Marine Wildlife Species of Moorea

Moorea, French Polynesia, is home to many marine wildlife species as diverse as the beautiful coral reefs, extensive lagoons and rich seas that surround our tropical island. Moorea Ocean Adventures offers premium private snorkel tours that focus on specific marine wildlife species and encountering them in small groups in a respectful and sustainable way. Below you will find the most iconic species that we see on our tours.

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Humpback Whale

The Humpback Whale is a baleen whale reaching up to 18 meters in length and weighing up to 40 tonnes. The population of Humpback Whales that visits Moorea and Tahiti in French Polynesia migrate over 6,000 km each year from Antarctica. They come here to mate and give birth to a single calf, that is 4 meters and 500kg when born. Here in the warm sheltered waters of Moorea mother Humpbacks nurse their calf and prepare for the migration back to Antarctica.

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Spinner Dolphin

The Spinner Dolphin is the smallest species of Dolphin found in Moorea reaching just 1.5 meters in length. The island of Moorea plays host to a resident pod of about 160 Spinner Dolphins year round. In the morning Spinner Dolphins can be reliably encountered in the bays and lagoons. During the night they form hunting parties and head offshore for fish and crustaceans. We can recognize several  dolphins from their unique markings!

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Rough-Toothed Dolphin

The rough-toothed dolphin is found off shore from Moorea, all year round. A medium sized dolphin, the rough-toothed is usually encountered on our Big Blue tours, often in groups of up to 30 or more individuals. We can often snorkel with the rough-toothed dolphins in the sea as they are often approachable and slow swimming.

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Pilot Whales

The Pilot Whales are usually encountered off shore and quite often in large groups of up to 50 individuals consisting of males, females and juveniles. The pilot whales are a large bodied dolphin and usually moving quite quickly. We can usually join them in the water for a snorkeling encounter like no other!

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This species is encountered on our signature ray and shark lagoon snorkel encounters. These stingrays are up to 1.2 meters in disc width, feeding primarily on invertebrates and fish they find in the sand bed. As an iconic species of the Moorea lagoon, these stingrays offer a unique opportunity for our guests.

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Eagle Ray

These rays are also commonly known as Leopard Rays. Usually seen in the channels of the lagoon, the reef passes and during our ‘underwater flying adventure’ the eagle ray is a large bodied ray of up to 1.5 meters. The feed on crustaceans they find while digging in the sandy bottom. Join us to fly with the eagle rays!

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Manta Ray

Rare in Moorea, the manta rays are pelagic fish encountered in the open ocean where they look for plankton. These peaceful animals can reach a wingspan of 6 meters and are very often curious about snorkelers. Called the Sea Devils because of their cephalic horns, they are totally protected in French Polynesia.

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Blacktip Reef Shark

The Blacktip reef shark is another iconic species of the health and vitality of the lagoon in Moorea. These small sharks, measuring up to 1.7 meters, are small fish eaters and inhabit the lagoon and outer reef slope. We see them everywhere in the lagoon and especially at the stingray bank. Shy, inquisitive and beautiful!

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Nurse Shark

Almost blind, this shark has an excellent smell. It can exceed three meters long and is often encountered in the bays and in the lagoon of Moorea. Its lumpish gait gave this species the nickname of sea cow or sleeper shark. Indeed, during the day, he spends most of his time sleeping in a cave or a reef hole.

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Lemon Shark

The lemon shark is a stocky and powerful shark which can grow to 3.4 meters. It is named for its unusual and bright yellow or brown pigmentation and color. Common unhabitant of Moorea reefs,lemon sharks are benthic species (living and hunting near the bottom) and have a complex social behavior.

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Gray Reef Shark

Fishermen of French Polynesia know very well this species called “raira” which often shows curiosity to the divers. This territorial predator is, after the blacktip shark, the most common species in Moorea even if it is quite rare in the lagoon. With a size of two meters or more, it makes our Shark Swim really unique.

