Listed as one of the places to visit and a highlight on our half day tour round the island (which cost 4500 Polynesian French Francs (CFP) or about £40 each) this rather tired and crumby looking place offered a chance to ‘experience under the sea without getting wet’! now if this hadn’t been a stop on our tour there is no way we would have bothered with this as ‘Sea life Centre’ it is not, but having been brought here as part of our half day tour we felt obliged to once again put our hands in our wallet and pay the extra 300 CFP or approx £3 each to go in as it would have looked rather churlish not too.
The entrance to this site is through a restaurant called ‘captain Bligh’s’ which is a large coconut leaf roofed building with a stage and a bar. We were there at about 9.30 am so it was quite empty so I have no idea what the food or atmosphere is like but it did offer nice ocean views. We noticed that the price of a buffet here was even more than it was at our hotel so I’m not sure how many diners they pull in. Apparently the £3 entrance fee is waived if you eat a meal at this restaurant. Presumably only a lunch meal works as it would be very hard to see anything in the dark even if the inside is lit.
Having walked through the restaurant you venture out onto a wooden walkway across a coral reef. This is in my view the most interesting part of the site. The water was crystal clear and even though we were above on the walkway we could clearly see the wonderful corals of different shapes and sizes. We also spotted different coloured sea cucumbers which look most uninteresting, a bit like giant slugs. We watched with fascination as one tiny fish kept hiding in an anemone while its predator fish hung around waiting for it to emerge. The tiny fish kept coming out and looking around but the larger fish seemed blind as a bat and missed it each time it popped out.
Having paid our entrance fee we thought we might as well see what was underneath in the viewing area. We made our way through the rather tacky shark’s mouth down into the viewing area which was all cement. As we went down the stairs we passed simplified murals on the wall labelled intestine, pancreas etc. I am 100% sure these were totally inaccurate but children might have been impressed.
The actual viewing room had several rather grubby windows which were quite difficult to see through. The surrounding walls were all cement coloured and dotted around were shelved with shells. I think the idea was to make it a bit like the inside of a submarine but that is only my interpretation, my husband disagreed but could not offer a better suggestion.
Now, not only were the windows rather grubby but there were labels to say what was in each viewing window. There was an information poster, the kind that you get free in news papers sometimes with pictures of fish/birds/mammals and their names on one wall but no extra information at all.
The fish were in fenced off areas of the lagoon, so some, like the small sharks had a larger fenced in area while others had the equivalent to a large fish tank beside the window. The only slightly positive thing was that they were in the lagoon water and so had constant fresh water flowing through their fenced off areas.
The fencing was all rather tatty and some of the metal had rusted. I think the underneath section took us about 5 minutes to walk through and a lot of that time we spent trying to identify some of the fish by using the poster but failed miserably. My husband was a keen scuba diver and studied marine biology at university and still we struggled so heaven knows a child would have no chance.
Having studied the small under sea viewing area we came up and took some silly photos of us in the shark’s mouth before we returned to the more interesting natural part of the lagoon that we could see from the board walk.
On our little tour we had a French couple and a Norwegian couple besides us and we all thought the same. A totally underwhelming experience which would have not entertained children for more than 15 minutes tops and that is being generous.
We made use of the toilet in the restaurant before leaving and they were clean and quite basic but in both the men’s and ladies’ wash basin area all along under the large mirror was a lovely lots of flowers just laid in a row which did brighten up a rather functional and tired wash room.
I did say in my first review that I would be adding other reviews on our Tahiti trip and from these it would become apparent why I am not really recommending Tahiti as an island destination as there are far nicer ones. This is one of four or five ‘sights’ that are considered highlights of Tahiti so there you are.
Would I recommend, well I think you can guess the answer, NO. A waste of time and the only thing going for it is that it was only about £3 but even that I consider expensive for what was offered. We were also a bit miffed that we had paid £40 odd for the trip and then had to pay again for this but that is Tahiti.