RAROTONGA DIVE SITES

 

The dive sites around Rarotonga offer conditions for every level of experience. If you’d like to go deep and explore the abyss, Rarotonga’s drop-off’s offer ideal conditions as the water depth surrounding the island lays between 1000 and 4000m. Rarotonga ‘s south side passages are adrenaline pumping dives with usually medium to strong currents and great fish life. The west coast has different caverns and tunnel systems which are very exciting to explore.

If you are looking for an easy and relaxing dive, the reef plateaus surrounding Rarotonga offer also a great playground with fascinating fish life and usually great visibility. The marine life around Rarotonga offers a big diversity. Apart from the smaller tropical fish species, you may also see turtles, eagle rays, reef sharks, moray eels, trevallies, napoleon maori wrasse, dogtooth tunas, barracudas, humpback whales (winter) and hammerhead sharks (winter). On a blue water dive you may even see mahi-mahi, marlin, sailfish or wahoos.

Our favourite dive sites in Rarotonga are the south coast passages and drop offs, however due to prevailing south-easterly winds Rarotonga ‘s south is often not dive-able, so please don’t be disappointed if we cannot take you there.

Some dive site names on Rarotonga are being used by all operators whereas other sites have up to 4 different names, depending on who you are diving with.

To create less confusion, nearly all our dive site names are relating to their geographical location around the island.

Our dive sites include:

West coast

Runway

Labyrinth

Black Rock

Maritime Reefer (Wreck)

Sunset Lava Tubes

Arorangi Drop Off

Arorangi Passage

Pinnacles

 

 

North coast

MV Mataora Wreck

The MV Mataora was an outer island cargo schooner that was purposely sunk on the 11th December 1990 to create an artificial reef for divers in Rarotonga. Originally 45m in length, the 300 tons vessel lays today in 10 to 18 m depth of water. After many tropical cyclones the wreck is severely broken up but the bow and stern are still recognisable today. This is a good spot for finding lion fish and the surrounding reef has some of the nicest hard coral structures on Rarotonga. Depth 10m to 25m

 

Northern Reef

The northern reef stretches all along from ‚Edna’s Anchor’ in front of Trader Jacks to the‚ MV Mataora’ close to Tamarind House. It includes dive sites like Ngatipa, (Paradise Inn) and Pue. You can literally dive anywhere along that stretch and find similar conditions. Big hard coral structures, usually no current and friendly fish make this a favourite dive spot on Rarotonga for introduction dives as well as a relaxing reef dive for qualified divers. Depth 10m – 28m

 

Edna’s Anchor           

This site in front of Trader Jack’s has received its name from the anchor of the schooner Edna, which later sunk in Atiu. The anchor lies between two big coral bommies in 24m, which makes it perfectly clear why Edna lost its anchor.
The dive follows the sand/ reef edge towards Rarotonga ‘s drop off. At about 22m, the sand starts sloping off like a ski slope. On the reef side, the bottom dramatically stops at 30m and drops down to about 65m. This is an easy deep dive with usually very clear water. Depth 12m – 40m

 

SS Mai Tai (Wreck)

Being the most famous shipwreck in Rarotonga, this 1892 built, 3400 tons steam ship struck the reef outside Avarua Harbour on Christmas Eve 1916. Due to the fact that the engine block is sticking out of the water right in front of town, every single person coming to Rarotonga has at least a glimpse of this big vessel. After nearly 100 years of resting just below the surf zone, this wreck is now part of the reef. The main superstructure is still visible as well as the rudder, various boilers and of course the engine block. The wreck is scattered over a large area and still today artefacts like old glass bottles or Ford Model-T car tyres can be found. It is the shallowest dive site on Rarotonga and can only be dived when sea conditions are extremely favourable. Depth 10m max.

 

Goldmine

Unfortunately there is no gold to be found on this dive. The site is situated in front of “The Goldmine” jewellery shop which is on the Eastern end of the Punanga Nui market. There are nice coral bommies at around 24m, which makes it a good first dive site. Depth 15m – 25m

 

Avatiu Drop Off           

This dive site right outside Avatiu Harbour involves the shortest boat ride on Rarotonga. However, the drop off here is one of the nicest around the island, starting at only 18m and dropping off straight into the Abyss. Fish life in the shallows is very good here and there is a good chance to see bigger predators when following the drop-off edge. Depth 12m – 40m

 

East Coast

Avana Passage

You can either dive the outside of this sandy passage or dive through the passage into the lagoon. The passage itself is a good place for finding lion fish and eels. On the outskirts of the passage there are nice rock formations that can give you a feeling of being in an underwater ancient ruin. Depth 10m – 25m

 

Matavera Wall

Lying just south of Matavera Point, this is an easy drop-off that can be dived by experienced divers and total beginners alike. Starting at 12m, this 20m long wall drops off to about 35m from whereon the bottom slopes off less dramatically into the abyss. This is a good site for spotting moray eels and usually offers very clear water. Depth 12m – 30m

 

Tupapa Sand River

A sand channel with reef on both sides that starts in the surf zone and extends into the abyss. Both sides of the sand river offer unique features. The north side has a very steep wall and, when going a bit deeper, shark sightings are frequent on the south side. Depth 18 – 35m

