Fakarava and Toau Atolls

Jul 25, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

We entered the beautiful lagoon of Fakarava Atoll just after sunrise. After breakfast we disembarked and spent the morning in a small town on the atoll, just strolling, pearl shopping, and bicycle riding. The highlight of the morning undoubtedly was that we got to meet Marcelo the nurse shark. Nurse sharks have made friends with some of the locals here and come to the beach often. It was an incredible feeling to get so close to such a magnificent animal and then get to even touch its sandpaper-like skin. Not only did we get to touch a shark, but in the afternoon, we got to swim with some! We repositioned the ship to the atoll of Toau and found a very healthy reef to snorkel on—a reef that very few people get to experience and that no expedition ships had ever visited before. Healthy large coral heads (Porites) everywhere, decorated with many kaleidoscopically colored Christmas-tree worms! Black-tipped reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse, parrotfish, guineafowl pufferfish, trumpetfish, butterflyfish—such diversity and colors! 

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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. 

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