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At Sea with the GiantsLevels 3 and 4

Is an expedition to the southern seas an impossible fantasy? Dare to dream with the CETA'BIOSPHERE program and become a sentinel of the seas ! Further Details Levels 3 and 4

At Sea with the GiantsLevels 3 and 4

Is an expedition to the southern seas an impossible fantasy? Dare to dream with the CETA'BIOSPHERE program and become a sentinel of the seas ! Further Details Levels 3 and 4

Cetaceans - 15 days - French Polynesia
Science camps which could change the world!
Exceptional adventures and real projects for sustainable development

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Join the CETA’BIOSPHERE program’s naturalists and scientists in the turquoise oasis of the south Pacific, and keep a watchful eye on the future of dolphins and whales in a Polynesian sanctuary during one of our two campaigns: CETA’SCUBA in Rangiroa or CETA’MONITORING in Makatea.

2017 Céta’Biosphère Program > [French only]

The stay


Our relationship with animals is not just one political issue amongst many; it is a vision for society—a symbol of our relationship with the world, and fundamentally of our vision of humanity.” Claire Nouvian

Trips & Expeditions

CETA’SCUBA: Understand More, Care More
Rangiroa, minimum level 1 divers (on-site training available), families, adults.

During this trip, you can literally and figuratively submerse yourself in the world of a group of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) with remarkable behavior. Unfortunately, this small community of dolphins is accessible to large-scale tourism, leading diving centers, in particular, to over-commercialize the fantasy of swimming with dolphins. It’s potentially dangerous for the clientele; it also neglects the needs of dolphins, and is especially harmful to these wild animals. Your daily dives with dolphins, within a respectful professional structure (called GreenDive), will be complemented with knowledge-sharing to improve your observation and understanding of the world of animals.

Dauphins de Rangiroa Facebook group >

CETA’MONITORING: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea
Makatea, expedition, experienced adults.

An area only a few square kilometers in the middle of the south Pacific, a lack of airports and regular supplies, and a minuscule population make Makatea a secret island and one of the last wild gardens of the planet’s oceans. After a one- or two-day ocean journey by sailboat from Rangiroa, you’ll see humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) alongside our large wild animal specialists in an area totally preserved thanks to its remoteness, yet threatened by possible re-industrialization of the island.

Céta’Biosphère Facebook page >


Bertrand, Frédéric, Johan, Laurent & Thomas, June 25, 2014, Ceta’Scuba. “We’re developing in a very special environment. The Tiputa Pass is extraordinary. We can use our diving skills to combine work and play. The different tasks and observation points (on land, at sea, and underwater) allow us to experience one wonder after another.”

Delphine. July 9, 2014, Ceta’Scuba. “Up till now, the most memorable thing I’ve seen was yesterday during my first ocean dive: more than ten visible dolphins, some of which were socializing with each other close by. I was overjoyed to have the privilege to see this, but also to discover an animal much different than what you see in Flipper.”

Catherine and Nicolas, August 30, 2014, Ceta’Monitoring. “A leviathan joker suddenly appeared behind us and calmly examined the boat. It was unreal… Seeing it up close was incredible. He gently accepted us into his world and we observed each other for forty-five minutes. All in all, four species of cetaceans crossed our path that day. We still have 1,000 photos and videos to go through before we leave in two days. Gasp!”


The research project

Polynesia is the world’s largest marine mammal sanctuary within a single ocean. But the gigantic maritime area and the distance between habitable zones make enforcing and informing people about the law difficult. For example, encounters with wild animals for tourists are often considered ecotourism. But these generally have nothing to do with true ecotourism (sustainable, educational activities that help conserve biodiversity).
The most widespread maritime operations were done without knowing the nature of wild cetaceans. Thus, most of the time, increases in human activities negatively affected critical animal habitats to varying degrees in the long term.
This, and our lack of knowledge about the status of cetacean populations in the area, and therefore what needs to be done to protect Polynesian species, led to the creation of the CETA’BIOSPHERE program. Like the microscope or the telescope during their time, this program measures and compares several indicators like overall population, degree of residency, the size of groups, frequency in certain zones, and the possibility of an ecological niche. Ceta’Biosphere is a participative tool for biological surveillance of a highly affected zone (Rangiroa) and peripheral zones (Tikehau, Makatea).

