Friday, October 15, 2010

Et qu'est-ce qu'un Fakarava? (And what is Fakarava?)

Paddle south from Hawaii for a month or so, and you'll find the world's most poetically named island family: les Îles Sous-le-vent, or the Islands under the Wind. In English they are called the Society Islands, and of them Tahiti is perhaps the best known.

Turn left and paddle north-east from Tahiti for another week, and you'll be in the Tuamotu Archipelago. The Tuamotus comprise 76 coral atolls, scattered across an area larger than Europe.
If you are lucky, you might make landfall on an atoll called Fakarava. At last count Fakarava had a population of 701. You, tired paddler, would be number 702. Treat yourself to a coconut!

What is an atoll? This definition perfectly captures the facts while utterly missing the magic: "... a ring-shaped ribbon reef enclosing a lagoon." Really, an atoll is the coral ghost of an extinct and vanished volcanic island... and also often a very fine place for diving.

You can skip the months of paddling and choose to go by air, if you prefer. That's our plan.

Here are photos of Fakarava, from satellite and from airplane.

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