French Polynesia has some very popular vacation destinations like Tahiti and Bora Bora, but any diver knows that the more remote atolls are where it’s at. Where what’s at? Awesome diving opportunities, on the Tuamotu Archipelago, that is what.
The Tuamotu islands are not very suitable for agriculture, and aside from some pearls, vanilla and copra, not a lot is grown here. Instead, the islanders make a living from all the Tuamotu islands tourism they receive as being an island paradise in French Polynesia that is off the beaten path. Fans of watersports and people looking to get away from tourist traps are the most common visitors.
Fakarava Island is one of the best diving spots in the South Pacific. Here you can find the Garuae Pass, a navigational dream, and the Tumakohua Pass, where excellent shark dives can be made at Shark’s Hole.
Rangiroa is, if anything, an even better location than the incredible Fakarava. The dominant feature of the island is the endless horizon and the vast lagoon, big enough to fit all of Tahiti, as it is not mountainous, unlike the rest of French Polynesia. It is the world’s greatest natural aquarium, where you can swim with a great number of marine creatures, but most notably, dolphins. Tiputa Pass and Avatoru Pass are the best diving sites, situated north of the atoll. Deep-sea fishing is a popular sport in Rangiroa. The most often visited lagoon on Rangiroa is the Blue Lagoon – or as some call it, “the lagoon within a lagoon”. After an hour’s boat ride from Avatoru, Rangiroa’s largest town, prepare to literally walk across a coral reef. Other than water sports, you can find Gauguin’s Pearl Farm on Rangiroa, a good alternative to the Museum of Pearls located in French Polynesian capital Papeete.
Tikehau is a rather small island, but as Charles Darwin noted, its lagoon is denser with fish than anywhere else in the region. Colorful tropical fish such as lionfish, clownfish, parrotfish, tuna, snappers, sharks and manta rays live here in great numbers, and the best place to see them is in Tuheiava Pass. As far as lagoon trips go, a trip to Ile Aux Oiseaux, the Bird Island, is at $77, and a mecca for bird-watching.
For a more relaxed day out on open waters, the lagoon is turquoise, clear, and straight out of a postcard. The area is home to black-tipped sharks, which are very docile, and feeding them is a fun way to spend time after a tropical lunch. Picnics on the lagoon are a popular lunch idea with most tourists, though there are a couple of options in terms of restaurants on the islands.
The islands remain relatively untouched but well equipped for tourists, so there are plenty of land activities to indulge in as well. Renting a bicycle and riding through forests of hibiscus to visit the charming local churches is a fun way to spend your time, and don’t forget to relax on the pink sands of Les Sables Roses, and try fine local wines at DomaineAmpélidacées.
Featured image credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/cnbattson/3092362396
First photo credit: flickr.com/photos/dany13/8272514236
Second photo credit: flickr.com/photos/loulou/249803558