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Concepts Learned during the Camp

Automatic photography - Tropicalization - Inventorying biodiversity - Solidarity - Whales - Dolphins - Cetaceans - Sailing - Diving - Wildlife - Tropical ocean - Atolls - Computing

Equipment Used

Dip net (kick net) - Binoculars - Diving gear (regulator, flippers, mask, snorkel, etc.) - Computers - Digital video camera - Sailboats - Dinghy - Outboard motorboat - Spreadsheet and statistical software - Hydrophone - Cooking material - Navigation instruments

The location

The Tuamotu Archipelago (population 15,000), an area threatened by global warming and rising waters, contains 78 atolls spread across 800,000 square kilometers of ocean surface. It has 800 square kilometers of land for 20,000 square kilometers of lagoons (0.1% and 2% of its maritime area respectively), demonstrating how fragile this oasis of aquatic biodiversity is. These atolls are remarkable for their height, shape, exposure to the ocean, population, and level of activity. There are small, closed lagoons, both hypersaline and brackish, and large lagoons open to the ocean like Fakarava, which features the largest pass in French Polynesia at 1,600 meters, and even a raised coral atoll, Makatea.

About 350 kilometers northeast of Tahiti, in the heart of the Pacific, we chose the Rangiroa atoll (“vast sky” in Paumotu) from amongst the archipelago’s eight islands and islets to establish our base. The clear, fish-filled waters of this giant atoll attract impressive large wildlife to this oasis of biodiversity. It’s one of the world’s top diving destinations for a reason. The neighboring atoll of Tikehau, the forgotten island of Makatea (“white rock”), and Rangiroa compose the biological navel at the center of the global ocean.

The CETA’BIOSPHERE program is a private initiative to conserve this exceptional ecosystem. We encourage everyone to interest themselves and support science whose aim is to share knowledge and satisfy curiosity.

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Day to day proceedings

If you prefer underwater observation and dolphins, you can join the CETA’SCUBA group in Rangiroa. Ten dives per person are scheduled during a fourteen-day trip. You can also ride in a diving boat or observe the animals from land. Dives are supervised by professionals and last forty-five to seventy minutes. Before heading out, the trip leader will brief everyone about data collection. The dive guide will then go over sea conditions and how the dive will proceed. A debriefing (collecting everyone’s data, notes, photos, and videos) and mini-conferences will take up the remaining work time.

If you prefer exploration and whales, you’ll love the CETA’MONITORING expedition. You’ll be a crew member of our association’s research sailboat and work under a skipper and a project manager. You’ll observe from a promontory on land and from aboard the sailboat (half the day will be devoted to each). You can spend your free time exploring caves and the Makatea plateau with a guide (the island’s geology make solo exploration of this tropical karren dangerous). You can also swim or play pétanque with the locals.

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The team

Pamela Carzon, founder of “Nomade des Océans” [Ocean Nomads] and the “Groupe d’Étude des Mammifères Marins de Polynésie” [Polynesian Marine Mammal Research Group], is the science coordinator of the CETA’BIOSPHERE program. A nature photographer, marine biologist, and underwater diver, she was a member of the first team in the world to help and heal an abandoned humpback whale in the wild. During your trip, she’ll be the science coordinator and trip leader.

Alain Portal, a navigator, professional skipper, sciences tutor, and former whale watcher, founded the GEMM with Pamela in 2009 and is its current president. He was a member of the first team in the world to help and heal an abandoned humpback whale in the wild. During your trip, he’ll be the skipper and instructor.

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Daniela Zeppilli, PhD, international post-doctoral fellow for excellence in marine sciences
LabexMER University of Brest, European Institute for Marine Studies, French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea

_“I’m a woman, a mother, and a scientist, and I love the ocean. Those are my four reasons for supporting Objectif Sciences International trips. I wish I had discovered this type of science camp sooner!”

