April 4, 2018
The nickname for the Tuamotus, most likely pegged by early visitors, as they are low, with dangerous reefs all around. Without modern navigation tools and radar, a ship could easily run into these islands at night and have no warning that they are even there!
Lucky for us, with a chartplotter and radar, we arrived unscathed in Makemo, one of the less populated atolls in this island group in French Polynesia noted for uncharted reefs and difficult passes. The churning pass was well marked, deep and a good example of the others to come. Navigating the unmarked passage through the lagoon required the Captain in the spreaders to read the water color and our trusty headsets in use. Barely populated, Makemo was an atoll of deserted beaches and fabulous snorkeling and a great intro to the wild wonders of the Tuamotus.
Fakarava, Rangiroa and little Tua were some of the others we visited, with spectacular diving and snorkeling on all of them. We dove the passes with Nitrox due to the remoteness (recompression facility was far away in Pape’ete) which reinforced how wild these islands really are. Sharks, Manta Rays and Dolphins were just some of the rich marine life of the Tuamotus. No wonder these islands are so popular with divers!
Each island had a settlement or two, with some restaurants and stores, totally dependent on the supply ships and in some cases, planes. Seems that the economy is mostly tourism, with cruise ships visiting some of the bigger atolls, however France subsidizes all of French Polynesia.
A few pearl farms are still in existence and we got the lowdown on the process with a lovely tour, demonstration and of course some purchases! The black, blue, green and multicolor pearls are unique to French Polynesia and make a great way to remember the magic of the South Pacific.