Swimming with Sharks and Stingrays in Moorea
One of the activities we’re most excited about on our trip to French Polynesia is swimming with sharks and stingrays in Moorea. This is one of the best places in the world to snorkel with blacktip reef sharks. The water here is remarkably clear and warm, and it’s teeming with underwater creatures and wildlife.
Prior to this trip, our boys had not snorkeled in the ocean before. We understood that asking them to jump in the water and swim with sharks could go either way. Sharks can be intimidating.
The area in Moorea where the sharks and rays frequently visit is called Sharks Sandbank. It is quite shallow here, which makes it suitable for all levels of swimmers.
You can actually stand on the sandbank in some spots, depending on your height.
Guests on the Moorea snorkeling tour are not obligated to get in the water if they are not comfortable. The sharks and rays are visible from the boat, so it’s possible to stay on the boat and still see them in their natural habitat.
Our oldest boy was super excited and splashed in the water seconds after the boat anchored. While our younger boy needs more time to process and build up his courage. He stayed on the boat and watched everyone else swim with the sharks first, before getting into the water.
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Snorkeling tours in Moorea
There are several options when it comes to snorkeling tours and swimming with sharks and stingrays in Moorea. Most of them follow the same itinerary and visit the same spots.
Because of this, it can be difficult to decided which Moorea tour company to book with. The big players on the island are Moorea Tiki Tours, Albert Tours Moorea and Moorea Miti Tours.
We booked the tour using Viator a few months before our trip because we heard these Moorea snorkeling tours can sell out.
We’re glad we did. Not only did it give us piece of mind that our tour is confirmed, but we did notice some companies showing no more availability.
We also like the cancelation options with Viator.
Something to note – huge cruise ships visit the island periodically. There was a big cruise ship anchored in the bay during our time in Moorea. Tours will sell out quickly on cruise days because the local tour operators hit capacity with their boats.
When researching this trip, we read that it’s cheaper to book directly with the tour operator or through your hotel. However, we did not find this to be the case. The price was mostly the same, give or take a few dollars in either direction.
Search for Moorea snorkeling tours here.
Moorea Miti Tours
We chose the 6 hour tour with Moorea Miti Tours that includes lunch. They also offer a shorter 3 hour lagoon snorkeling tour that doesn’t include lunch.
You can book the 3 hour tour here or the 6 hour tour here.
We went with Moorea Miti Tours for a few reasons. First, they use a Polynesian outrigger canoe. We like the smaller boats because they max out at 12 passengers. We prefer smaller group tours.
The company also has good reviews online, which gave us more confidence.
While on our snorkeling tour, we noticed other tour operators with big groups and bigger boats. Albert Tours appears to be the biggest tour operator on the island. Some of their boats had 30-50 people, which is too big for us. Especially when traveling with our boys.
Book your Moorea snorkeling tour here.
Is it safe to snorkel with sharks and stingrays in Moorea?
Yes. It is safe to snorkel and swim with the sharks and stingrays in Moorea.
However, a reminder that you are swimming in the ocean, so it’s important to wear a life jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer. And it’s always a good idea to swim with a partner.
The blacktip sharks are not very big, relatively speaking. At least, not the ones we witnessed. They are curious, but also timid. There’s no need to swim after the sharks because they continually swim around the sandbank in circles. Just remember to keep your distance and don’t grab or startle the sharks. Just be cool and watch these fascinating creatures swim.
Learn more about blacktip reef sharks here.
We learned that stingrays can be quite playful. They will brush up on you if they think you have food, so don’t panic if they approach you.
We noticed some guides feeding the stingrays (I’m not sure they’re supposed to do that), which is likely why these stingrays might think humans have food.
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What to expect on the 6 hour snorkeling tour
Moorea Miti Tours picks up passengers from the public dock located beside Manava Beach Resort. Fortunately for us, this is where we were staying, which meant we did not need to arrange hotel transportation.
However, they also offer hotel pickups from a number of Moorea hotels, including Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea and Hilton Moorea.
The tour starts at 8:00am. Our guide, Mana, arrived right on time.
Moorea Miti Tours had two more boats going out that day. We think they separate groups based on language spoken, because the other two groups followed us on the same tour. We were on an English speaking boat. The other boats were Spanish and French speaking groups.
Research more Moorea activities and tours here.
Mana told our boys, ages 9 and 11 at the time, to sit at the very front of the boat to get the best view. They enjoyed this “private section” and felt like they had the best seats on the boat.
The boat passed through Cook Bay and Opunohu bay. Mana shared stories about Moorea and its history as we passed each location.
We kept a look out for sea turtles because they’re often spotted here. Unfortunately, we did not spot any turtles that morning.
We collected coconuts from the water and Mana showed us how to check if the coconuts are good. We kept a few of the good ones for lunch.
Snorkeling with sharks in Moorea
It wasn’t long before we arrived at our first stop, a shallow sandbank. We immediately saw sharks and rays circling around the boats. It’s an exciting moment when you witness the sharks for the first time.
Mana shared some basic safety tips before getting into the water. He asked us not to touch the sharks and be careful not to step on a stingray. Wearing water shoes is highly recommended.
The depth of this sandbank is about 4 to 5 feet. Adults can easily stand on the sand, which is nice. Our boys were comfortable in the water here.
French Polynesia’s Moorea Lagoon boasts crystal clear water that’s home to diverse marine life. The clear water makes it easy to view the marine life. The water is calm because it’s protected from outer reef.
The sharks and rays in this area are used to human encounters. They are not afraid and will swim close to you. Sometimes they may even brush up against you with their fins or tails.