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For Rangiroa (CETA’SCUBA), accommodations will be in a boarding house that’s part of the GreenDive sustainable diving network set up by the GEMM. The diving center (also part of the GreenDive Center) and the “dolphin city,” a land-based observation point, are only a few steps away from our dormitory-style lodgings. The communal bathroom is equipped with toilets, a shower, and access to electricity (220V). Meals are prepared in the adjacent kitchenette. Money will be available to buy food. Meals are based on fish, chicken, and rice; vegetables are hard to come by on atolls. A collection of delicious, quick recipes adapted to local conditions will be made available to all.

On the (CETA’MONITORING) expedition, you’ll stay on the organization’s sailboat and in a boarding house on Makatea (dormitory with shared bathroom). Fresh water is always available. Meals and picnics will be prepared by the host.

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Day to Day Schedule


Number of participants: 2 to 4

Day 1. Meet-up at the Rangiroa Airport, unpacking, tour of the location. Group breakfast, introduction of the team. Presentation about Rangiroa and the research objectives.
Day 2. Dive 1. Presentation of the tools and the data to collect.
Day 3. Dive 2. How will we archive the collected data?
Day 4. Dive 3. Observation at the Tiputa Pass.
Day 5. Dive 4. Presentation about Polynesia’s marine mammals (1).
Day 6. Dive 5. Presentation about Polynesia’s marine mammals (2).
Day 7. Off.
Day 8. Off.
Day 9. Dive 6. Introduction to understanding the videos.
Day 10. Dive 7. Approaching marine mammals (1).
Day 11. Dive 8. Approaching marine mammals (2).
Day 12. Dive 9. Monitoring populations.
Day 13. Dive 10. Analysis of videos collected during the trip.
Day 14. Debriefing and drop-off at the Rangiroa Airport.

More information [French PDF] >


Number of participants: 1 to 3

Departure > Rangiroa atoll.

Arrival > Rangiroa or Tikehau atoll. It’s best to schedule several days for the return trip in case of bad weather conditions.

This schedule is for illustrative purposes only. It may be modified because of the weather, the group’s ability to adapt, or other unforeseen events. After stocking up on supplies, the team will travel to the island of Makatea, a quasi-unreachable natural paradise. The sailboat trip will last two days. Beware of seasickness.

Day 1. RANGIROA/ Mid-morning meeting, team introduction, and ship boarding. Group breakfast. In the afternoon: presentation of Rangiroa and Makatea and the expedition goals. Preparation for the sailboat trip. Loading supplies.
Day 2. RANGIROA/ First leg of the trip (about three or four hours) Anchor drop in Tivaru, on the west coast of Rangiroa. Group breakfast. In the afternoon: introduction to boat launching and exploration of the reefs on the outer slope. Preparation for the trip to Makatea.
Day 3. RANGIROA-MAKATEA/ 5:30 AM departure for the second leg of the trip (nine hours). Debarkation in Makatea and rest.
Day 4. MAKATEA/ Formation of teams. Presentation about humpback whales. Instructions on using collection tools. Group breakfast. In the afternoon: tour of the island. Evening in the boarding house.
Days 5 to 11. MAKATEA/ In the morning, research and observation of humpback whales from the shore and the sailboat. Data collection. Group breakfast. In the afternoon: tour of the island (native birds, abandoned industrial lands overgrown with trees, cliffs, caves, and soft-water pools). Evening in the boarding house.
Day 12. MAKATEA/ In the morning, research and observation of humpback whales from the shore and the sailboat. Data collection. Group breakfast. In the afternoon: preparation for the return trip to Rangiroa or Tikehau. Team embarkation and night spent on the boat.
Day 13. MAKATEA-RANGIROA or MAKATEA-TIKEHAU/ Depending on the weather, debarkation on the west coast of Rangiroa or on Tikehau. Tour of the lee shore of Rangiroa and night at the anchorage.
Day 14. RANGIROA or TIKEHAU/ Sailing from the west coast of Rangiroa to the lagoon or from the Tikehau Pass to the village. Debriefing and end of the expedition.

More information [French PDF] >

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