340 km NE of the main island of Tahiti lies spectacular island of Fakarava (population: 500) in the Tuamotu ridge. Like the other 77 atolls of the archipelago, it is built upon an ancient volcano which sunk due to the drift of the Pacific floor and erosion. However, the surrounding coral reef remained at the surface needing sunlight to develop. The sunken volcanoes gave birth to pristine crystal clear lagoons. The breeches in the reef of some of these atolls, like Fakarava, are natural passes formed by former rivers, which fresh water prevented coral from developing when joining the ocean.
Fakarava is often the starting point of exciting land and underwater exploration onboard a superyacht, usually cruising downwind up to Rangiroa atoll. Even though the atoll is sought-after, its remoteness and lack of tourism development make it a secluded place to visit.
Thanks to its two passes – one at the north (1.6 km wide) close to the airport and one at the south separated by only 50km / 33 miles – yachts usually choose to spend several days discovering every corner of the islets and lagoons. The channel between both passes is surrounded by pearl farms, hosting thousands of precious oysters carrying the famous Tahitian cultured pearl, often referred to as “black pearl”. Why not look for your own pearl when stopping at a farm?
The South pass is filled with “mana” and legends. Only a few people live there. There are a few friendly family pensions close to the pass: a great stop to meet the very friendly paumotu and share their every day life. The former village was built of coral stones and still shelters one of the first Catholic churches built in the country. Mass is still attended every Sunday and despite the isolation, ladies are elegantly dressed in white wearing beautiful woven hats.
The low-lying coral island and its 6 neighboring atolls* were first classified by UNESCO in 1977. In 2007, they became a biosphere reserve. Thus, conservation is a priority making it one of the most thrilling places to dive and snorkel in French Polynesia. Between the two passes, any type of encounter is possible under the water. Sharks, which have been protected since 2006, peacefully share their habitat with small colorful tropical fish. Every dive and snorkel safari is different depending on the drift, time of the day.
Fakarava is also home to one unique event every year during the full moon of June or July: Thousands of groupers spawn in the south pass for only a few hours, thus creating a frenzy involving all sorts of fish, including pelagic. Witnessing this very special natural phenomenon is a memorable experience and one you don’t want to miss.
Visiting Superyachts can anchor close to the pink sand islets, far from it all, and arrange a picnic. The place is particularly child friendly and exploring the islets around the atoll often leads to incredible encounters, such as seabird chicks in their nest made on the floor due to the lack of predators.
In a nutshell, if you are looking for pristine areas both on land and under the water with a taste of adventure, friendly people to meet and “disconnect” from the modern world you are in a very special place: Fakarava is definitely a must-cruise to add to your itinerary!
* Toau, Kauehi, Niau, Taiaro, Raraka and Aratika