The Tuamotu Islands in the heart of the South Pacific are a veritable tropical paradise. With their turquoise lagoons, soft, white or pink sandy beaches and magnificent coral reefs, they are the South Sea Islands of picture postcards. And the scenery beneath the waves is every bit as magical as it is above.
Nowhere is the description ‘unspoiled tropical paradise’ more fitting than for the Tuamotu Islands. And what’s more, it’s a description that could be applied to any one of the 80 or so islands and atolls that make up this sublime archipelago. But the beauty of the Tuamotu Islands is certainly not only skin deep, because when you dip your head below the surface of the crystal clear water, the scenery is just as breathtaking. It’s what divers come from all over the world to admire and enjoy.
An underwater paradise
French Polynesia is the biggest shark sanctuary in the world, and over twenty species inhabit its clear warm waters. The lagoons are home to small blacktip sharks which are inoffensive to man. Nevertheless, it’s still a thrilling experience when you swim among them and the majestic manta rays. The bigger sharks, such as the whitetip and hammerhead, stay in the passes and on the exterior of the reefs, where fish are plentiful. Associations such as Tore Tore and Mokarran in Rangiroa, are committed to the protection and preservation of these impressive, and sadly, endangered species.
But there’s a lot more to the Tuamotu Islands than a chance to swim with sharks. For a different culinary experience, try the local speciality, korori, a shellfish that tastes a bit like scallops. It’s usually prepared with fresh fish, lime juice and coconut milk, in an explosion of tropical flavors. To immerse yourself in the typical lifestyle of the Tuamotu Islanders, stay in a Tahitian Guesthouse. In most of the islands you won’t have the choice, because that will be the only type of accommodation available. These family run businesses give you the opportunity to share in the everyday lives of these warm and welcoming people.
Activities you should try in the Tuamotu Islands
Some of the biggest and most beautiful lagoons in the world are in the Tuamotu Islands. Rangiroa, in particular, is the world’s second biggest. Another particularity of this magnificent atoll, is that it is home to the only winery in French Polynesia, and the only vineyard in the world that’s on a motu in the middle of a lagoon! Rangiroa is also famed for its Tahitian cultured pearls, which you can buy directly when you visit one of the pearl farms on the atoll.
Fakarava, one of the main islands in the archipelago, is part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The quantity and diversity of marine life in and around the atoll is quite astounding. Another atoll you should visit in the Tuamotu Islands is Tikehau. Among its many attractions is a motu with beaches of bright pink sand! The motu is also home to large colonies of seabirds.