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Snorkeling in Bora Bora
Snorkeling in Bora Bora

Snorkeling in Bora Bora

Snorkeling in Bora Bora

Bora Bora is a gorgeous island in the South Pacific. Many people know it as a honeymoon destination with its vast array of over the water bungalows. There is much more to Bora Bora than just tropical sunsets and tiki huts. The real highlights are in the water.

Visiting Bora Bora
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Arial View of Bora Bora

Table of Contents

If you are traveling to Bora Bora be sure to bring your mask and snorkel to check out some of the best spots for snorkeling in the world.

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Matira Beach

Matira Beach Snorkel Spot
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Northwest End of Matira Beach

Instead of staying in a resort on one of the motus of Bora Bora, we opted to rent a home on the main island at Matira Beach. From this fantastic location, we were able to walk to many restaurants, rent bikes to explore the island, kite the lagoon, but best of all it was one of the easiest snorkeling spots in Bora Bora.

Kiting at Matira Beach
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Kiting from Matira Beach

Snorkeling at Matira Beach

Every afternoon, we would relax on the beach, read a little and then explore the coral a few yards out from shore. Walking out into the lagoon from the northwest end of Matria Beach, we were able to see so many beautiful sea creatures.

Paddling around, we saw two sea turtles. One was a three finned turtle that lives in the area. We were on the lookout, when we heard other beach-goers talking about it.

On our first swim over the coral, we spotted a large green moray eel. Weaving his way through the coral, he looked just like a ribbon fluttering in the wind. We saw the moray eel multiple times throughout the week.

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Green Moray Eel

In the water on the northwest end of the beach, there are many large pieces of coral all over. You can spend hours swimming from one area to another observing the beautiful tropical fish and bright coral. The visibility underwater here can vary depending on the wind direction and how churned up the water is on a given day.

Coral Gardens

On the east side of Matira Point, on the south end of the main island, are the coral gardens.

The Coral Gardeners is an initiative started by a surfer and diver from Moorea in order to help save and restore the coral reefs in French Polynesia and beyond. As the ocean waters warm, he noticed that much of the coral around his home island was dying off.

With the Coral Gardeners initiative, new coral is being planted in lagoons around the world. The goal of the initiative is to plant more resilient coral in reefs to maintain and save the metaphorical lungs of the ocean.

Talking with a Polynesian native on our way to the Coral Gardens in Bora Bora, we learned that this group has worked with islands all over the Pacific including Bora Bora, Moorea, and Hawaii. As of this writing the group has planted over 30,000 corals.

Snorkeling at the Coral Garden in Bora Bora
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Coral Gardens

If you want to visit the Coral Gardens on Bora Bora on your own, you can swim out from Bora Bora Water Sport. We witnessed a tourist rafting out to the Coral Gardens from here, when we were on a bike ride around the island. He had a snorkel, a mask, and a blowup raft. He was also wearing a dive skin and was covered in sunscreen.

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Be sure to protect yourself against the elements. Remember the sun can still burn you as you float around in the water. Always wear a rash guard or dive skin.

Snorkeling at the Coral Garden in Bora Bora
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Coral Gardens

Swimming out to the coral gardens from the east side of Matira point will be against the current and it is quite a ways out. If you are planning on swimming, we would recommend bringing something to float on (a raft or paddle board) and plan for a long trek as the water will be pushing you in toward the InterContintental Resort.

The Coral Gardens is one of best snorkel spots in Bora Bora and was on our must-visit list. However, we decided to visit with a half-day snorkel tour. The Coral Gardens was the first stop on our tour. We were only able to spend about 30 minutes exploring, but you could definitely spend hours here.

The underwater visibility and variety of coral is simply fantastic here!

Snorkeling at the Coral Garden in Bora Bora
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Coral Gardens with our Tour Guide

On our short visit, we were able to see a sea horse and a stone fish. The tour guide also showed us a variety of shell fish and muscles that live and thrive in the reef.

Snorkel Tour in the Bora Bora Lagoon

Bora Bora Lagoonarium Half-Day Boat Tour
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Half-Day Tour with Bora Bora Lagoonarium

If you are planning a trip to Bora Bora, we would definitely recommend booking a snorkel tour. We booked a half-day morning with a tour trip around Bora Bora through Bora Bora Lagoonarium. (The tour cost us around $90 per person.)

