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UNESCO biosphere in the Tuamotu atolls

The atoll of Fakarava, the second largest atoll in French Polynesia, has been part of a UNESCO biosphere with 6 neighboring atolls since 2009. It is the perfect mix of ocean conservation and human development. With only 2,000 inhabitants, mostly living around the main village, the lagoon is untouched and offers pristine marine life. Just like the other atolls of the Tuamotu archipelago, located north-east of the island of Tahiti (about 1 hour flight), it is a place of exploration both around the islets surrounding the island and under the water.

The Tuamotu atolls are remnants of former extinct volcanoes, which eroded and sunk. Million years ago, coral developed around the volcanoes. Over millions of years, as volcanoes were slowly disappearing, a lagoon appeared between the coral reef and the volcano. Although these volcanoes are no longer there, the coral reef has remained as it needs light and hosts a huge crystal clear lagoon within. Former rivers allowed natural passes to develop allowing passage between the lagoon and the ocean.

Fakarava and the atolls of French Polynesia are therefore amazing places for abundant sea life due to the various currents in the passes and the size of the lagoons. All this allows a unique yearly underwater phenomenon during the full moon of June or July. Thousands of groupers aggregate at the small South pass of the atoll to breed. This attracts all sorts of other predators and diving there during the event is an incredible and rare opportunity, sought after by scientists and a handful of avid divers. The dive is easy, shallow and very safe despite the underwater activity, only happening during a few hours so it needs to be well-prepared. The south pass remains a fantastic place to snorkel or dive year round.

Yachts will navigate through Fakarava’s large north pass and cruise down the marked channel to the south pass. Cruising the lagoon is extremely scenic and it is recommended to visit some of the desert islets on a tender to discover marine bird nests with friendly chicks or visit a pearl farm. Anchorage at the south pass is easy. While in the area, pay a visit to one of the nearby local guest houses for a drink and discover the pink sand islets close by.