Rangiroa

Monday 12 November 2018

After a breakfast of mango and pineapple (the fruit here is amazing), I headed back off to the airport.

It was the same taxi lady as yesterday! And only took about 10minutes.

The domestic terminal wasn’t too exciting. Just a small, hot room. And I was far too early for my 12pm flight.

12pm rolled around and we were still in the small hot room. Delayed. For another hour.

Air Tahiti run all the domestic flights across the French Polynesian archipelago. Which is surprisingly the size of Europe! They also don’t give a seat allocation. So once you are on the plane, you just find somewhere to sit. Very random. And everyone wants a window because of the potential atoll views.

I’m headed to Rangiroa, but the flight isn’t direct. Most of the planes do a bit of island hopping in a circle to and from Tahiti.

After about an hour we stopped off at Tikehau. A palm covered island set in turquoise waters. Very pretty. Never seen so many palm trees.

The flight to Rangiroa from here was 10minutes (!), we barely went up in the sky! Instead just skimmed along the edge of the atoll, over deserted islands of trees. So pretty.

Rangiroa airport was just a shed. A slightly larger shed than at Tikehau!

I’m staying at a guesthouse for the next couple of days, before heading out on a boat for some diving. The guesthouse owner picked me up and took me for a little island tour before we reached the guesthouse.

Rangiroa is an atoll, surrounding a lagoon and is the second largest lagoon in the world (after New Caledonia), being 80km by 32km, with a 200km surrounding coral reef. Around the edge of the atoll are 418 motu (that’s what they call islands here) and only 2 are inhabited. This island. And the one next it it.

I’m staying in the small village of Tiputa. This village is on the Tiputa pass. A pass is a gap between motus and where water can pass from the surrounding ocean into the lagoon. Depending on the levels of water in the lagoon, there is an incoming tide and an outgoing tide. The times of these change throughout the day. As I found out a few days later this is important for diving, as you only want to dive the pass on an incoming current. Outgoing currents have bad visibility and push you out into the ocean.

The Tiputa pass is famous for bottle nose dolphins. They love the large waves that form here (called a mascare – a word I’ve not heard before, but is used a lot here!).

There is a little seating area on the shoreline, where you can sit and watch for dolphins. I stayed for a while and saw a few!

I went for a walk around this end of the island. The ocean side was hectic. Windy. And large crashing waves onto the rocky coral beach. The entire shoreline was made up of broken coral pieces.

In total contrast, the lagoon side was so peaceful. Flat water. And a narrow sandy strip of beach running alongside the water.

I walked along for a while, towards the expensive resort (Kia Ora). It was relatively expensive to stay here (£300 a night for the most basic room when I was here) – and I’m not sure why. It didn’t seem THAT nice. Perhaps because we are very remote. Everything is expensive on this island.

The sun was starting to set. Pretty across the lagoon.

I have my own bungalow. It was cute. A bedroom, lounge, kitchen, bathroom and a huge deck at the front. I loved it.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Breakfast is included in my stay here. I didn’t have much expectation. This island has nothing. Nothing grows here. The ground is just coral. No nutrition for plants. And supplies are only dropped off once per week on a boat from Tahiti – on a Monday.

But I was surprised! The guesthouse owner had made me vegan pancakes! How cute! And some coconut bread toast. With jam.

I was picked up at 8am for the day. I’m going on a lagoon tour. To the southern part of the atoll to the blue lagoon. A lagoon within a lagoon.

We were on a small boat. Just 5 of us. A French family of 3 people, the guide and me. He warned us that the weather hasn’t been great and that the lagoon can be very wavy. I was rather terrified.

But it wasn’t that bad.

After about 30 minutes we reached a small motu in the middle of the lagoon. A few trees. And a LOT of birds. Really cool. Living in the middle of nowhere.

And another 30 minutes later, we were at the blue lagoon.

We stopped off for some snorkelling. As soon as we were tied up on a buoy, the black tip sharks were alongside us.

There were about 20 of them. Just hanging out. So cute.

They come here as some of the boats feed them. Which is a shame. Ours didn’t, which was good. But just as we were leaving, other boats were arriving with lots more people (3 boats of about 20 people). I didn’t know there were so many people in this place!

We moved off as they arrived and headed to a sand bar. Of pink sand. Wow. It was so pretty. Surrounded by shallow clear water.

Surrounding us were small little islands of palm trees everywhere. So amazing.

Then next up, we were on a palm island. Completely by ourselves, we left the other ‘crowds’ behind. More snorkelling (uneventful). A slight panic that I had lost the drone. It got carried away in the wind behind some palm trees. But I hadn’t lost it. It returned…! And a walk around to look at all the birds. Some of the bird species on this island are only found here. How amazing.

From here you could see why this is called the blue lagoon. The water was such a ridiculous colour of blue. Which from the drone looked amazing.

We had juice and fresh coconut whilst sitting admiring the view. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so tropical, or remote.

About 2pm, we started heading back. And once we reached Tiputa, we headed out into the pass for some snorkelling. We weren’t in the middle of the pass, but towards the lagoon end at a small island – the lighthouse. A huge school of snapper hanging out, with some small white tip sharks.

We were back at 4pm. I went back off to watch for dolphins – a few more jumping. And a great sunset.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Another breakfast of vegan pancakes! So good.

Aside from tourism, the main activities on Rangiroa are coconut farming and pearl farming.

One of the pearl farms runs free tours. And they pick you up for free. So I went off with them to see what they do.

They grow oysters. And once they are a certain size, they insert a small coral bead into the mantle of the oyster. They are tied onto rope, and surrounded by a plastic mesh tube, then suspended in the ocean for 18 months. After 18 months they remove the pearl from the oyster.

The oysters here are different to the pearl farms around the rest of the world. They produce black pearls. “Tahitian” black pearls. But none are grown in Tahiti. They are all grown in the Tuamotu islands (where I am right now).

I had been undecided about whether I was going to buy any. They aren’t cheap. But this is the cheapest place to buy them. But whilst I was here, I thought I should! So I got a pair of earrings.

The internet was down across the island. So I wasn’t able to pay my guesthouse. Rather annoying! So he had to drive me to the airport so I could use the atm. An adventure.

I was joining the boat at 2pm and was supposed to head down to the jetty nearby where I had been staying. But they had a small transfer boat up at the airport which I ran into. So that was handy! Small world here.

My home for the next week – the Polynesian Master.

The boat can take 25 guests, but we were only 15! And I even ended up with my own cabin, which is pretty epic. And it was huge. The boat was really nice.

We didn’t do anything for the rest of the afternoon. I was really up for going diving. I felt like I hadn’t done much in a few days. I’m not very good at slow island life!

Thursday 15 November 2018

Still in Rangiroa.

We had a 6.30am wake up call. Ready for a 7am dive briefing.

We are diving the Tiputa pass. The place I’ve been looking at for the past 3 days!

It was good. But a shame my group was the only group that didn’t see the dolphins.

However, we did see 2 great hammerheads. Which is really cool. I’ve not seen that species before (only scalloped hammerheads before). And a manta. And lots of black tips.

During the afternoon, we headed back onto land. To sit and watch dolphins. Again. I feel like this is all I’ve done for the past 4 days. They were really cool though. Quite a lot of jumping. And I got stung by a bee.

For the last dive of the day, we were doing a sunset dive. The light coming through the water is so pretty. And we saw 1 dolphin. I love them.

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