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The Best Snorkeling in Bora Bora

This beloved French Polynesian paradise is known for its stunning overwater bungalows, but there’s plenty happening underwater, too.

April 9, 2020
Bora Bora
One of the biggest advantages of staying in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora is instant access to the surrounding waters, which are teeming with vibrant marine life. Shutterstock

There are many reasons to visit Bora Bora, with its dramatic volcanic jutting motu peaks and scenery, and not to mention the overwater bungalows that headline the bucket lists of would-be travelers around the world.

But make no mistake, what’s under the surface is every bit as worthy as the dreamiest sunset.

Outer Reef

Will you see the hordes of tropical reef fish crowding other sites? Other than a sprinkling of black triggerfish, not really. But heading outside the lagoon offers equally worthy experiences for the adventurous snorkeler. The deep royal blue almost glows as the sloping ocean floor drops into the depths. This is where it gets exciting.

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One of the big draws for divers venturing to French Polynesia is the healthy and abundance shark populations. In Bora Bora, the outer reef is where they roam. Friendly (yes, friendly!) black tip reef sharks will offer close encounters of the finned kind. If you go by tour, they’ll probably pop up as soon as they see the boat hoping for a handout. Up close viewing opps will get the heart racing, but equally enthralling are the much larger and far more shy lemon sharks. While blacktip reef sharks usually land in the four-to-six-foot range, lemon sharks are double averaging ten feet long. They’ll likely keep to themselves on the bottom but are impressive to see.

Four Seasons Spa Lagoon

Four Seasons Bora Bora snorkeling
From guided tours and romantic couples’ excursions to feeding the marine life and grafting coral, Four Seasons Bora Bora boasts an expansive underwater experience. Four Seasons

Lucky snorkelers staying at the gorgeous Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora need go no further than the lagoon at the base of the spa. Protected, warm, clear and pristinely kept—this is a perfect spot for the beginner snorkeler.

The shallow lagoon winds through the tropical foliage and is home to triggerfish, colorful wrasse, tiny chromes, glowing edged surgeon fish and the occasional eel. Little chunks of coral provide habitat for the sea life and entertainment to those getting treatments, as much like the bungalow floors, the spa offers clear windows under the massage tables to watch the fish below.

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Guests can hold onto their gear to explore the reef alongside the sand beach or even to hop in from the deck of their overwater bungalows, rows of which reach into the bay dotting the light aqua water under Mount Otemanu’s gaze.

L’Aquarium—Intercontinental Hotel/Matira Point

As the name suggests, a snorkel here is equal to a visit to an aquarium. The list of tropical fish life is long—angel fish, trigger fish, lyre tail wrasse, parrotfish, chromis, cleaner wrasse and humbug fish are some highlights. Moray eels swim freely from coral ridge to ridge, while anemones waving in the swell play home to adorable clown fish.

Visibility in the region isn’t always as clear as it first appears, thanks to the healthy and nutrient-rich water. This is one spot that currents tend to keep clear, with 40-50-foot clarity often enjoyed.

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Inner Reef

Rays and blacktip reef sharks
Rays and blacktip reef sharks are a common sight at some of Bora Bora’s most popular snorkeling spots. Shutterstock

This sandy bottom hotspot for excursions and tours is home to a plethora of sting rays and amiable blacktip reef sharks. Thanks to some tour guides feeding the creatures, it has become a regular haunt for these creatures who might approach in hopes of a handout. Also fun to watch are the remoras that often accompany them, sliding along their length nibbling off parasites and debris.

Anau

As with many of the sites near this idyllic isle, this one’s best visited by boat tour despite seeming close to shore. Currents can be strong and local know-how goes a long way in placing visitors in just the right spot to get the best experience.

This site is actually known to offer great diving, putting much of the reef, with lovely hard and soft corals playing host to tropical reef fish, a bit too deep to enjoy from the surface. But what is readily present and the biggest draw to this site is well within view and simply magnificent.

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Manta rays congregate in this little channel. Divers enjoy the reef but truly come to roll onto their back, looking up as numerous rays with their 9-12-foot wingspan glide above, feeding on the plentiful columns of plankton. Snorkelers can join the fun, enjoying a topside view of the creatures or freediving down to accompany the docile giants.

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