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Fakarava: a Polynesian island paradise


07/11/2022

Fakarava means “beautiful” or “making things excellent” and here the name really says it all, because Fakarava is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a classified paradise.

The small islands surrounding the Fakarava lagoon form the second largest atoll in French Polynesia and the third largest in the world. Two passes provide access to the sea, including Ngārue Pass, the largest in Polynesia, where most of the 800 inhabitants live. A small minority of the population has settled in the tiny village of Tetāmanu in the far south. Life takes place around the lagoon with its lush seabed. Since 2006, Fakarava, along with the six neighbouring atolls (Taiaro, Tōau, Aratika, Kauehi, Nīau, and Rāraka), have been part of a UNESCO “Biosphere Reserve,” notable for its abundance of rare flora and fauna, including the hunting kingfisher, Tuamotu palms, squid, and marine cicadas.

The designation is part of an international sustainable development project that combines the search for harmony between human activities and the protection of nature. The island’s main resources are pearl farming, fishing, copra production, and tourism.

The atoll is still very pristine and largely untouched and is definitely worth a visit for its shimmering white and pink beach!

Fakarava
© Jim Winter

Where is Fakarava located?

Fakarava  is located in the Tuamotu archipelago, 450 km northeast of Tahiti between the atolls of Toau, Niau, Faaite, Raraka and Kauehi. It has a lagoon of 1,153 square kilometres with 16 square kilometres of land, that is about 60 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide, with a population of 800 people.

When is the best time to travel to Fakarava?

The best time to travel, as in all of French Polynesia, is from May to November, during these months there are the most hours of sunshine, but Fakarava is a great year-round destination. The pleasant water temperatures are between 25 and 29 degrees throughout the year. For most divers, a 3 mm or 5 mm wet suit is sufficient.

Discover Fakarava with the Aranui

The cargo/ cruise ship Aranui 5 makes a stop at Fakarava on the second day of its voyage to the Marquesas (voyage 14 to voyage 26 in 2022) and also on voyages 01, 02, 04, 05, 06 in 2023. Arrival is at the Rotoava pier. A dinghy then takes the passengers to the island. There is no other possibility to reach the atoll.

From here, passengers will have the morning at leisure to explore the island and will be back on board the ship at lunchtime.

What to see on Fakarava Island?

Fakarava
© Jim Winter

Fakarava is a diver’s paradise! Here you can find diving spots in virtually untouched areas with a varied and exciting programme of experiences. See colourful Loaches, Barracudas and Manta Rays, as well as Groupers, Grey Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Hammerheads and Eagle Rays. The North Passage is the biggest pass of the Tuamotus, with some bigger animals, the South Passage is one of the most spectacular diving spots and accessible for experts as well as beginners.

In addition to the water there is plenty to see on land with the coral church in the village of Tetamanu, a particular focus. It was one of the first catholic churches in Polynesia and was built completely out of coral.

On Fakarava the two leeward towers are also worth visiting: The Topaka lighthouse, located west of the village of Rotoava, was built in the shape of a pyramid and is a real eye-catcher. As is the lighthouse Phare de Taputavaka, which is also worth seeing.

Be sure to catch a visit to a pearl farm for exciting insights into the different stages of pearl cultivation.

What activities can you do?

Many of the activities on Fakarava revolve around water, from diving, snorkelling, and swimming, to canoeing and kayaking. On land you can hire a bike or quad bike to tour around the island or shop for jewellery made of shells and corals at the series of small stalls.

How can you organise your activities on Fakarava Island?

It is best to organise your activities in advance through Aranui 5. But if you want to be spontaneously, you can also book various activities whilst on the island.

What are the tips for visiting Fakarava Island?

There are no ATMs or banks on Fakarava. Therefore, you should take enough cash with you to the island.

The island is easy to explore by bike. Rent a bike and ride along the entire island to the airport where the land is only as the narrow as the runway itself.

How can you get around on Fakarava Island?

There are almost no roads on the atolls and therefore no public transport, however, small convertibles or bicycles can be rented. 

What should I pack for Fakarava Island?

For a dreamy and relaxing trip to Fakarava Island, you don’t need to bring much except swimwear and sunscreen. The sunlight on the Tuamotu Islands is particularly intense. It is recommended to protect yourself with sunscreen (at least factor 40), sunglasses, a hat, and light clothing. Sea shoes are also recommended to protect your feet in the water.

Diving or snorkelling equipment can be rented on the island, or you can bring your own. Since there are no banks or ATMs on Fakarava, you should have enough cash with you.

What souvenirs should I bring from Fakarava?

Fakarava is not a typical shopper’s paradise, but that is part of the desert island charm of the island. A classic souvenir is jewellery made of corals and shells.You are interested in a cruise in Polynesia, do not hesitate to look at our annual calendar to know the dates of our departures


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