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Published: February 9th 2006
After all that hard work travelling around South America we decided we needed a holiday and where better than French Polynesia. We had already booked our flights from Papette in Tahiti to Rangiroa and accomadation once we got there. Rangiroa is, as you would imagine an idylic tropical island except it's got coral beaches and not soft sand, however it is still beautiful. The second thing you notice in French Polynesia after the scenery is how expensive it is, we were told this is due to there being no income tax here and all government income is generated by their equivalent of VAT ranging from 20% on small items to 80% on larger more expensive stuff.
Our accomodation was adequate relativley clean with lagoon side views, the food was some of the best we've had on our travels, every night we sat lagoon side with a sunset view but for the $150 for the both of us we paid you would expect a hell of a lot better. We we're joined by a french kid about 5 years old one evening shining a torch into the water saying he was looking for sharks, the water was 1/2 meter deep, so
we left him thinking he was a bit simple leaving him to play his little fantasy games, only for the next night to see several small black tips sharks about half a meter long swim by shortly followed by a huge lemon shark which was over 2 meters long.
The main reason for our visit to Rangiroa was for the diving, it's said to be amongst the best in the world and it didn't disappoint at all. On our first dive we went into the blue, water about 80 metres deep and nothing to see no coral no fish just Blue. Our guide then took a plastic bottle out and started cracking it and all of a sudden about 20 grey sharks and one silver tip shark came up from below and started circling us swimming between us and just looking at us curiously then just as quick as they appeared they disapeared. This was to set the tone for the rest of our dives where we swam with dolphins saw several manta rays, eagle rays, huge shoals of barracuda, tuna and even more sharks several hundred possible thousands of grey sharks swiming 30-50 meters below us, very spectacular
and a little bit scary. There are no really big coral gardens here due to having a very strong tide crushing the side of the motu, but the sheer number of fish and large fish make's this some of the best diving we've ever done!
All the tours on Rangiroa were expensive so we limited ourselves to one trip Reef Island. Reef Island is a motu where the beaches are sand and there are several pools which offer great snorkling through volcanic rock pools. The day out consisted of a 2 hour boat ride over the lagoon where we landed and after a short walk to the volcanic pools where we went snorkelling where we saw loads of fish such as tigger fish, picaso's, puffers, box fish and lots of colourful large clams just to name a few. We then went over to a small waterfall created by the sea coming in over the volcanic rock and spent a few minutes relaxing there. Another short walk took us to the other side of the island and the edge of the reef where large waves were forming and crashing on the edge of the reef due tot he large drop
off. It is amazing it only took us a total of 5 minutes walk from one side of the island to the other but 2 hours on a boat to get from one side of the lagoon to the other. We were then given lunch of freshly caught fish, the local dish of coconut bread.
Before we left came the highlight of shark feeding, there were several small black tips which one of the guides fished out using the left overs of our lunch grabbing the fins of the shark as they came to feed, then posed with it for photo's, which we were not to happy about as he obviously stressed the shark, we would have been quite happy in watching the sharks thrashing around whilst feeding and not catching one.
Rangiroa has one of the largest pearl farm industry's in French Polynesia, the farm we visted employed about 45 people, and with a population of just a few thousand is one of the main employers on the island. One person opens the oysters then passes them to the surgeon who takes a nucleus and implants it in the oyster with a graft over the top of
the nucleus. The Oysters are then placed in a tank to make sure the oyster accepts the necleus, as quite a few just spit them out. If the Oyster rejects the nucleus then they are retreaved and relpanted into another oyster. After this they are then moved to the ocean and kept in nets, the whole process of making the perals taking about 18 months. Each oyster can be used 3 to 4 times. Of course you can't go to a pearl farm and not try oysters, these aren't like the french type you just swollow they are cut up and chewed. Sue took some persuading but after I tried them and didn't throw up, she had a go, summing the taste and texture up is a bit like chewing salty chewing gum.
The rest of our time on the island was spent cycling round on the accessible area's on the rusty brakless bike the pension provided us with. It took us about 3 hours to do a full circuit of the habitated island with stop off to see the sights.
There are some pretty strong tidal currents around Rangiroa due to the structure of the island which
is basically a massive ring of mouts (little islands) with a massive logoon in the middle which is about 28 by 70km wide. Each motu is seperated from the other by a pass or inlet into the sea from the lagoon. One of the deepest passes into the lagoon is Tiputa pass which was right next to where we were staying. The pass is approximately 70m deep at its deepest point and is wherre we did most of our diving.
Kayacking does seem to one of the major pass times in Rangiroa where they go out and paddle into tiputa pass while the tide is changing. The kayakers seem to struggle for ages going nowhere before they suddenly catch a wave, once they catch one they speed along on the crest of the wave for a few minutes. This also seems to be the dolphins favorite pass time as at about 5 o'clock every day, several dolphins can be seen breaking the surface jumping along and playing in the current.
Tot: 2.173s; Tpl: 0.081s; cc: 10; qc: 61; dbt: 0.0414s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb