After a two and a half day sail from the Marquesas we arrived in the Tuamotu’s on Wednesday 30th July. The passage across was fairly uneventful with a good breeze most of the way allowing us to sail the majority of the five hundred plus miles. For the non sailors on board this had to have been the longest two and a half days of their lives.
Our early morning arrival was met with thundery rain squalls which made us have to wait outside of the Fakarava South pass reef. Once the sky had cleared enough we motored through the shallow pass navigating our way amongst the pommey heads until we could anchor in the most amazing blue water of the sandy motu.
The Tuamotu’s Archipelago consists of 77 atolls scattered over a thousand miles. It is the longest chain of atolls in the world. All of the Islands of the Tuamotu’s are low coral Islands, essentially like high sand bars built upon coral reefs. Its quite a spectacular formation to see. Inside the lagoons are mostly deep water with a shallower shelf around the rim of palm fringed motu’s and exposed reef.
On dropping the anchor the first black tip shark started to circle the boat and by the time we had settled in to our first anchorage there was several sharks around Louise. This made getting into the water a little daunting. However after the first few times of being completely surrounded by sharks it almost became a natural occurrence. The snorkelling was good and the abundance of fish and sea life was healthy. The water was warm and often super clear and the most beautiful blue.
Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu’s. Its rectangular in shape with two passes. We spent a few days anchored in the south pass before motoring our way the 30 miles through the deep lagoon to the northern pass and anchored of the main village of Rotoava. The village is simple and sparse. Man made development is minimal and the locals were very friendly.
From Fakarava we moved on to Apataki another atoll nearly 60 miles north west. It was the calmest hottest day. It was stunning to see the clarity of the atoll that we passed on route. Apataki is an almost square like atoll over 20 miles long. On entering the southern pass of Apataki we found ourselves dodging submerged lines of the pearl farms. The village ashore was geared up for pearl farming and not a lot else. We stayed a night in this location before motoring through the atoll to the northern cut for another night before departing to our third atoll 80 miles further west.
Our arrival in Rangiroa was a pretty memorable one. We had a slight breeze and outgoing rushing tide. The entrance to the lagoon from seaward looked pretty turbulent and filled with tourist boats. With a fading sun we took the plunge and made our way towards the entrance. It was a pretty scary sight. No matter how wide the cut is when there is white water within it feels too small. The tourist boats could see our intentions and gave us the clearance we needed to gun it through the white water. As we did so we were given the most spectacular dolphin performance imaginable. There was six or so dolphins jumping in unison around us. It totally took our minds of the situation and before we knew it we entered the calm of the lagoon. All pretty excited by the performance we received.
Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus and one of the largest in the world. It consists of over 400 motu’s, islets and sandbars and is approximately 40 miles in length east to west.
Pearl farming is carried out in over 30 atolls of French Polynesia and is still many families main income in the Tuamotu archipelago. On Rangiroa a school dedicated to the pearl farming techniques and a research center on pearl oysters makes it a pearl center for this industry.
Rangiroa also host the only atoll vineyard in the world making wines the only ones produced from coral soil. The 20 hectare vineyard is planted on a palm fringed motu ten minutes boat ride from the main village.
The snorkelling and diving in Rangiroa is pretty spectacular with once again an abundance of sea life, including dolphins, turtles and sharks. During our time there we also motored across the lagoon to the spectacular and famous Blue Lagoon. A smaller lagoon within the lagoon formed on the southwestern edge of Rangiroa thats shallow waters accentuate the bright blue color of the water.
After a few beautiful days in Rangiroa it was time to head on our way. We left the much calmer cut just before lunch on the 8th August with just over 200 miles ahead of us.
By sunset we could see the outline of the atoll fading away behind us.