Tahanea and Motutunga

Jul 03, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


After a day at sea, it was pleasant to wake up in sight of a coral atoll with a ring of palm trees and the azure waters of Tahanea Atoll.  For the morning we put all the “toys” in the water and explored most aspects of this gem.  SCUBA diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, walking, and even the glass bottom Zodiac were all offered today.  Additionally, I took a group of intrepid bird enthusiasts on a Zodiac ride across the entire atoll.  Our goal:  Tuamotu sandpiper, a small bird that is endemic to the Tuamotu Archipelago.  We landed on a small, pristine, sandy motu, and soon were getting close views of this curious sandpiper.  These birds, like many others here in French Polynesia, are endangered and also quite tame, allowing for amazing views.  We watched various birds for nearly an hour before returning across the atoll.

During lunch, we repositioned to Motutunga.  National Geographic Orion stayed outside of the atoll as the pass is too tiny for our ship to enter.  However, this was the perfect place for drift snorkeling.   The water was pouring out of the atoll, and we rode the current.  The water was crystal clear and filled with healthy coral and fish.  Many sharks were spotted, along with huge groupers and schools of vibrant parrotfish.  Not only was it amazing snorkeling, but it was super fun!

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About the Author

Mike Greenfelder

Undersea Specialist

Mike learned early on that the best way to escape Ohio was to become a marine biologist.  During college at Wittenberg University he attended a semester at Duke University's Marine Lab — that time only confirmed his love for all things oceanic and maritime.  After graduation, Mike promptly moved to Catalina Island in California where he taught marine biology to school kids.  Since 1999, Mike has been working and traveling chasing his three loves: marine critters, photography, and birds.

About the Videographer

Eric Wehrmeister

Video Chronicler

Eric began his life on the far western edge of Chicago, where the concrete meets the cornfields.  His inspiration has always drawn from the expansive beauty of the natural world, as well as the endless forms that populate it.

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