Day 1,893 of Traveling the World | Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia | April 9, 2023

Fakarava is a tiny, skinny atoll floating in the South Pacific and is the second-largest atoll in the Tuamotu Island group. It is described – unbelievably! – as being 37 miles long and 13 miles wide…BUT, that is including the ocean water that is in its sphere. The actual “land” looks like a wavy string resembling the number 7. Our ship was anchored on the leeward side, and our walk across to the (very windy) windward side took 5 minutes, if that, proving that it is NOT 13 miles wide!

On the leeward side is where all the small boats, and our ship, were moored; where people were swimming and sunbathing; where the calm blue water was gorgeous and inviting; and where the stores and restaurants were located, although there aren’t that many. The atoll’s population is only about 850 people. Houses were found on both sides of the island, but as you will see in the photos, the wind and surf are pretty enthusiastic on the windward side.

Fakarava has one of the world’s most pristine and undisturbed coral reef ecosystems. It is home to the highest concentration of gray reef sharks in the world (their school numbers about 700), and they are fully protected. Consequently, one of the biggest draws on Fakarava is scuba diving. Mike said the dive here was one of the top three in his 45 years of diving. He saw dozens of gray reef sharks and large shoals of other fish.

It was the largest concentration of sharks that Mike had ever seen. Some were very active, hunting just a few feet from the divers. Others were sitting still on the bottom, making use of the strong current flowing past to oxygenate their gills so that they didn’t have to swim. At one point the sharks scattered and the dive guide later said that he was sure that meant there was a hammerhead shark nearby, although we didn’t see it. Other divers, diving on the other side of the boat, said they saw several hammerheads.

Life here is hot, sleepy, and slow. There are only a few miles of road, so there are hardly any vehicles. There is no public transportation. People get around on bicycles or scooters. The atoll is first mentioned by a Russian navigator in 1820, who “named” it Wittgenstein Island. Never mind that it already had a name and was already inhabited by native Polynesians. Thankfully, the atoll reverted to its native name of Fakarava. It seems to fit well, evoking the South Pacific character.

A picture-perfect day, with kayakers near the shore and our ship anchored in the distance.
The crystal-clear lagoon and some of the atoll’s businesses.
In the rear is the biggest bar and restaurant that we saw. Notice how many bicycles have been (temporarily) abandoned in search of a cold drink.
The trees and clouds drew us in.
This is called the Evotia Shop – clothing, pearls, and souvenirs.
You may not be able to see her, but this small landscaped house with the thatched roof has a woman sitting out front, watching all of the cruise ship passengers walk and cycle by.
Advertising black pearls and their companion – ice cream.
All the views of the lagoon are pretty – and calm – on this side of the island.
A small dock with a boat-in-waiting.
This is just about a complete list of all the public buildings on the atoll!
As expected, every house built on the coast had a boat adjacent. (But even those a little inland had their attendant boats!)
A small house is buried in this foliage.
On all of the Polynesian islands, we encountered quite a number of stray dogs. They were all slow-moving, docile, fearful of us, and made a wide circle to avoid us – or just ignored us completely, like this one.
Coastal still life.
So you can see, immediately, that this is the windward side of Fakarava.
This little coconut palm cluster was adjacent to these houses. Notice the many fallen coconuts, which we saw all over.
The surf was pretty wild on this side.
This ring road went around most of the atoll. We walked about half of it.
The clouds and their choreography!
It all looks totally different from the photos of the leeward side, doesn’t it? No boats out there, no businesses, no people…
A sea of glass for all the boats we saw.
Almost-sunset over Fakarava. The colors were other worldly.

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