13 March, 2024

60km Atoll, Fakarava, some volcano!...

The second largest atoll in Polynesia is Fakarava. It is 60km long and 25km wide, and has a gate at both the north and south ends, and its deep waters make it navigable inside to ships like the NatGeo Orion. Fakarava is north of Anaa in the Tuamotu archipelago. Passage through the relatively narrow gates was temporarily rough due to tidal bores. The atoll has two towns, Rotoava, and Tetamanu, both of which we visited, and a total population of about 800. We spent two days in Fakarava. Fakarava is a Natural Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO classification.

Black-tipped sharks cruised around the Orion near the Fakarava south gate. [5451]

Much of Tetamanu is a string of over-water huts. [5491]

The southern town, Tetamanu, at the southern gate is the smaller of the two, and children from this town have to spend their mid-weeks in Rotoava for schooling. In Tetamanu, we received the traditional welcome of song, and a feast of local fruits and fresh coconut milk. Jenny, ever mindful of the sensibilities of the locals, had instructed us to partake of this food, and visibly appreciate it, no matter how full we were from breakfast, to avoid any hint of disrespect.

Easy but wet landing at Tetamanu. [5468]

Over-water shed at Tetamanu. [5465]

Friendly Tetamanu ladies demonstrating weaving. [5470]

Our coconut milk drink is being prepared. No plastic straws here - drink it straight from the husk. [5472]

A coconut based delicacy served on a plate ready to eat. [5474]

Grouper swimming in the warm and shallow waters around Tetamanu. [5478]

Captain Aaron and his son Arthur enjoying the refreshing waters inside Fakarava atoll. [5482]

Reception staff member Valentina with her coconut drink. [5484]

Karla issuing clear instructions like the very effective Expedition Leader she is. What an Aussie champion! [5485]

Drift snorkel guide lets us know where to come ashore. [5487]

Overwater hut at Tetamanu. [5489]

The food taken, we enjoyed a drift snorkel in crystal waters and with interesting coral and fish, travelling about 1km with the tidal current until we were able to exit the water at a broken coral beach where there were numerous overwater huts and boathouses. It was extremely hot when we were taken by boat to a pink sand beach (faintly coloured by micro-organisms and minerals) where there was a calm and shallow pool where we could, gratefully, cool off.

On the way to the pink sands beach. We were diligent with our life jackets but that rule did not apply to the local skipper. [5496]

How's that for blue water? [5498]

In the Fakarava atoll heading towards the pink sand beach. [5501]

Pink sand and calm pool for swimming in the frightfully hot conditions at this beach. [5527]

Orion guest and off-duty Lindblad employee, Leigh, a Brit living in Florida, rejoicing at the pink sands. [5531]

By the next day, the Orion had relocated to Rotoava where we could disembark the Zodiacs via a rare "dry landing". Very hot again, with high humidity. The town had a small supermarket where we did some shopping. We avoided the black pearl store but several of our co-expeditioners spent many XPFs in there. Lindblad had arranged for bicycles and e-bikes, but we opted to look for tawny sharks at the beach. In an effort to photograph them, and to cool off, Mike dashed into the water with his nickers on and a GoPro, but to no avail. The sharks were there but were moving too fast, and without snorkelling gear there was no chasing them.

NatGeo Orion Dive Master Christine at the tiller of a Zodiac taking us to Rotoava. [5539]

Noisy welcoming committee at Rotoava. [5545]

Tawny shark skittering by, but this is as close as we got. [5552]

Underwater specialist Rachel scanning for tawny sharks in the waters at Rotoava. [5592]

Empty boat hoist and shelter at Rotoava. [5554]

Later in the afternoon, we did a proper snorkel outing off a platform mounted between two Zodiacs in the atoll. This is an arrangment which makes it easy to get into and out of deep water well away from any beach.

Snorkeller going deep off Tetamanu. [0872]

Fish seen in the drift snorkel off Tetamnu. [0874]

Long skinny needlefish seem to like swimming just under the water's surface. [0883]

On two days we visited locations at the north and south ends of Fakarava.

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