Not only were the tour guides friendly and informative, but they knew the island and the best snorkel spots in the Bora Bora lagoons. They knew exactly where to go to see the incredible wildlife in the waters around the island. Our guides were also in contact with other tours throughout the day and therefore knew where to stop to look for various marine life such as a school of eagle rays pictured below.

Snorkel Spot in Bora Bora
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School of Eagle Rays

The tour included:

  • Pick-up/drop off to and from your hotel or rental house
  • Small musical greeting at the boat launch
  • Live musical entertainment while traveling between snorkel spots. The ukulele is truly king in French Polynesia.
  • An entire loop around the main island with stops to see:
    • The Coral Gardens
    • A school of eagle rays
    • Swimming with sting rays and black tip reef sharks on a sandbar
    • A manta ray
    • Swimming in a Lagoonarium with lemon sharks
  • A plate of local, in-season fruit for the boat ride back to the dock
  • Masks and snorkels, if you didn’t bring your own (We suggest bringing your own since supplies are limited.)
Snorkel Spot in Bora Bora
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Snorkeling with a Manta Ray

If you opt for the full day tour, you will have a few more hours of entertainment, but no additional snorkeling.

The whole day includes everything from the morning tour, plus:

  • A barbecue lunch of local Polynesian food
  • A lesson on how to open/pierce a coconut
  • A Polynesian dance lesson

Other Lagoon Tours

If you are looking other ways to get out on the beautiful waters of the Bora Bora Lagoon there are many more options available. From a relaxing sail, to an evening dinner cruise, or even an adventurous Jet Ski Tour.

Snorkeling in a Lagoonarium

Lagoonarium Bora Bora
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Many hotels and resorts in French Polynesia have lagoonariums. A lagoonarium is a fenced-in natural aquarium within the lagoon. In Bora Bora the St. Regis Hotel has a lagoonarium and so does the Bora Bora Lagoonarium boat tour.

In order to swim in the Lagoonariums on Bora Bora, you need to book a tour or stay at the resort.

Although the Lagoonariums are beautiful and swimming with the lemons sharks was great, snorkeling in the open lagoon was definitely a lot more interesting. The wildlife in the open water was better than the fenced-in exhibit.

Lemon Sharks in Lagoonarium
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Lemon Sharks in the Lagoonarium

Bring Your Mask and Snorkel

If you are heading to French Polynesian, be sure to bring your mask and snorkel along. Even if you are not planning on booking a tour or seeking out snorkel spots, you will definitely want to have a mask for the beautiful blue water.

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Every time you step into the water, you will be amazed by the wildlife that surrounds you. Although you can see many of the beautiful fish just by looking down into the water, you are missing out on so much more without a mask.

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Aquaphobia??? (the fear of water)

Coming from a person who is afraid of literally everything in the water and had a panic attack the first time of putting on a mask, you will regret not bringing at least a pair of goggles with you.

On our first trip to Moorea, I skipped on a mask and snorkel and just brought a pair of swim goggles. I am so glad I had at least some swim goggles because it opened up a whole new world to me.

For our trip to Bora Bora, I decided to try a full face snorkel mask.

Snorkeling in Bora Bora
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Andrew in a Traditional Mask and Snorkel

Full Face Snorkel Mask

I really struggle with a fear of the water and not being able to breathe. Using a traditional mask and snorkel, I was not able to breathe through my nose and kept panicking every time I put a mask on.

With a full face snorkel mask, I was able to breathe normally with my face in the water. Although, I still had the same general fear of not knowing what was out there, at least I was able to breathe and see what was near me.

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The full face snorkel still had some of the same problems of a regular mask. It fogs up while using unless you moisten the lens before you put it on. There is also a lot of pressure across the bridge of your nose and cheek bones.

A full face mask can also be tougher to equalize with as compared to a traditional diving mask. This may matter if you are into doing a lot of deeper dives while snorkeling.

My particular mask slowly let water into the mouth and nose area. I had to surface and empty the water below my chin every so often.

When purchasing a mask be sure to get the correct size as there are more points where water can enter compared to a traditional mask.

Snorkeling at the Coral Garden in Bora Bora
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Getting a Mask and Snorkel in Bora Bora

What do you do if you don’t have a mask or you forget to bring one? Well lucky for you, you can always buy or rent one while you are on the island.

