Dive, dine, relax, play, and repeat!


Dive, dine, relax, play, and repeat!

December 4, 2019

By Janel Carrigan

An avid SCUBA diver, Janel Carrigan shares her recent cruise and dive experiences aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin.

Janel Carrigan on a SCUBA excursion in French Polynesia.

Janel Carrigan SCUBA diving.

Paul Gauguin Cruises is a recreational SCUBA diver’s dream—world-class diving, ultra-professional dive operation, and seemingly endless watersports opportunities aboard a luxury vessel that often feels more like a yacht than a cruise ship. My husband and I love the spacious staterooms, luxurious yet informal onboard life, and gourmet cuisine. That’s why, shortly after our first voyage, we booked another for the following year!

Tropical fish swimming past a SCUBA diver in Bora Bora on the Tapu Bora Bora dive excursion.

Tapu Bora Bora Dive. Photo credit: @andyocarrigan

As a travel industry professional, I travel a lot. And my husband and adult children are certified PADI Divemasters, so we’ve had the opportunity to dive all over the world. The diving excursions from the m/s Paul Gauguin are some of our favorites, with fabulous visibility and warm water, and the marine life is amazing. I love so much about diving aboard The Gauguin, but here are the Top 5 Reasons I’ll be coming back again….

A coral reef teeming with tropical fish in Bora Bora on the Tapu Bora Bora dive excursion.

Tapu Bora Bora Dive.

World-class diving

If you think French Polynesia’s waters are blue on the surface, wait until you see below! Something about the sandy bottom and brightly colored coral reef formations bring out so many hues of blue. And the colorful fish add pops of color to the mix.

In addition to a huge variety of reef fish, we’ve seen many eels, turtles, rays, and sharks on our dives. In fact, on one dive, I was trying to take a photo of some colorful fish, and these curious black-tip reef sharks kept photo-bombing my fish photos! They seemed most content when they were the photo subject, so my husband kindly obliged. They even seemed to pose for us!

On a Taha’a dive excursion, a shark swims by a SCUBA diver floating over a coral reef.

Taha’a Dive. Photo credit: @andyocarrigan

Wonderful dive sites

One of my favorite dive sites is Anau in Bora Bora. First of all, we enjoyed the boat ride to the dive site, as it was on the other side of the island from where The Gauguin was anchored. We motored past beautiful scenery and were treated to views of the island’s dramatic landscape from a new perspective. Once at the dive site, we dropped down and waited in the coral garden, hoping to see manta rays gathering in this natural “cleaning station.” Fortunately, they showed up for us. Watching the giant manta rays glide through the water above us with the cleaner wrasses was like watching a beautiful underwater dance.

On the Anau Bora Bora SCUBA dive excursion, a manta ray glides above a coral reef in the lagoon.

Anau Bora Bora Dive.

I love all the dive sites in Moorea, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be The Ledges. As we dove along the ledges of a reef, we were mesmerized by the abundance of turtles resting on the coral. Some were sleeping, but many were eating and roaming about. It’s such a fabulous dive site, as the narrow points of coral make the dive so interesting. In addition to all the turtles, we saw many fish and small sharks swimming around the beautiful coral formations.

On The Ledges dive excursion, a turtle peeks from a coral reef in the Moorea lagoon.

Ledges Moorea Dive.

Most of our dives were with the Paul Gauguin Cruises’ Dive Team, but we also went diving with an outside operator in Taha’a arranged by The Gauguin. They worked closely with the dive operation, and everything went smoothly. Dives were great and, as usual, the marine life (and especially sharks) were abundant. We were even dropped off directly on the beach so we would not miss out on the beach barbecue!

Watersports Marina and awesome dive team make onboard dive life so easy

One of the challenges often faced on dive vacations is the amount of time both before and after a dive that gets taken up with dive-related activities: getting to the dive operation from our accommodations, transporting and setting up gear beforehand, and traveling to the actual dive site before we even get into the water, among other preparations. After the dive, we sometimes face a long ride back from the dive site, and then take care of our gear by rinsing and storing our dive equipment.

By contrast, dive life on The Gauguin is so easy! I can be relaxing on my stateroom balcony before our scheduled dive and 20 minutes later (sometimes sooner) we are at the dive site. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from our stateroom to the ship’s marina. The dive team sets up our equipment and we’re ready to go. We just bring our mask, fins, and snorkel to the marina, check the white board to see what boat and divemaster we are assigned, participate in the dive briefing, and we are on our way to the dive site that is just mere minutes away. After the dive, we zip back to the marina, where the dive team takes care of everything for us including rinsing and storing our gear and wetsuits! We just get off the zodiac and head out to enjoy the rest of our day, which often consists of water activities either from the onboard marina or on the beach where the watersports team sets up a base of equipment and activities.  It’s a diver’s dream come true!

The m/s Paul Gauguin’s watersports marina ready for SCUBA diving excursions in Bora Bora.

The Gauguin’s watersports marina, zodiac, and dive gear. The Gauguin’s dive master Maud.

Fabulous shipboard cuisine

It may seem odd that shipboard cuisine is one of the reasons that (as an avid SCUBA diver) I would love to return to The Gauguin. However, after each and every dive I am very hungry. So, having a fabulous meal or snack within minutes of returning to the ship from a nearby dive site is absolute heaven for someone like me. Or for anyone who enjoys fresh and fabulous cuisine. After early morning dives, my go-to meal is a bowl of oatmeal followed by a sumptuous veggie omelet. After mid-morning dives, I love the cooked-to-order pasta that is offered daily in Le Grill. My personal favorite is a spicy red sauce with olives, capers, and herbs. Early afternoon dives are completed just in time for fruit, finger sandwiches, and delicious warm scones.

Janel Carrigan standing next to a chef aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin with a pasta dish.

Janel after dive with chef and cooked-to-order pasta.

Professional and safe dive operation

I can’t stress enough how important safety and efficiency is to me when choosing to participate in a dive operation. The dive staff on board The Gauguin meet all my requirements: professional, safe, efficient, and, most of all, truly nice and fun people to be around. We were fortunate to have been diving with both Maud Tarico, Sport Coordinator, and Clement Casadei, Marina Supervisor, during our recent voyages, and both were excellent dive masters. Dive briefings are thorough and informative. We always knew what to expect from a dive site—and what was expected of us, too. I love that this crew takes safety seriously. But they also know how to joke around once we are safe and underway. Lots of smiles and laughter on those Zodiacs. Fun fact: Clement is always surrounded by fish on the dives as they seemed to “know” him!

The m/s Paul Gauguin’s SCUBA dive master Clement with SCUBA divers on the zodiac in Moorea.

The Gauguin’s dive masters Maud and Clement with divers.

A SCUBA diver floating over a coral reef with tropical fish swimming by.

Followed by fish on a dive.

What’s next?

As I mentioned, my husband and adult children are certified PADI divemasters. However, we have yet to dive as a family in French Polynesia. So our next step will be to check our calendars and find a voyage aboard The Gauguin that fits into all of our busy schedules. I can’t wait for my kids to meet Clement and Maud and the rest of the dive team and to experience this elevated level of diving. They are going to love it!

Janel and Andy Carrigan on a wave runner in a lagoon,  when a string ray swims by.

Wave runner excursion and a stringray swims by. A dive off Taha’a. Photo credit: @andyocarrigan

To see more of Janel Carrigan’s travels in French Polynesia, follow her on Instagram @reikojames.
To learn more about the SCUBA Diving programs and excursions that
The Gauguin offers, please click here.
Photo credits: Janel Carrigan @reikojames and Andy Carrigan @andyocarrigan