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Diving and Drift Snorkeling, Rangiroa

French Polynesia's insider take:

If you're certified in scuba, you already know that Rangiroa is a world-class diving destination. The main draw here are the large schools of sharks; it's said that at any given moment, some 1,500 of the toothy fish (mostly black-tip reefs and greys, but also hammerheads and tigers) lurk in and just outside of Rangi's lagoon, and you can sometimes see hundreds at once. Obviously, diving here is a hair-raising experience, so using a reputable operator is crucial. TOPdive, which also runs a hotel and restaurant on Bora Bora, is the largest operator in all of French Polynesia; if you're visiting multiple islands, they sell a 10-dive pass to use at Rangiroa, Bora, and Moorea (689-960-560;

The unique experience of drift-snorkeling—jumping off a boat and being swept at great speed through the Pass of Tiputa, the entrance to Rangi's lagoon—is almost as thrilling as sky-diving. There's clear visibility of up to 120 feet, so you can watch as sharks, dolphins, turtles, and rays swimming beneath you get sucked into the lagoon by the forceful current (you get sucked in, too, but you stay on the surface). A two-hour excursion costs about $50 per person when you book with husband-and-wife team Cosetta & Pascal Rohde (689-960-331; They take safety seriously: One of their staff members always goes into the water with you, while another hovers nearby in the boat to make sure no one gets carried off in the wrong direction.

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