Makatea, French Polynesia

Jul 10, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

Makatea Atoll has an amazing geological history which fascinated us today and made for a lovely adventure. Makatea is a raised or uplifted atoll, and so we spent the whole day walking on top of ancient coral reefs overgrown with jungle, or swimming underneath an ancient reef. The approach to the landing was quite wavy and rainy, suggesting we were really in for an adventure in the morning. Once ashore, we loaded up on trucks up the hill, and some of us hiked to the top of the island where we had a fantastic view at the Belvedere lookout! We could see the spectacular limestone cliffs raised above the sea. Then, we walked down across the ancient lagoon, now a forest, down to a cave system, where we swam into a stunning grotto. We could see the bottom of ancient coral and how dissolved coral then became stalactites and stalagmites. In the afternoon we snorkeled in the clear and rich waters off the northern end, with very healthy coral, and some of us even saw black-tipped and white-tipped reef sharks!

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About the Author

Lida Teneva


Dr. Lida Teneva grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, in Eastern Europe, and wanted to be an explorer from an early age. Today, she is a coral reef scientist, marine conservationist, and educator, with 13 years of experience accumulated in Barbados, Dominican Republic, Australia (Great Barrier Reef), French Polynesia, Palau, the Northern Line Islands (Palmyra Atoll), Hawaii, and Fiji. She has worked on ancient and modern coral reefs, reconstructing past climate change and predicting future changes to reefs. 

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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