French Polynesia (French: Polynésie française) is part of France. It consists of 118 islands in five archipelagos located in the Pacific ocean; in spite of this, many of them are uninhabited. The islands of Tubuai (French: Îles Tubuaï), Gambier (Îles Gambier), Marquesas (Îles Marquises) belong to the mainland and are included in the French overseas territories. The islands are of volcanic origin, which ensures impressive diversity of both landscapes and seascapes. Here, you can see lagoons and coral reefs, tunnels and steep cliffs that disappear down into the depth. That is why there are enough diving sites for scuba divers to choose from. Natural basins of lagoons are perfect for beginner divers. The Pacific Ocean bursts with colorful water areas which really stimulate the experienced divers. The channels between the islands are home to sharks and giant stingrays.
All the islands have their own distinct features and are attractive for divers. Probably the most interesting are Tahiti and Fakarava islands where you can discover sea dwellers and picturesque wrecks hiding in the crystal-clear, shallow waters. Various sharks live near Moorea, and divers can practice cave diving and wreck diving on Tahaa. There are also colorful coral gardens with their tropic dwellers scattered near the many islands.
Each of the large islands, and even many hotels, have their own properly certified dive shops. They offer all kinds of diving, including extreme, night, wreck diving and also cave diving. You have to be an experienced diver if you choose to go on dive safari to the islands of French Polynesia.
September is the first month of spring. It is still dry season, which is good for diving. The air and water temperatures are around +26 °С and +25 °С, respectively. The flow of tourists increases during this time. Rain is highly likely in November, and temperatures rise.
The midst of the warm and wet season occurs in the summer months, from December to February. The air temperature is around +30 °С, and water warms up to +28 °С. Rains and storms are highly likely during this time: 3/4 of mean annual rainfall occurs in the period from November to April.
Diving in French Polynesia is available all year round, but April is the best month for divers. The wet season is nearly over, and the dry season begins: the temperature is slightly lower, about +27 °C, but on the other hand, there's less chance of rain.
Summer in the Northern Hemisphere means a dry and cool winter in French Polynesia: the air temperature falls to +24... +25 °С, and water is around +24 °С. And, even though June and July are the coldest months, they are considered the best time to watch humpback whales.
Islands of the the Tuamotu Archipelago are the most popular. For instance, there is Rangiroa atoll. It's a coral reef that covers tens of kilometers and offers various dive spots with different diving conditions. These places have rich underwater fauna. Here, you can meet rare sea dwellers and explore caves and wrecks.
Healthcare quality in the capital city, Papeete, is high enough, but leaves something to be desired in remote areas. Cost of hospital services is rather high, so it's better to arrange your insurance in advance. Since French Polynesia is an island country, you cannot expect emergency ambulance to arrive quickly to remote islands. So try to avoid accidents and stay safe. Mosquitoes here can spread Dengue fever and Zika virus (no specific treatment for Zika exists yet). Also, you will need vaccinations against scabies and leptospirosis. And be ready for diarrhea outbreaks.
It should be noted that the situation with employment is highly unstable in Polynesia. This results in frequent strikes and protests, which, in turn, affect traffic. In other respects, it is a safe place for tourists.
A large shark population lives in the waters of French Polynesia. However, no cases of attacks on humans have been registered during the 20th century. However, moray eels, sea urchins, eels and other venomous sea dwellers can often spoil the vacation. Try to avoid them.
Local cuisine is a mix of French, Italian and Chinese culinary traditions. Local distinct features include cooking in mud stoves and hot-stone cooking. Besides that, food is often wrapped in banana leaves. A traveler must try fafa, a dish cooked with suckling pig and spinach. Shish kebab, made of fish or meat, is another tasty meat dish. Po'e tropical fruit pudding (with mango or papaya) will be a good dessert, and local pineapple wine or vanilla rum are also worth tasting. It is better to drink bottled or boiled water here.