If you are staying at a hotel or resort, the concierge service has a variety of amenities that you can borrow or rent for the day including masks, snorkels, paddle boards, kayaks, etc.

In the event that you are not staying at a hotel or resort like us, you have a few other options.

When looking for bike rentals, we noticed online that you can rent snorkel gear at the local Avis: Avis Bora Bora and Avis Agence Matira. Amazingly, we also saw that you can also rent bluetooth speakers or a GoPro camera.

If you can’t find a rental, then there is always an option of buying snorkel gear on the island. We picked up a mask, a couple snorkels, and some mini-fins at Marine Services Bora Bora on the north end of Vaitape. Marine Services is right next to the small plaza where the Restaurant Saint James is located. You can really find almost anything you might need here from fishing gear to cycling gear and beyond.

Note: Restaurant Saint James is a great place for a sunset dinner!

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Drinks and Tapas at Restaurant Saint James

Do You Need Fins While Snorkeling in Bora Bora?

While snorkeling throughout the week, we only saw a handful of people snorkeling with fins. The people who were using fins were primarily spear fishing and very experienced.

The current in the lagoon around Bora Bora is relatively light especially at Matira Beach and the Coral Gardens. We didn’t use fins personally and didn’t struggle to stay in one place while exploring the reefs. Instead we opted for more kite gear space while packing our luggage.

While we didn’t use fins, we always wore our wetsuit booties. The shells and rocks on the beach are sharp and a challenge to walk through without water shoes or booties.

We definitely recommend protecting the soles of your feet while out snorkeling.

Booties for Snorkeling
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Do You Need a Wetsuit While Snorkeling in Bora Bora?

The short answer to this question is “no”. The water temperature in Bora Bora is as warm as the air. In the summer months or wet season (December, January, and February), the water is about 85 F (29 C).

Even if you are traveling in the winter months or dry season (June, July, and August), the average water temperature is still 80 F (26.5 C).

With the warm water and the warm air, a wetsuit is definitely not needed. However, a rash guard or dive skin is recommended for protection from the sun.

Although you are in the water, the sun will still burn your skin. Even with sunscreen, a rash guard, and board shorts, we still burned every day here.

Local Spear Fisherman

Reef Safe Sunscreen

While you are in Bora Bora, snorkeling in some of the most beautiful water in the world, remember to choose reef safe sunscreen to help protect the coral you are observing. Many sunscreens contain various chemicals and microplastics that are harmful to the wildlife that you will be swimming around.

Before applying and jumping in, check out some reef safe sunscreen guides to make sure you are not harming the habitat you are entering.

When traveling to Bora Bora or anywhere in French Polynesia for that matter, make sure you consider the human impact on the ocean’s biodiversity and natural habitats. Regardless if you surf, kite, boat, fish, or snorkel: start with your own impact on the fragile reef and coral systems. Why would you travel here otherwise? Help preserve it for the generations to come.

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Capture Some Footage!

You will be swimming in some of the best snorkels spots and clearest water in the world. While observing the bright fish and coral, be sure to capture a little on film. If you don’t own a GoPro, you can rent one for a few days or go old school and pick up a waterproof disposable camera!

Even though the camera can be distracting sometimes, it is incredible to look at the videos and recall how you felt while you were exploring!

We were able to capture so many animals and beautiful coral on camera. Underwater filters on the GoPro also helped capture the moment in the best quality. The few times we went out to explore without the GoPro, we missed capturing footage of all three sea turtles.

If you are going to invest in anything for the travel, we recommend a great waterproof camera and some solid sun protection (rash guards, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen).

Swimming with Sharks

Final Thoughts on Snorkeling in Bora Bora

There are so many places to snorkel in Bora Bora. If you have the time and budget, be sure to book a half-day tour. You will definitely enjoy it.

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However, if you want to just explore on your own, one of the easiest snorkel spots in Bora Bora is on Matira Beach.

Another great spot if you have a bit more time is in the Coral Gardens itself. Also consider donating to their initiative here.

Enjoy the turquoise waters and snorkeling in Bora Bora! For more on other adventures in Bora Bora check out our posts on hiking and biking around the island.

Thanks for following our adventures. ~KiteBikeVan

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