 

South Coast

Rutaki Passage

This boat passage can be an excellent site. This deepest passage on Rarotonga has narrow vertical canyon walls that start just below the surface. Visibility is usually limited to 10 to 15 m, which adds to the passages’ natural spookiness. And together with swim-throughs and frequent strong currents it makes it a very exciting dive. Along with the other two passages on the south coast it is one of the best places on Rarotonga for turtles and whitetip reef sharks. Not recommended for heavy breathers! Depth 20m – 29m

 

Rutaki Drop Off

The most impressive drop off on Rarotonga! The deeper you go, the nicer it gets…

On this site everything or nothing is possible. This is one of the best places on Rarotonga for barracudas and tunas. This is also a parrotfish mating site. Depth 20m – ?

 

Papua Passage

An amazing dive for the beginner to highly experienced divers alike. The shallowest and shortest of the south-coast passages is also the prettiest. This site is usually the best place for turtles, and whitetip reef sharks are the norm. The giant resident star puffer fish seem to have fallen for this site too. Shallow, light indulged caverns and an amazing marine life make this a very special dive.  Fish life is often improved by strong currents, which can make it a bit more challenging at the same time Depth 18m max

 

Papua Drop-Off

A very easy dive for total beginners to experienced divers. There is a cavern at about 10m and if you like to go deeper you find a resident crayfish population at around 40m. This is one of the best sites for spotting eagle rays on Rarotonga. Turtles are also frequently sighted. Depth 12m to 40m

 

Avaavaroa Passage

Another one of our favourite sites! The meaning of the name is “long passage”. This site can have the strongest currents on Rarotonga, which makes it challenging and exciting at the same time. Due to the current it is the best spot for reef shark sightings. From April until mid August this is one of the few spots around the island where grey reef sharks can be seen when the current is strong, sometimes in large numbers. It is also home of a resident school of eagle rays that can be over 40 in numbers. Turtles and moray eels are common here. Not recommended for heavy breathers! Depth 12m – 24m

 

Avaavaroa Drop-Off

This is another very impressive drop off on the south coast. Swim along a sand channel to the drop-off and into the big blue! This dive can be one of the best as you may see everything at once – sharks, eagle rays, turtles, lion fish and schooling tunas that come and check you out. Like the Rutaki drop off, this is also a parrotfish mating site. Depth 16m to 40m

 

Queens Reef

A good and easy drop-off/ reef dive when currents around the passages are too strong to dive. You may see pelagics patrolling the drop-off. Depth 18m – 25m

 

West Coast

Runway

Guess where this site is located… Ascend to the surface and have a 767 flying straight over your head! Due to frequent currents, this is one of the best places for eagle ray sightings in season. Big hard coral bommies and seamounts cover the bottom. Depth 18 – 26m

 

Labyrinth

One of our favourites! This site has many names – Dave’s Cave, The Maze, Blackrock Tunnels, … Being one of the shallowest sites on Rarotonga it makes it a great 2nd dive. A tunnel and cave system underneath the surf zone that stretches all along from the Runway to Black Rock. Great for spotting crayfish (lobster), lion fish and shell fish. This site can only be dived in very calm seas. Depth 10m max

 

Black Rock

A series of seamounts and coral bommies scattered over the bottom. Great swim-throughs and the bottom composition are the main features of this dive. Depth 12m – 28m

 

FV Maritime Reefer Wreck

This Fishing Vessel was the first ship on Rarotonga that got sunk (in 1981) to create a dive site. Like the MV Mataora, this wreck has suffered major damage by the storms. However, due to it’s depth it is somewhat better protected than the MV Mataora. Moray eels and lion fish have found their home here. Depth 20m – 30m

 

Sunset Lava Tubes

This is another easy second dive. A large coral shelf that rises from 18m to 5m below the surface. There is a cavern and small tunnel system with different overhead exit points to explore. Good for nudibranches and lion fish. Depth 10 – 20m

 

Arorangi Drop Off

A gradually sloping reef with massive coral bommies to explore. Due to frequent currents this can be a good place to spot eagle rays. Depth 20m – 30m

 

Arorangi Passage

There are different canyons and swim-throughs to explore and you may see lion fish and reef sharks. It is the smallest and shallowest of all the passages. This site will soon disappear due to the plans to extend Arorangi Passage to make it suitable for smaller vessels and cruise ship tender boats. Depth 12m

 

Pinnacles

There are two large coral bommies (pinnacles) of which one is completely collapsed. A very relaxing dive inspecting the pinnacles which are occupied by soldier fish, crayfish, lion fish and eels. Don’t forget to look into the blue; you never know what might pass. Depth 20m – 30m

 

Open Ocean

Bluewater Diving

The dives are mainly around the FADs in the north, east and west of Rarotonga. These different Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) have been installed around the island. They consist of floats of some kind, which are moored onto the ocean floor some hundred meters or more deep. The idea is that, by growing algae on it, these floats attract smaller fish, which then attracts the bigger predators. During a blue water dive you might see nothing but deep blue water or you might get rewarded with tunas, mahi-mahis and other open ocean pelagics. Depth 10m – 40m

 

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