Posted May 8th, 2016, 02:28 PM
Here are some things I copied in early January from other Cruise Critic posts about Rangiroa. They're obviously someone else's experiences, not mine, but overall they seem to jive well with what I experienced on Rangiroa:
Whole embarkation process is extremely quick and painless. In my research, the most popular things to do on Rangiroa include the following:
- Visit the famous Blue Lagoon or Pink Sand Beach. The key issues with these are the considerable distance and cost. I understand it's about a 90min boat trip to either across what can be very choppy water making for a punishing ride. They also both require pre-arrangement (they were not offered by the ship). Maybe outside of the rainy season these are good options but I wouldn't consider booking either when the weather is unpredictable.
- Snorkel or Scuba “The Aquarium". There is a Motu inside the lagoon at Tiputa Pass very close to the tender dock that offers fantastic snorkeling and diving. The currents of the channel ensures this area always has lots of nutrients and thus plentiful fish and even on a stormy day like we had, the water is very clear. I did a morning snorkel tour offered by Princess and it was well worth it. They provide the boat, gear and a guide in the water with a large flotation cushion you can hang onto if you get tired. The water depth varies from shallow near the Motu to deeper but I would guess is was around 8-12' deep in most places. Fish were plentiful and I saw morrey eels and black tip sharks. After snorkeling the boat went into the channel briefly to see if we could spot some Dolphins and sure enough a couple lept clear of the water for us to see. I highly recommend this excursion if you're into snorkeling.
- Pearl Farm. See my notes earlier in this report about Pearls. Gauguin’s Pearls is one of the main Pearl farms on the island and they offer a free shuttle ride from the tender pier to their facility where you get a nice overview of the Pearl farming process and a chance to browse their store. There is no pressure to buy and the bus ride to/from and education is no charge. The day we were there they seemed to offer several departure times about 2hrs apart. We got the 10:30AM departure right after my snorkeling excursion. We spent about an hour there, and then asked the driver to drop us at the public beach on the way back to the tender pier which saved us some walking.
- Public Beach. The public beach is just past the resort and Top Dive Shop on the island and offers a quiet, peaceful beach. There are a couple of rustic picnic shelters and benches there if you need to escape the sun or rain. It's about a 30min (1.5mile) walk along the road from the Tender pier. As mentioned above, if you take the Pearl farm bus you can ask the driver to drop you at the public beach on the way back. Which is what we did. After a bit of time at the beach, we then walked down the beach past Top Dive to the Kia Ora Resort where we had a drink and enjoyed their great over water bar (with a glass floor).
- Refreshments. As mentioned above, you can get refreshments from the bar at the Kia Ora resort which is a short 20min walk from the Tender pier. Their over water bar is fantastic with great views of the lagoon. Alternatively, you can go to Josephine's bar which is a 5min walk from the Tender Pier and overlooks the Tiputa Pass where you may see some Dolphins jumping in the choppy waters of the channel.
- Dolphin watching. There is a great vantage point near the open ocean entrance to the channel where you can probably see some Dolphins playing in the choppy waters there. It's like a public park area with places to sit but no shade. It's just a few minutes past Josephine’s which is also a good spot to watch for Dolphins.
The ship sold lots of 1 hour snorkeling trips for $149. We found the same trip at the pier for $30, but you had to be patient and wait till some guy in a boat, pulls up to the dock. You check with him to see if he his offering a snorkeling trip. You can find these trips after 11am, but you do have to be patient. There is no ticket counter waiting to sell you a trip. All the snorkeling trips go to the "Aquarium Garden" which is a 10 minute boat ride to a reef that is 20 to 30 feet deep. The Dive trips went here also, as do the Glass Bottom boat rides offered by cruise ships. There were 2 Dive Companies near the pier. You need to contact them ahead of time, they were booked, at least in the morning. The Aquarium Garden was just amazing, thousands of fish. Some people saw sharks and Sting Rays, I saw a huge eel. You get a 40 minute snorkel and then the boats go back to the pier. We got to the pier at 9:15am and couldn't find anything to do. The nearby resort hotel would not allow cruise passengers to enter their property, there was a guard. We found no bike or car rentals. There was 1 or 2 taxis, but they were busy. Some people took the cab to the nearby Village, there was nothing there, so they came right back. We did find some half way decent snorkeling within walking distance from the pier, either way. It was very shallow and rocky, so forget fins and just walk in with good hard bottom water shoes. There was good variety of fish, but the coral had a lot if sand on it, but it was free and fairly easy to do.
I would add that on the day we were there, Gauguin's Pearl Farm was NOT offering rides to anyone other than those who had signed up for a ship's excursion there. I had even emailed them a couple weeks pre-cruise to ask if they would have buses, and they said no. Of course, two different ships were in town that day, using two different tender piers, so your situation may be different.