Aug 242011

You went where?  That was the most frequent reaction I garnered when I told people of my trip to the ethereal atoll of Fakarava (vahine means “woman” in Tahitian).

Fakarava is part of the Tuamotu island chain in French Polynesia (often collectively referred to as Tahiti).  It is a rectangular shaped atoll that lies 279 miles (450 kilometers) northeast of Tahiti, and its the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago (Rangiroa is the largest).  In this case, large doesn’t equate to busy – the population is only around 700.

The arrival at Fakarava was surreal.  The lagoon is a stunning mix of various turquoise and blue hues, and its supernatural beauty is overwhelming at first glimpse.

Fakarava is an unspoiled paradise and an underwater eden.  It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, due to its healthy and diverse marine life population.

Fakarava Lagoon

Fakarava Beach

Fakarava is off the beaten path, and travelers that make the trek here have no doubt been lured by tales of its legendary diving and snorkeling.  If you come to Fakarava expecting an extensive roster of land-based activity options, you will be sorely disappointed.  Most of the diving is done in the passes, of which there are two (commonly referred to as the North Pass and the South Pass).

Maori Wrasse - Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

One of the main industries in Fakarava is black pearl farming.  Most of the pearl farms offer complimentary tours, and we jumped at the chance to tour the Hinano Pearl Farm (the owners were super friendly and even picked us up from our hotel).  The tours are typically conducted in French, so it was a good thing I brushed up before the trip.  Hinano’s black pearls were of excellent quality, and their hand-crafted pieces were gorgeous and unique.  And of course, I couldn’t leave without selecting a piece for myself.

Hinano Pearl Farm - Fakarava

If days of diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and exploring beautiful beaches in near solitude sound good to you, Fakarava should be high on your bucket list.  If however, you are looking for nightlife, bars, tourist traps, or even souvenir shops, you’ve come to the wrong place.

What is your favorite unspoiled paradise?  Care to share, or leave it a secret?

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