Day 1 Moorea
This is a travel day and your flight will arrive mid-evening in Tahiti. We will meet you there and get you to your connecting flight to Moorea, and then to your hotel for the night. The Hilton Resort and Spa has the best combination of location, price, and luxury on the island. It has a wonderful location along the north coast with easy access to a great lagoon for snorkeling.
Day 2 Moorea – Introduction to Coral Reef Organisms
After breakfast we gather for a short orientation and slide show, and then head out to a beautiful beach and reef site on the East shore of Moorea. Here we will do a snorkeling check out and then go exploring on the reef. This site has a great variety of coral and fish, and is a great introduction to the diversity of this reef system. That afternoon we will go to the UC Berkeley Gump Research Station and get a tour of the facilities and meet some of the researchers. Our first dinner will be hosted by a local organization that works to conserve the natural and cultural heritage of these islands. You’ll hear about traditional marine lore and conservation practices.
Day 3 Moorea – Geography of Corals Reefs
This morning we will start with a discussion of why corals are found where they are and what forms reefs take in different parts of the world. Then we are out onto the lagoon for a full day of exploring the back barrier reef and the motu (reef islands). We will snorkel in a couple of great spots in the lagoon with high density of coral and fish, and then stop at a place where we can swim with stingrays and sharks. At noon we will land on a motu and have a picnic before exploring the inside of the reef crest and snorkeling again in one of Moorea’s marine reserves. This evening we will invite some of the Gump Station researchers to dinner to hear about their research projects.
Day 4 Moorea – Geology of Oceanic Islands and Their Reefs
Today our theme is Geology and after breakfast we will have a short talk about how coral reefs form, and how these islands evolve from high volcanic islands to atolls. Then it will be out on the lagoon to look for spinner dolphins. These beautiful tropical dolphins come into the lagoons everyday to rest after hunting all night. They are easy to find and wonderful to watch.
This morning we will also go for a snorkel outside the barrier reef, in order to see the outer reef slope. Here the reef slopes down from the breakers on the reef crest into the deep blue, and we will have a chance to look at the form of the reef here and see some big fish. This afternoon will be on your own for optional activities, shopping, or just relaxing on the beach. You will also have a chance tonight to explore the local cuisine on your own.
Day 5 Rangiroa – Islands and Biogeography
Kia Ora Resort
This morning we will begin our day with a discussion about how all of these coral reef animals and plants got to be here and how this compares with terrestrial organisms. Then we will be moving, first to the Moorea airport for a short flight to Papeete, and then a bit longer one to Rangiroa. We will check into our hotel, enjoy a lunch, and then head out onto the lagoon for some snorkeling. Here we will begin to see the amazing abundance of the Tuamotu atolls. Depending on the tide, we may also be able to do a drift snorkel in the pass, sliding along at a few knots as the huge lagoon fills with clear ocean water.
Day 6 Rangiroa – Sharks
Kia Ora Resort
This day we will start with a discussion about sharks and the role they play in the reef community. Then we set out across Rangiroa’s massive lagoon to some beautiful isolated motu on the far side. Here we will visit an area of massive coral heads over a sandy bottom that form a labyrinth filled with colorful corals and fish. Lunch will be a beach picnic at our motu camp with a chance to see native lorikeets. The highlight of the day will be a visit to “shark city” where we will see, and swim with, a large representative group of local sharks – black tip, white tip, and lemon. This is an experience that you will never forget.
Day 7 Rangiroa – Coral Reef Ecology
Kia Ora Resort
Today our theme is the ecology of coral reefs, and how all of the organisms are interconnected. After our morning talk we will head out to investigate the passes and outer reef slope. Rangiroa’s lagoon is around 630 square miles in area and it is separated from the ocean by only two passes. So during each tidal cycle a massive amount of water flows through these passes. We will flow along with it, watching the underwater world fly by and see what dolphins, and manta rays, and sharks are around to watch. We will also have a look at the outer reef lsope to see how similar or different it is from what we saw in Moorea. This afternoon we will visit a small village on the far side of the pass for a taste of Tuamotu life on these remote islands. This evening you will be on your own to explore local restaurants.
Day 8 Rangiroa Threats to Reefs
Kia Ora Resort
This morning we will talk about the threats to coral reefs, both local and global. Afterwards we will head off in a different direction across the lagoon to a very special place. Along the way we will stop at a patch reef to collect some lagoon fish for our lunch. This side of the lagoon was uplifted many thousands of years ago and there is fossilized coral reef exposed in what the locals call “feo”. The motu here spaced along the reef so that we can explore both on foot and by snorkeling, As we make our way out to the reef crest the fossilized coral rises up like a fortress and we will have to find our way through it to the outer shore.
Day 9 – Conservation of Reefs
Intercontinental Hotel & Departure
This morning we will offer leisurely options so that you will be able to shop, or stroll through the local village, or get in that last snorkeling adventure. We will have a nice lunch at our hotel and then catch a flight back to Tahiti. Here we will have day rooms at a hotel so that we can relax, or hit the town of Papeete for the last shopping spree. After dinner you will be taken to the airport for departure.