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Silky Shark

Meet this pelagic species is always a rare chance as their population decreases all over the world due to overfishing by longlines. Its name comes from the very special texture of its skin. Solitary and curious, they often approach close to the snorkelers for an unique and unforgettable underwater experience.

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Oceanic Whitetip Shark

This pelagic shark has no natural predator and has no fear for all the species he meets in the open ocean. Swimming with the OWT is totally possible when a few safety rules are respected. It becomes then a magical moment ! These sharks are sometimes met near dolphins or whales.

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Green Sea Turtle

The Green sea turtle is one of the most common species of sea turtle encountered on our tours here in Moorea. The Green sea turtle is one of the largest species we encounter. Feeding on algae and sponge the Green sea turtle breeds here in Moorea, lays eggs on beaches of French Polynesia and is an iconic species of local conservation efforts.

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Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill sea turtle is another species of marine turtle that is often encountered in the bays and outer reefs of Moorea. The Hawksbill is a medium sized sea turtle that feeds on sponge and algae on the reef. The Hawksbill breeds in Moorea and is a protected species.

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Booby Birds

Booby pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals, and are also spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface and may catch leaping fish while skimming the surface. The Boobies follow our boat hunting for fish who evade our boat.

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Able to fly for weeks on wind currents, frigatebirds spend most of the day in flight hunting for food, and roost in trees at night. They mainly feed on fish and squid caught on the surface when chased to the surface by tuna. Frigatebirds are thieves, robbing other seabirds in the air for their food, and they are even known to snatch fish right from a guides hands at the Stingray bank.

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These birds may have become known as “noddies” because of the behaviour of both sexes as they constantly dip their heads during their breeding display. They feed on fish and squid which they gather by flying low over the surface of the sea and picking them up. They associate with other seabirds here in Moorea where tuna drive small fish to the surface.

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There are several species of Terns we commonly see on our Big Blue ocean tours. Their pale plumage is easily seen from a distance at sea, and attracts other birds to a good feeding area for this fish eating species. Terns feed on fish caught by diving from flight, often in large groups. Terns can be a great assistant helping us to find the rough toothed dolphins in the open ocean.

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Tropical Shearwater

This small bird of 30 cm is often encountered in the open sea where it catches squid and fish. It can go up to 150 km off the coast but returns at night to nest on the cliffs of Tahiti. With such distances, exhaustion happens and it is not uncommon to find very weak individuals to whom we have to help.

List of Marine Species

Blacktip reef shark X
Whitetip reef shark X
Gray reef shark X
Silvertip shark X
Lemon shark X
Nurse shark X
Tiger shark X
Scalloped hammerhead shark X
Oceanic whitetip shark X
Silky shark X
Whale shark X
Giant manta ray X
Reef manta ray X
Pink whipray X
Spotted eagle ray X
Hawksbill turtle X
Green sea turtle X
Humpback whale X
Sperm whale X
Blainville’s beaked whale X
Cuvier’s beaked whale X
Short-finned pilot whale X
False killer whale X
Risso’s dolphin X
Melon headed whale X
Pygmy killer whale X
Dwarf sperm whale X
Spinner dolphin X
Rough-toothed dolphin X
Fraser’s dolphin X
Mahi Mahi X
Sailfish X
Blue marlin X
Wahoo X
Skipjack tuna X
Yellowfin tuna X
Flying fish X
Sargassum frogfish X
Tilapia X
Suckerfish X
Common Remora X
Great Barracuda X
Almaco Jack X
Golden Jack X
Rainbow runner X
Pilotfish X
Spotted triggerfish X
Cauliflower jellyfish X
Portuguese Man of war X
Flying squid X
Diamond squid X
Red footed booby X
Brown booby X
Black noddy X
Brown noddy X
Great frigatebird X
Lesser frigatebird X
White tern X
Tropical tail bird X
Tropical shearwater X
Tahiti petrel X
Great crested tern X
Sooty tern X
Greybacked tern X
White-faced storm petrel X