The turquoise waters of Tahiti are most traveller’s idea of paradise. Home to thousands of species of colourful fish, sea turtles, rays, whales and more it is also top of the ‘wanderlist’ for divers and snorkelers.
Because of its exceptional biodiversity, scientists consider the Polynesian sea zone to be the “richest aquarium on earth”. Indeed, this is a 2.5 million sq. miles (4 million km²) natural aquarium. The entire region was classified as an Exclusive Economic Zone in 2000. (An EEZ is a wildlife sanctuary where drift fishing is prohibited).
Rodolphe Holler wears many hats: marine biologist, photographer, diving instructor and tour guide. He does it all as part of his passion for the ocean. Through his company Tahiti Private Expeditions, he shares his love of the ocean and its inhabitants with guests from across the globe. The warm waters of Moorea are a serene environment for both sea life and humans.
Tahiti Private Expeditions is the only Tahiti based company providing private luxury yachts with customized and exclusive dive services, logistics and itinerary planning across the country’s 118 islands.
Living on Moorea since 2000, Rodolphe has unrivalled expertise as a technical diver, especially with whales and dolphins. He now leads guests to spectacular, secluded spots to swim with the friendly mammals. In the islands of Tahiti, the people call whales Tohora.
The annual whale migration brings humpback whales to the warm, tropical waters of the Tahitian islands every July to November. This makes for the experience of a lifetime for the lucky travellers who venture to Tahiti.
We spoke with Rodolphe Holler about the magic of Tahiti, his love of the ocean and his exclusive Tahiti Private Expeditions:
When did you first fall in love with the ocean?
“As long as I remember, I have always been exploring the ocean. My Father was a diving instructor so I grew up with snorkelling and diving. I tried my first regulator when I was just 2 years old, I don’t remember it but my parents have told me!”
When did you first swim with whales in Tahiti? Please tell us about that moment?
“It was in 2000 in Bora Bora, we found a mother and a calf on the way to the dive site. We jumped in the water and they both came up to the surface right below us. I thought they would push us up as they were only a couple of metres away from us. I’m like anyone when they swim with whales for the first time, I‘ll remember that moment my whole life. You have to live this moment to understand it”.
Please tell me about your guest’s reactions to encountering the whales during a Tahiti Private Expeditions swim.
“It’s an unforgettable experience. Very often people are emotionally moved. It is a huge “WOW” moment”.
What sort of safeguards do you have in place to protect the whales?
“When I’m whale watching or swimming, the plan is to try to understand their behaviour and to adapt our behaviour to suit them. We are not deciding the encounter, the whales are – they know what they are doing, if they don’t feel safe we have no chance of getting get close to them”.
“If they are shy and not open to the encounter with us, it’s better to leave them in peace, we are only going to waste our time anyway.
But if they let us get close enough, then we can go in the water and wait, at this point, they are deciding to come visit us or not, this is their call”.