Fakarava, Tuamotu Atoll

Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia. It is a UNESCO world biosphere site which is known to have some of the best diving in the Pacific. It has 2 passes entering the atoll, where the diving is drift diving. There are only around 700 people in this second largest atoll in the Tuamotus.

We stayed at the White Sand Beach resort, which is the resort with the most stars. There are no over water bungalows so we stayed in an air-conditioned beach bungalow. The resort is run by an Austrian, Hans, who likes to greet each visitor.  We rented bikes from the hotel for around $3 (USD) and had a lovely ride down the atoll. The first meal was an outdoor BBQ which was quite nice.

We went for 2 days (Saturday and flew out Sunday) primarily to dive but were told by Top Dive we could not dive the passes without an introductory dive to evaluate our diving skills. Unfortunately, the only dive Top Dive offers to do this is in the afternoon and as we were flying on Sunday, we would not have been able to dive the pass. Instead we went with Dive Spirit, a small new outfit, which was nice and had an introductory dive in the morning. We hope to go back and do more diving there. The dives had beautiful coral and of course amazing fish.


Rangiroa Kia Ora

Our first trip to an island other than Moorea and Tahiti was the atoll Rangiroa part of the Tuamotus archipelago. This chain of atolls is older than the society islands and the middle volcanoes have sunk into the ocean as they drift westward on their tectonic plate leaving behind their ring of coral islands with an inner lagoon. Rangiroa is 78 km long and 24 km wide – so wide in fact,  you can’t see one side of the atoll to another. The island of Tahiti would fit inside it’s reef.

We stayed at the newly reopened Kia Ora resort. Our overwater bungalow was so beautiful and so private that we spent little time at the main resort pool. We had an unobstructed view of the lagoon. The snorkeling amoung the coral was the best we have had from a bungalow. The Polynesian TV (windows in the floor to see the fish) was really beautiful. Rays and sharks swam by.

We used Top Dive on site and went on a scuba dive at the pass. We saw dolphins, stone fish, eels amount other fish. Unfortunately we did not see any hammerhead sharks, although we did see sharks. This was before I obtained my scopolamine so I was not up for a second dive that day -I want to return and scuba more.

Like most resorts we have been to in FP they have small refrigerators like mini bars, but are empty so they are perfect for storing wine. We also brought our mini expresso maker and enjoyed coffee in the morning on the deck.

The staff were friendly, service at the restaurant good and the bar on the dock was busy.  Unlike the Four Seasons, where Americans abounded, here it was French and Italians.


Ahe is an atoll in the Tuatomus. It has a 16 km long lagoon studded with patate corals- just under the surface small collections of coral. One French yacht, after sailing around the world, went aground on a patate coral here and it and its owners never left.

We stayed at Cocoperle Lodge, a French/Polynesian run eco resort that a local French friend told us is the secret get away for French expats. The airport is so small, there is no building, no security and the workers all wear bathing suits. There is a small hut adjacent to the airport that has coconut shells hung for walls where the locals gather to discuss pearl prices as that is the economy of the atoll. While waiting to go back to Tahiti and sitting in the hut, we were  greeted by everyone who entered with bisous and hand shakes and we all were included in the seating arrangement so no one was excluded in the French and Polynesian conversation, including the obvious outsiders! There are no roads and everyone is greeting everyone as they walk to the dock.

Ahe is quiet. The eco resort was a pleasant ten minute boat ride from the airport. We were greeted by the owner and two friendly dogs. The resort uses solar energy (as does most of the atoll after the hurricane struck it in 1982).  All the food was from the lagoon and the atoll, and for someone who does not like fish very much, I found the meals amazing. We had wine and watched a beautiful long sunset, swam at night, snorkeled at the pass, in and around a patate coral, and at the resort which felt like our private beach. My favorite sighting was 3 octopi, ranging from about 6 inches to about 13 inches. One was swimming so I could see all his tentacles. One was large and on some coral and we could see him from the dock. When we snorkeled up to him he did the requisite amazing color changes before sliding into his hole. We also saw leopard rays and some other new exciting fish and one spiny sea cucumber! Our guide, Leon, was fishing and while wearing his camouflaged wet suit he was hard to see and spent quite a long time under water just waiting. Amazing!

Our bungalow was on the beach and had a beautiful new bathroom with coral for a floor (it didn’t hurt with bare feet). The restaurant area which was also open air, was beautifully decorated with shells and local flora. It reminded me of what I picture shell cottage to look like (for all of you Harry Potter fans). We had our doors open the entire time and everything we did was open air. I needed insect repellant, but Bruce did not, partially as they were all eating me, although I was not miserable with the bugs as I have been in Americas north east! We had mosquito netting around the bed and a fan. We are quite spoiled and found it hard to sleep the first night due to heat- it was probably only 75 degrees!

Cocoperle Lodge used to be a pearl farm and still has remnants of the farm on the property. They have a few oysters for pearls that they farm and let me choose an oyster and gave me the pearl from inside. It was a beautiful large black pearl with green and blue iridescence.

It sounded to us like a lot of people like to come here to fish. You are invited to fish with the owners to get the dinner or go out and do deep sea fishing. We don’t care for fishing so we didn’t take them up on these options.

