Emerged land represents only 1% of French Polynesia’s surface… The 121 islands that compose our 5 archipelagos are surrounded by a huge ocean area full of life. Waters are of such high quality, it attracts numerous marine mammals that you can very easily observe in their natural environment.
The various archipelagos of French Polynesia offer a huge variety of natural areas where all kinds of cetacean populations find space to enjoy life : more than 12 species of dolphins are present in our waters like the Spinner Dolphin, very common in the Society Archipelago, the Spotted Dolphin, frequent in the Marquesas, and the Bottlenose Dolphin, numerous both in the Tuamotu and the Marquesas archipelagos.
Many other giants of the sea cruise in the tropical waters of Polynesia like the Humpback Whale, that come back every year from July to October, the Sperm Whale, the Northern Bottlenose Whale, or even the Killer Whale that can be seen in the offing.
In French Polynesia, whales and dolphins enjoy a remarkably preserved environment where human activities remain low, making it a great research area for cetacean scientific studies.
Whale Watching in French Polynesia
French Polynesia is one of the world most exceptionnal places for cetacean observation, due to its rich marine fauna, its clear waters and easy approaches. It has therefore seen a great development of eco-tourism activities, especially observation of whales and dolphins at sea – usually referred to as Dolphin and Whale Watching.
Whale Watching as a commercial activity has developped since the 1990s. To protect the cetaceans visiting the Polynesian territorial waters, the polynesian Ministry of environment has set up, in 1992, a Sanctuary for Cetaceans. In this 5,5 millions square kilometers wide area, cetaceans are legally protected and all tourism operators are requested to ask for a special authorisation and to comply with a number of rules for the approach and observation of cetaceans at sea.
In 2010, te mana o te moana implemented various awareness raising activities for tourism operators about sustainable tourism, reminding them of the regulations and “good practices” for whale watching.
The need for more information, and the need to educate the operators in the delivery of their activities, was strongly felt.
In 2011, te mana o te moana therefore decided to set up the Cetaceans Observatory in French Polynesia.
The Cetaceans Observatory’s aims are:
- to collect observations
- to analyse and make available the collected data
- to develop educative tools for tourists and residents, helping them in their efforts for a more environment-friendly behaviour at sea
Tools for whale watching
For the information of local residents, tourists and professionnals, te mana o te moana has issued various tools, available to all persons or private societies wishing to contribute to cetaceans’ protection and to the observation network.
Submersible Identification cards
for the most frequent 16 species of cetaceans in French Polynesia (in English and French)
This post is also available in: French