A refreshing Hinano Tahiti beer after swimming with sharks and rays in Moorea.
Drinks are included with the 6 hour tour. But don’t expect an endless open bar – we had 2 beers on this excursion.
Snorkeling at Coral Garden Tiahura
After swimming with the sharks and rays, we continued to the next snorkeling spot. Coral Garden Tiahura is located in a channel between two small islets. These coral gardens are teeming with fish and underwater creatures.
We saw a variety of colorful reef fish of all sizes, including angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, and triggerfish. Moray eels and octopus can also be found here, but they are not easily spotted and don’t like to be found.
The water is clear and the visibility is excellent. You feel like you are swimming in a real life aquarium.
We captured a lot of GoPro footage from this coral garden, but not as many photos. Video coming soon.
He’s all smiles after snorkeling the coral gardens in Moorea.
Lunch at Motu Fareone
After snorkeling the coral gardens, we got back in the boat and made our way to a small island for lunch. It’s only a two minute boat ride from the coral gardens snorkeling spot.
Moorea Miti Tours has a private beach on Motu Fareone that is designated for its guests. A motu is the name of a small islet that surrounds a larger island (Moorea in this case).
Right beside the Miti Tours beach is the Albert Tours private beach. They easily had 5X as many people as our group. We prefer the smaller, more intimate experience with Moorea Miti Tours.
Freshly prepared Poisson Cru
Our guide, Mana, showed us how to prepare the famous ‘poisson cru’, the national dish of Tahiti. It’s similar to ceviche, with raw sushi-grade fish, crunchy raw vegetables, fresh pineapple, lime juice and coconut milk.
First, Mana showed us how to properly peel a coconut. We used the coconuts that were collected from the ocean earlier that morning. After we each took a crack at opening the coconut’s outer shell, we learned how to shave the coconut meat the traditional Tahitian way.
The coconut juice was used for the poisson cru and the coconut shells were used as bowls.
Then, as you can see in the photo above, Mana prepared the dish with his feet in the ocean!
He put a table in the water and began adding the ingredients to a large bowl. Most of the ingredients were already prepped ahead of time, but he added the fresh coconut and lime.
One thing I was not expecting was that he soaked the coconut shavings and fish with the ocean water. According to Mana, the salt water is the secret ingredient that makes poisson cru so good.
As Mana was preparing the dish, a curious and hungry stingray tried climbing up his leg to get some food. Literally! It was acting like a pet dog. I’ve never seen a stingray do this before. It’s quite comical.
Poisson Cru served in a coconut shell.
We love sushi and ceviche, so this dish is perfect for us. We each had two bowls!
The stingrays in this area love the attention. They’re very friendly and will come right up to you.
They don’t mind being pet on the head. But, like all wildlife encounters, it’s best to move slow and try not to scare them.
After the poisson cru, a buffet style lunch is served. It’s prepared in the shelter pictured above.
The lunch is okay, but not overly impressive. The small buffet serves chicken, fish, rice, fruit and a few sides.
Juice and water is provided on the tour. And, Mana also shared a spiked juice for the adults.
We learned how to make a traditional Tahitian hat (pictured above and below). Mana patiently weaved 5 hats for guests to take with them.
If you want to bring the hats back home, we are told that you should ask the hotel to put the hat in the freezer overnight. While in the freezer, the green hats turn brown. Then the hats are allowed to be transported internationally.
We spent about two hours on the motu. This includes preparing the Poisson cru, shucking coconuts, weaving hats, eating lunch and relaxing on the beach.
What to bring on the snorkeling tour?
We suggest you bring your own snorkeling gear because you’ll likely use it daily. Make sure you get one that has a covered snorkel (like this one) so that water doesn’t get into the snorkel.
If you don’t bring your own snorkeling gear, most hotels and tour operators have snorkeling equipment available. But, remember that those snorkels have been in many other people’s mouths and the googles probably have spit in them. I’m just saying, it’s kinda gross to use community snorkeling equipment.
You will need to bring your own fins because Moorea Miti Tours does not provide fins. That said, we were totally fine without fins. You won’t be swimming far on this snorkeling tour. And the water is shallow.
They do have lifejackets available, including one for our youngest (9 years old). He prefers to wear a life jacket in the ocean (and it gives us piece of mind that he’s safe).
Bring reef safe sunscreen. We like the brand Blue Lizard.
Bring a hat, sunglasses, a waterproof shirt (we prefer the long sleeves for sun protection), reef or water shoes, and a waterproof camera.
Towels are provided. But, you still might want to bring one because the towels get wet.
You can use a waterproof case for your phone (I used this one for my iPhone), but if you really want great underwater photos you really should invest in a GoPro. Although GoPro’s are expensive, they are the best for pictures and underwater video.
A cute pullover is nice to have after getting out of the water. I like Cupshe for both beach dresses, bathing suits and pullovers. Go here to get an Extra 15% OFF CA$99+.
The tour include drinks, including local beer and water. We also brought two large bottles of water.
You may want to bring some cash for a tip (tips are appreciated, but not required).
Final thoughts about the snorkeling tour
We had a wonderful Moorea day trip with Moorea Miti Tours and we would recommend them. It’s a slow paced tour that allows you to relax and enjoy the moment.
We prefer the smaller group size. The 6 hour tour was a good amount of time. At first, we thought it might be too long, but it actually went by quickly.
Our suggestion is to book your Moorea tours before arriving in Tahiti. Dates and times will book up, so don’t leave it until the last minute.