There is an indigenous forest on the atoll where the birds congregate and as you walk through it it smells of guano. There were noddis, stern houpées, frigate birds, tropic birds and boobies. In Sept- Oct the sea turtles lay their eggs on the ocean side of the lagoon. This part of the atoll looks like a moon scape and the natives call it the dead zone because it is not lush like the lagoon side. The land part of the atoll is only about 400- 500 meters wide.

This weekend was quite different from the 5 star resorts-  in part because there was no diving on the atoll, but it was a nice visit and we felt like we were introduced into some of the local culture. Thoroughly enjoyable!

Info for people staying there- they give no amenities, so you need to bring your own soap, shampoo, etc. There is no water boiler, so don’t bring coffee- we usually bring a little expresso maker but not here, and the wine, etc, is very reasonably priced, so enjoy what they have (it was also very good!). We brought our own bottle of wine and lugged it home again. We had demi pension and the lunch we bought was very reasonably priced. The breakfast was not an orgy- just local fresh fruit and bakery items- perfect!

Last note- don’t forget the insect repellent!




Tetiaroa is an atoll 55 km north of Tahiti consisting of 13 islets, of which the largest one was a retreat for Tahitian royalty. There is a marae and tuu trees left from this time. The atoll is owned by the Marlon Brando estate who is building a high end luxury resort of which only a small bit can be seen. In Brando’s will the rest of the atoll is prohibited from development and there is a bird sanctuary on one of the atolls.

We traveled there on a catamaran from Papeete harbor. We are sailors but the atoll is so far that they motor/sail the entire way. Fortuantely my scopolamine made the journey enjoyable and we were prepared to be out in the sun and didn’t get burned.  We could not see the atoll until fairly close as it is low. From Tetiaroa, Tahiti and Moorea can always be seen. On the way we saw lots of flying fish.

A cacophony of bird calls greets one as they moor at the Brando mooring. The captains zipped us to shore with the zodiac, speeding through coral islands just under the surface. They must have done this numerous times to be so fast. We walked down the beach and through the lagoon over to the bird island where brown noddies, sterns, frigate birds and boobies nest. The sterns nest on the ground and viscously guard their chicks and eggs. The trees were full of boobies and the noddies hang out  in flocks on the beach. Evidently each of these different types of

birds tend to hunt only one type of fish and the local fisherman follow them at sea to get their catch.

We had a lunch, some snorkeling where we saw fish related to seahorses, some eels along with the other beautiful usual suspects.

The trip home was pleasant and we entered Papeete harbor at dusk in a beautiful light.

This trip cost 12 000 pf per person at the Salon of Tourisme, which is about 10 % off the normal price. We used  www.vehiatetiaroa.com



Four Seasons Bora Bora

We booked the Four Seasons Bora Bora during the travel fair for locals in Feb. We traveled with our friends who were here visiting.  It was a really nice resort with service only like the Four Seasons has to offer (more on this later).

We were greeted at the airport and brought on their beautiful wooden boat out to the motu atoll part surrounding the island of Bora Bora. This is where all the ritzy resorts are located. Unlike  Ta’haa and Kia Ora and the Intercontinental Moorea, most of the rooms at the Four Seasons are over water bungalows. It left me feeling a little less special with so many of them (I think there are 90?). The room was very nice- lovely bedroom with a view, in our case to the east to see sunrise, and a wonderful sitting area as well. The bathroom is in-between with a wonderful bathtub that is essentially on the deck. We were given fresh fruit on arrival, but Jim and Elise were given an mound of chocolate as well! The water outside the bungalow was uninterrupted turquoise blue, but was without coral, so there was no snorkeling off the deck.

 Unlike the other resorts where we spent most of the time in our bungalow, here we spent most of it at the pool in their large cabana which was spacious, shady and accommodated all 4 of us relative privacy. The pool guys would come by and clean our sunglasses, offer complimentary smoothies and bring us wonderful fruity drinks. Our holiday had all meals included which was really great. We didn’t overindulge, indeed, Bruce and I skipped one breakfast in order to scuba, but it was great not to feel “nickel and dimed” or in this case, hundreds and thousands!

The scuba dive was nice. We went on two dives and saw manta rays and turtles as well as myriads of fish. The Winklers went on one dive and liked it and finished their scuba course.

Our favorite part of the Four Seasons was the lagoon where the marine biologist works. He is French and traveled around he world on a sailboat and ended up in Bora Bora where the Four Seasons gave him the task of setting up an eco friendly coral garden letting the local fish find their own way in. He has coral growing and lots of beautiful fish. This is where I saw my first clown fish guarding her eggs that she laid in the anenome. There was also a wonderful octopus who came out to say hi to Oliver and changed colors instantly for us. The moray eel came out of his hole and was 7- 8 feet long. I had never seen one swim in totality before and he was quite a site! Bruce found scorpion fish and there was a porcipine fish and large spotted box fish who live under a bridge. Overall, this was my favorite thing we did there, partially due to educational aspect of the marine biologist. Bruce and I also kayaked, which was fun.

It was a really nice weekend with wonderful friends in a beautiful spot!