Rangiroa Snorkeling is the Best!

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Updated 02.21.2020:  I’m standing in the warm tropical waters of French Polynesia giggling as hundreds of colorful fish flit around me in the crystal clear water. I’ve never seen anything like it. When I stand up to clear my mask, Alan does the same. We both look at each other and say, “Rangiora snorkeling is the best!”

Snorkeling shore excursion in Rangiroa

Blue and white school of fish swimming in the South Pacific Ocean.
Rangiroa snorkeling amazed and delighted us.

On a 64-day South Pacific cruise with Silversea, we finally have the opportunity to visit Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world. What is an atoll? It’s a group of reefs, islets and sandbars that encircle a lagoon. National Geographic offers a more scientific explanation.

Blue water enters a pass into Rangiroa's lagoon.
Silver Explorer cruises through a pass into Rangiroa’s lagoon.

One of largest atolls in the world, and the largest atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago, Rangiroa is made up of 250 islets and sandbars that surround a lagoon. Approximately 100 narrow passages in the fringe reef allow access into the lagoon, which is so large—618 square miles—that it has its own horizon and stormy seas.

Rangiroa Snorkeling in the Natural Aquarium

Orange, blue and yellow fish in Rangiroa lagoon
More colorful fish in the Rangiroa lagoon.

After an early morning sail through one of the passages into the Rangiroa lagoon, Silver Spirit drops anchor. It’s a short tender ride to the Ohotu pier and the beginning of the Snorkeling in the Natural Aquarium cruise excursion.

A coral closeup on a Rangiroa snorkeling excursion with Silversea.
A coral closeup on the Rangiroa snorkeling excursion.

The excursion includes 12 cruise guests, a boat driver, and guide who speak broken English. Snorkeling gear is provided but we recommend bringing your own.

Do you wear glasses? Alan orders prescription snorkeling masks from Amazon; otherwise he’d be almost blind in the water.

The boat motors out to the “open water aquarium” considered to be one of the best snorkeling spots in the atoll. Alan and I agree that it’s the most outstanding snorkeling we’ve experienced. (Of course at this point, we haven’t reached New Caledonia. I’ll be telling you about that snorkeling experience soon).

Colorful fish in the Rangiroa lagoon.
We had so much fun taking underwater photos.

Entrance in and out of the boat is down a two-step ladder into water that’s over our head—no standing up like when we swam with stingrays in Moorea. It’s easy going down the ladder and a little harder coming up as the steps are spaced widely apart.

Okay, I admit it, that upper body strength training I did before the trip wasn’t enough, the boat driver lent me a hand to help me out of the water. But the little bit of effort is worth the fun of swimming with tropical fish, including a few harmless black tip reef sharks.

A chart depicting tropical fish
A chart helps identify what we’ve seen.

Guests snorkel as they wish or follow a guide. Noodles and flotation devices are available for those who need the extra security. There’s also a chart on the boat to help identify the fish that we’ve seen.

We took these photos with an Olympus TG-4 Waterproof camera.

It’s hot and humid in French Polynesia, so a water excursion is always our preferred choice. Other Silversea cruise options include diving, a black pearl farm visit, glass bottom boat tour or an independent exploration, although there isn’t much to do on your own unless you’ve pre-arranged a private excursion. The main village of Avatoru is about 15 minutes from the Ohotu pier.

Colorful fish swimming in the Rangiroa lagoon
The Rangiroa lagoon had a great variety of fish to see.

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