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THE ISLANDS of Tahiti
In the second of two parts, we take you on a whistlestop tour around the rich and varied diving regions of the islands of Tahiti
Photographs by Grégory Lecoeur, Jim Winter, Bernard Beaussier, Frédérique Legrand, and Grégoire Le Bacon
One of the most-abundant marine biodiversity in the world, a concentration of emotions in this atoll, recognized as one of the best places for exceptional underwater encounters. In the Islands of Tahiti, Rangiroa is the place where you will have the most chances to observe the great hammerhead shark, between February and April.
Top Dive Sites
TIPUTA PASS - This 12m to 46m dive is known to be the meeting place of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, wild sedentary dolphins that live in the Tiputa pass right above a gathering of grey sharks. AVATORU PASS - In this pass, you will meet the tapete, white-finned reef sharks. A little further on you will observe a huge school of jacks, sometimes separated into two groups by the intrusion of a raira, grey shark or a Napoleon fish.
Classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Fakarava is a model of nature reconciled with human development. During the breeding season, from mid-June to the beginning of July, one can observe very large gatherings of mottled loaches. These magical moments are awaited by many divers around the world.
Did you know?
Manta rays are covered in a mucous film that protects them from harmful bacteria, and if it gets removed it can leave the ray open to illness and damage their immune system. This is why it’s a big no-no to touch mantas in the wild.
One of the most-abundant marine biodiversity in the world, a concentration of emotions in this atoll, recognized as one of the best places for exceptional underwater encounters
Aerial view shows the stunning clarity of the water
Sharks school above grouper on the reef
Did you know?
Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia, the South Pacific archipelago covering 403 square miles (1,043 square km). Shaped like a figure-8, it’s divided into Tahiti Nui (the larger, western section) and Tahiti Iti (the eastern peninsula).
Top Dive Sites
GARUAE PASS - The largest in the Islands of Tahiti. The show is always guaranteed whatever the time of year Barracuda, loaches, grouper and rays live there with a greater concentration during the full moon.
TETAMANU PASS - Often presented as the largest concentration of grey sharks in the world, the Tetamanu pass, or Tumakohua pass, offers an unforgettable spectacle in depths of 10m to 30m.
Famous for its landscapes and the beauty of its passes. Tikehau is considered as the atoll with the largest concentration of fish throughout the Tuamotu. The only pass of the island is the gathering place for pelagic species and promises to offer you beautiful encounters.
Sharks on the prowl
Expect vast shoals of fish
Boat pick up from a villa
Topside is truly stunning
This atoll, with its unique pass, offers beautiful and easy dives, accessible to all with the fauna of the Tuamotu„
Top Dive Sites
THE TUHEIVA PASS - Accessible for all levels. All the reef fauna is represented: moray eels, Napoleon fish, barracuda and tuna are frequent visitors. Almost every day, you will meet a group of tapete (whitetip lagoon shark).
TEONAI - All the marine fauna of the Tuamotu Islands is present in Teonai where you can find lionfish, moray eels, Napoleons, surgeonfish, and whitetip lagoon sharks. The richest period of the year for marine fauna is from October to December.
This atoll, with its unique pass, offers beautiful and easy dives, accessible to all with the fauna of the Tuamotu. Manta rays are often present and the reproduction of grouper offers an uncommon underwater spectacle at the June solstice period.
Top Dive Sites
THE TURIPAOA PASS - Depending on the tide and the direction of the current, the dive can be done in any direction: in, out and even across!
THE CIRQUE - At the entrance of the pass, the water is sometimes rough and not very clear. The current can be strong, but it is here that the manta rays offer their majestic ballet to a few privileged divers.
The plankton-rich waters of the Marquesas Islands are almost primitive in appearance and attract some of the most unique species you will encounter in the Island of Tahti. Electra dolphins, scalloped hammerheads, and some caves are literally filled with stingrays. In Hiva Oa, let yourself escape out of time. The island’s seabed offers beautiful underwater explorations. You will be able to observe a remarkable fauna and moving archaeological underwater remains.
Top Dive Sites
LE RABOT - For trained divers. The caves are home to numerous moray eels some of which are smaller than the Javanese and are very colourful. The nudibranchs will dazzle you with their flamboyant colours.
KUI POINT - A dive during which you will fly over cavities with a remarkable abundance of seashells, scorpionfish, and grouper. But the highlight of the show is provided by the manta.
Aggregation of grouper
You will be able to observe a remarkable fauna and moving archaeological underwater remains
Tranquil scenes topside
Turtle cruising along the reef
The only diving centre on the island offers tailor-made trips to various sites – drop-offs, coral gardens, small caves, canyons, fish refuges, pass, etc. Between July and November, you can observe humpback whales that come to give birth.
Top Dive Sites
LOU GOBI - The site is located on the left side of the pass and there are more than 30 species of corals at the bottom of this varied landscape where you will enjoy taking the time to observe a fertile underwater world. FABULOUS DROP-OFF - Everything is said! The top of the drop off is 8m below the surface and the bottom is... bottomless! At 20m you will find the entrance to a mysterious and enchanting cave.
