwater, things look 33% bigger, which means I was actually confronted with a 4m/12ft shark!
This encounter was such a surprise, I wasn’t able to capture a decent shot with my camera. BUMMER!
Though I regretted not having a good shot, I was not sure I really wanted it to come back. Seeing it pass by without paying any attention to us was probably a good thing.
Though I have no idea how old the video of TOPDIVE at the bottom of this post is, I have a feeling you’ll see my hammerhead in there (at 1:20 minutes), as these guys are very local.
Diving Shark Hole
The only other dive besides Tuheiava Pass we did was at Tikehau’s Shark Hole.
And the name says it all.
As soon as we reached the bottom of our dive boat’s mooring line at around 20m/66ft, we had a couple of white tip reef sharks swimming around us.
More appeared the deeper we went with gray reef sharks mixing in, all around 2m/6ft.
One very curious gray shark thought it was fun to corner me against the coral wall, but I’m sure (or I want to think) it was just curiosity, as these guys can take a bite out of you.
After having spent some time with the sharks, we went up the vertical wall of coral where we saw an amazing carpet of soldier fish—so thick it was impossible to see the coral behind. Absolutely breathtaking!
Because we haven’t gotten to edit our countless videos yet, here’s a really cool one about diving in Tikehau from TOPDIVE:
Eric and I loved Tikehau as it’s raw nature. I can imagine some people going nuts looking for things to do, but if you like to chill and dive (even beginners can do most of the dive sites), then this is your kind of spot.
If you would like to learn more about the other nine islands of French Polynesia that we visited during our trip, have a look at our Top Spots in French Polynesia. Here you’ll find more great pictures and links to more of our posts about places to see in this beautiful island nation.
And if you are a keen diver, our ultimate guide to diving in French Polynesia will let you know all about the underwater highlights of this beautiful island nation.