After spending so much time on land in Tahiti, we felt lucky to escape to its beautiful sister island, Moorea. Located 11 miles northwest of Tahiti, it is busy and tourist-filled, but still feels like a tranquil getaway. On two different getaways from Tahiti, we spent four weeks communing with the marine life in Moorea.
First, a little background. Like Tahiti and The Tuamotus, the island of Moorea is surrounded by coral reef, providing protection from big ocean waves. Moorea allows us to anchor in beautiful places with close proximity to shops, restaurants, and other amenities of civilization. One of the highlights is the marine life in Moorea.
Marine Life in Moorea
Moorea is a paradise thanks to the proximity to marine life. From our boat, dinghy, paddleboard; swimming, snorkeling, or diving, we’ve seen multiple marine animals.
We are so fortunate to come here on our boat because we can access most of the top tourist attractions via dinghy. While the majority of visitors pay for tours to see the whales and other sea life, we can do it on our own. We’ve learned to look for clusters of tour boats because they’re probably watching whales or dolphins.
Lucky for us, we came to Moorea in the peak season, when humpback whales are nursing their babies. Seeing these majestic beauties in their natural habitat, swimming and jumping in the lagoon around Moorea is a magical experience, and we’ve witnessed that several times. Most often, we saw a mother and baby swimming together in the bay. It is awe-inspiring, especially when they leap out of the water in front of our tiny dinghy!
The Moorea government has strict rules and advisories concerning the humpback whales, which makes me happy. They are very careful about protecting these beautiful animals and we followed the restrictions, including keeping a distance. So our photos aren’t close-ups, but the whales are safe. I’m good with that.
One of Moorea’s top tourist spots is a little bay with sharks and sting rays in very clear, shallow water. They are being fed by some of the guides, because they are extremely friendly. People sit in boats, on jetskis, or get in the water with the rays and sharks.
Below is video of how close you can get to the stingrays in this part of Moorea.
We saw more sting rays, and spotted eagle rays, from our boat and while paddling in a few of the anchorages. You just have to keep your eyes on the water!
Sting ray bay is also home to a number of reef sharks. They swim around amongst the tourists’ legs in the shallow calm water.
There are several types of sharks in Moorea. We saw black tip and white tip reef sharks and lemon sharks most commonly. They tend to stay in the shallow waters right near the shore, and we saw some while walking along the waterfront and from seaside restaurants.
Dolphins swam around Cooks bay two mornings in a row, and it was a blast! This is the first time we’d seen dolphins since The Marquesas, and these dolphins knew we were there and put on a show for us. At least it felt like it. They swam in a big circle around us so we had lots of time to watch them and record them.
Sometimes a turtle will pop up out of the water near our boat, but the most turtles we saw in Moorea was during a dive outside Opunohu Bay. Again, we are fortunate because we can load our gear into a dinghy and motor for about ten minutes to a dive buoy where we tie up and dive on the reef.
I don’t know the official name for the dive site, but I called it the turtle dive because there were so many, everywhere we looked. They were resting on coral, trying to blend in, and some were swimming around and eating. They knew we were there, but most of them just tried to ignore us and continue to rest. It was a good dive.
Getting On the Water
If, like most people, you don’t sail your own boat, you can easily see the marine life in Moorea. There are tons of whale watching tours from July-November, and boats to sting ray bay run every day. Sign up for a dive, snorkel, or jet ski tour. If you prefer animal sightings over speed, the jet ski tour may not be the best as we witnessed them speed by the pod of dolphins multiple times without stopping. You can also rent a kayak and depending where you are, kayak to sting ray bay or another bay to see the marine life in Moorea. This little French Polynesian island has stolen our hearts and it is truly a dream destination, especially if you like the ocean and wildlife.