Diving the Islands of Tahiti is like diving in a documentary, such is the wealth of marine life on offer, and the topside scenery is not bad either!
DIVING WITH NAYS BAGHAI
We chat with underwater cameraman, independent film-maker and musician Nays Baghai about his water-themed works and award-winning documentary films
Photographs courtesy of Nays Baghai
20th-century jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus said: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace. Making the complicated simple - that’s creativity.” It’s a quote that resonates deeply with underwater cameraman, independent film-maker and musician Nays Baghai, who might best be described as a ‘hybrid incarnate’.
His impressive body of water-themed work makes difficult and complex journeys accessible through his award-winning documentary short and feature-length films.
Born in Toronto to parents of Persian heritage, Nays was certified in scuba diving and freediving as a teenager. Based in Sydney, he has also recently ventured into rebreather diving to enable longer bottom times for filming in deeper, overhead sites and for silence when filming larger animals. He cites The Blue Planet as the catalyst behind not only his love for rebreathers, but his passion for filming underwater as a whole.
Nays writes, directs and edits films that explore the challenges and triumphs of real-life characters, particularly telling stories of experienced divers in extreme environments.He’s an accomplished underwater cinematographer and photographer, graphic designer and videographer with an extensive premium client list, including Rolex, Tourism Australia, Sony, Telstra, Cressi and SBS.
A graduate of Australia’s national film school AFTRS, Nays runs his own film company, Running Cloud Productions, which is founded on the principles of depth, independence and precision. A master of multi-modalities, there’s an intrinsic interplay between Nays’ film-making, diving and musicality. The yin-yang interplay between still photography and cinematography is stylistically distinctive in Nays’ films, where many of the sequences have the resonance and potency of fine art stills.
After a decade of playing in various ensembles and learning over a dozen instruments, Nays now switches between piano, guitar and bass for two hours each day,
essentially as a form of ‘flow state’ mediation: “The bass is my favourite because it’s the bridge between the rhythm and the harmony. You are pretty much in charge of the music, but you’re not flashy and up at the front. It’s emblematic of what I like to do in my professional life. I like being in control and driving things, but I don’t like showing off. I like being in the background, subtly laying the groundwork.”
Nays tells stories of people navigating significant mental and physical challenges while simultaneously embracing production challenges as an integral part of the film-making process
Nays’ award-winning directorial debut, Descent, premiered at the Sydney Film Festival. He received the 2020 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Best Australian Documentary (along with a $10,000 prize and Academy Award eligibility), adding to an impressive list of 20 prior awards for short film projects.
The 65-minute film feels more cinematic than a typical documentary, delivering a psychological portrait of Kiki Bosch, who freedives in icy water and beneath the ice without a wetsuit. In part, her cold-water diving is a form of therapy in the aftermath of sexual assault.
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“Whenever I’m looking to develop a story, the first question I ask is, ‘What motivates someone to do what they do?’ In the diving world, there are so many freedivers and tech divers that go to mind-boggling extremes and push the limits of human potential. That, to me, is the most fertile creative ecosystem to investigate human psychology.”
In Descent, fresh and archival footage are woven seamlessly to convey Kiki’s inner and physical journeys with a fine balance of objectivity and empathy. “As a storyteller, I like telling stories cleanly and to the point - without gratuity or agenda. I try to be as lean and direct as I can.”
Nays tells stories of people navigating significant mental and physical challenges while simultaneously embracing production challenges as an integral part of the film-making process. “We navigated all sorts of challenges during the 17 months it took to bring Descent to life. Without doubt, the most logistically complex, demanding location was New Zealand. We had to contend with 10°C degree waters and a dense halocline with variable visibility.
“That alone is challenging, but adding waves, limited dive times and having to film at 15m deep increases the difficulty tenfold. Without the luxury of wireless communications, my job as a director required me to dive up and down in that water column many times a day. That definitely wreaked havoc on my sinuses and stamina. Because I only had a 5mm open cell wetsuit, I was borderline hypothermic by the end of the shoot.”
Due to Covid restrictions at the time of release, the only opportunity Nays had to view Descent with a live audience came nearly a year later, during a charity screening for survivors of rape and domestic violence who reacted positively to the film’s treatment of the sensitive subject matter: “Making Descent taught me the value of telling stories that are timeless because of how they touch on universal themes. You have to ask yourself - if someone watched my film 1,000 years from now, would it still hold up then?”
Nay’s current feature documentary project is titled Jill Heinerth: Room To Breathe, and is slated for a September 2023 release. This film tells the life story of the author of the bestseller, Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver. Nays enrolled in a cave-diving course specifically for this production: “It’s the most fun I have ever had on a project, in both the diving and film world so far”.
To learn more about Nays and his projects, check out his website at
, or his Instagram profile