Dive Into A New World With Tahiti’s Vibrant Marine Life
Tahiti is known for its diverse culture, flavourful cuisine and magnificent sights wherever you look. The country is a small archipelago, making it the perfect home to many marine wildlife species. Snorkelling, diving and swimming will take you closer to these creatures.
Most travel packages include activities that let you appreciate the natural beauty of these majestic animals. Check out some of the exotic fauna you may spot during your visit.
Tahiti’s Vibrant Marine Life
Whales, referred to locally as “tohora,” are among the most graceful creatures to live in the marine environment of Tahiti.
The Humpback whale is a mammal that relies on a filter-feeding system called baleen. It can grow to 18 metres long and weigh up to 40 tonnes. Pods of Humpback whales often migrate from the icy waters of the Antarctic every year from July to November. They choose Tahiti because of her warm shore waters, ideal for giving birth, breeding and being sheltered from predators.
Another whale specie you can find off-shore is the Short-Finned Pilot whale. These large creatures typically feed at night and are slow-moving during the day. They are social animals that even allow boats to approach them. One of Tahiti’s foremost attractions is giving visitors an opportunity to join them in the water for a snorkelling encounter.
Rurutu is one of the most ideal locations to spot a whale in Tahiti. All whales of French Polynesia are protected as the country is a cetacean sanctuary with strict whale-watching regulations.
Another marine mammal commonly found in the Tahitian waters is the dolphin. Known locally as “ou’a,” it is present year-round on most of Tahiti’s islands.
Spinner dolphins grow up to 1.6 metres in length and are considered the smallest dolphin specie in Tahiti. Rough-Toothed dolphins are slightly larger and are often encountered during snorkelling expeditions in the open ocean off the coast of French Polynesia.
It’s easy to differentiate these two species by looking at their markings. Spinner dolphins exhibit a tripartite colour pattern with a countershading from dark to light, while Rough-Toothed dolphins have a dark grey body with white throats and lips.
Because swimming with dolphins is one of the main attractions in Tahiti, most travel packages include spending time with these playful creatures. In addition, some programs teach you about their evolution, anatomy and habits and will include a trainer to accompany you for an unforgettable experience.
Another giant in the Tahitian waters, rays glide, dart and flap their pectoral fins as if they’re performing an underwater ballet.
There are about 137 individual species of rays you can encounter. For instance, the Pink Whip ray extends up to 1.2 metres in disc width and primarily feeds on invertebrates and other sandbed fish. Meanwhile, Spotted Eagle rays, or Leopard rays, are large-bodied creatures that feed on crustaceans.
Of the hundreds of shark species known worldwide, 21 can be found in French Polynesian waters, making Tahiti an excellent choice for divers to see them up close and personal. You can even debunk a popular myth surrounding sharks — that they are bloodthirsty animals. According to local mythology and Polynesian culture, the country’s forefathers lived with them in harmony, and sharks represent the souls of their ancestors.
One of the shark species in the Tahitian waters is the Lemon shark. Its name is derived from its peculiar bright yellow or brown pigmentation. They are quite difficult to spot as they are benthic species or creatures that live and hunt near the bottom of the ocean floor.
Meeting Silky sharks is rare, as their population continues to decrease worldwide due to overfishing. But, like dolphins, these sharks are protected by laws imposed by the French Polynesian government. Their name comes from the particular texture of their skin. They are solitary but will approach snorkelers because of their curious nature.
Other Cetaceans, Sharks and Rays
Apart from dolphins and these two species of whales, you’ll be able to spot other cetacean creatures, such as Risso’s dolphins, Blainville Beaked whales and Pygmy Killer whales. Observing these uncommon species will allow you to learn more about their ecology.
Consider yourself lucky if you spot Manta rays and Whale sharks in the open ocean of Tahiti. These pelagic fish look for plankton to feed on. You may also catch a rare specie of Scalloped Hammerhead sharks as they swim close to the surface.
There are two main species of turtles (or “honu”) found in Tahiti: Green and Hawksbill turtles. The former derives its name from the colour of its flesh and fat and is commonly encountered during tours. Young Green turtles are carnivorous but become herbivores when they mature. Meanwhile, Hawksbill turtles are smaller and often seen in bays and outer reefs. They feed on sponges and algae stuck on rocks and reefs.
Birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment are known as seabirds. You can find various species of these creatures in the country, such as Booby birds, frigates, terns and noddies.
Booby birds are spectacular divers who plunge into the ocean at incredible speeds. Their favourite food includes small fish and squids that gather near the surface. Frigates are thieves that rob other birds of their food while in the air. In fact, they also snatch fish right from the hands of fishermen and guides.
Terns can easily be spotted from a distance because of their pale plumage, while noddies are darker. Apart from their feathers, the way they gather their food also differs. Terns dive from a flight, while noddies fly low over the sea surface and pick them up.
Spot Diverse Marine Fauna in Tahiti
Prepare to dive into a new world with Tahiti’s vibrant marine ecosystem. Wear your scuba gear, and remember to bring your diving equipment to catch a glimpse of these impressive specimens. Most of these animals are protected by law, so learn to be respectful as you enter their natural habitat.
Book a holiday package with Entire Travel Group to experience the marine wildlife of Tahiti.