Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

Jul 12, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

Our extraordinary voyage through the Society and Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia comes to a close with a final day of water-related activities. Travelling north overnight from Toau, National Geographic Orion entered the lagoon of Rangiroa before breakfast to investigate the conditions inside. Several successive days of moderate winds and rain gave us less than desirable snorkeling conditions. We found a sheltered corner of the island for this morning’s excursions, and promptly the team onboard decided this new site on the northwest side of Rangiroa would be a great option.

Rangiroa is the longest coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago; its 1446 square kilometer lagoon is among the largest in the world, fringed by barrier reef and over 400 low-lying motus and coralline sandbars. With vibrant teal waters offering excellent visibility and a diversity of fish, shark, invertebrate and coral species, Rangiroa is a highly-sought location for scuba diving. How fortunate we were to dedicate both morning and afternoon to exploring these stunning marine ecosystems! Outside the lagoon, towers and tables of relatively young coral were separated by stark grooves; this combination of structures efficiently dissipates the persistent wave energy battering the reef crest by concentrating its travel in the grooves (they are filled with rubble) while protecting the more productive zones where abundant fish reside.

During lunch we again entered Rangiroa’s lagoon and anchored off the village of Avatoru. Some of the ship’s company chose to snorkel and dive near “the aquarium,” a popular spot hosting dense schools of fish amidst colorful patch reefs. Others opted to walk ashore, either exploring the community itself or visiting a local black pearl farm to learn about the aquaculture process and watch a master technician extract completed gems. Tahitian black pearls remain one of the most important industries in the Tuamotus. The evening’s slideshow shared the highlights of our time together in this beautiful part of the South Pacific, and hopefully inspired future travels in French Polynesia!

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About the Author

Deb Goodwin


Passionate about creating opportunities for explorers of all ages to engage with wild and under-studied places, Deb embraces the power of immersive experiences to inspire curiosity and conservation. Extended backcountry expeditions as a teen jumpstarted this commitment and continue to motivate her travels. No matter the location, she observes the natural environment with a detective’s mindset, seeking to understand how local history, geology, weather, and ecological processes together shape the coastal land- and seascape. 

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