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Seashells of Tahiti & Moorea - Cowries, Sea Biscuits, Cones & Pearls

Posted by Mermaid Julie on

I've been living aboard my sail boat in Tahiti on and off for 3 years :)

As a shell lover, this has been a magical place to see so many beautiful creatures and shells! I wanted to share on the Mermaid blog my finds and experience on the magical isle of Tahiti...

Seashells to find in Tahiti and Moorea

The lagoons of Tahiti and the remote Pacific islands are some of the world's most fascinating, beautiful, unique landscapes to experience.

One thing that gets a shock when mentioned to friends and family is that Tahiti doesn't really have beaches...

With all of the honeymoon hype, we imagine Tahiti and the first thing we imagine is white sand, clear blue water and towering green islands rising out of the sea. The latter are true, but stretches of dry white sand doesn't really exist on the island of Tahiti (it does on Moorea and other islands!). 

Tahiti has one small white sand beach (Maui beach), you can check out in a few minutes of walking.

Sailboat in the lagoon of Tahiti

The reason is simple and it is because the protective barrier reef, which encircles most all of the French Polynesian islands.

When the swell arrives, it breaks on the barrier reef (yes, exactly like it is in Moana!) and inside the reef stretching towards the towering green island is mostly shallow lagoon, with deep blue water channels.

When the water reaches the shore of the island it is gently lapping on an a very narrow strip of usually mud/black sand and it would not really be considered a beach, and usually isn't a great place to find shells either.

So, where is a sheller to look?!

I have found almost all my shells snorkeling or stand up paddling over the shallow lagoon, or walking along the short rocky black sand beaches that are at the passes, where swell gets in the fringing reef and breaks at the shore. There are also a few tiny islands (motus) that form amongst the lagoon, where I have found some shells awash as well.

The tricky thing about collecting shells IN the ocean, is that they are usually occupied, so I typically don't take shells I find. I look at them (yes, and take photos!) and place them back, even if I think it might be empty, it might not be!

Certain shells, like sea biscuits, are obviously no longer living, others, like any kind of spiral auger shell typically will have an occupant, whether their original maker, or a hermit crab. Divers who collect shells are generally killing the creatures, not just collecting their bones, like a common beach comber. Living creatures should be cherished and handled with care (if handled at all) and left to thrive amongst it, including fish!

Tahiti shell collection with sea biscuit, cones, urchins, scallop

A collection of seashell finds that made it to the boat

Conch variety of shell, called the shell with 7 fingers or is 6?

This one was still alive and a beautiful sight! This is the 'shell with 7 fingers' or is it 6 fingers? I variety of conch very common in the lagoon.

Moorea shells, found primarily on the beach or in the shallows off of the beach

This handful of shells are my catch from Moorea. On Moorea there are more beaches for walking and looking for shells.

Sea biscuit shell, beautiful white and easy to see paddle boarding over the lagoon

This prized nugget is a sea biscuit, which when I found I had never seen before. It is very delicate and 1 of 2 I've ever seen found. I used a little bleach to clean it, it was darker when I found it and dove down to get it off the reef.

Seashell postage stamps from Tahiti, French Polynesia

I had to buy these beautiful Coquillages (Shells in French ;) stamps that I found one day while in Papeete at a market set-up for a cruise ship. Many of the vendors were selling shells, I only bought these stamps

Black Pearls, you definitely won't find any of these on the beach or in the lagoon!

Ahhhh, the black pearls. You won't find these on the beach anywhere, but you will see them at the markets and shops and don't miss the opportunity to see as many as possible! Such beautiful colors, and such an interesting part of the shell world. I'll have to write a whole post about how black pearls are cultivated, it is fascinating!

Seashell of Tahiti and Moorea, Beautiful Spiral Top

This beautiful red and pink top shell I saw on the bottom while stand up paddling and dove about 15 feet to get it. It was so much bigger when I picked it up than what I expected from above the water! I was pretty certain there was nothing inside... and there was not. It seems that it was possibly chipped off the reef by a diver prior to me finding it. I've spent hours studying and admiring it.

Watercolor painting of a top shell, red, pink lines

Top shell watercolor painting

Watercolor painting of the top shell

Beautiful auger seashell found in the lagoon of Tahiti, French Polynesia

Beautiful shell found snorkeling in the lagoons of Tahiti, French Polynesia

Giant Clam filled with beautiful seashells from Tahiti French Polynesia

A combination of shells I found and shells found by other travelers at an AirBnb I stayed at in Tahiti.

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