Marokau, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

Apr 08, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


When one imagines a true Lindblad Expeditions experience, what often comes to mind is the exploration of the most remote, untouched corners of the natural world. Sometimes the experiences that are the most rewarding and interesting are those exploring places not just pristine in nature but also enmeshed with in culture.

Today we had the very special privilege of visiting the remote atoll of Marokau. With the shallow waters of the inner lagoon comprising more than 90 percent of its area, the less than 6 square miles of land here supports a tiny community of about 40 islanders.

Stopping here last year while traveling in the opposite direction, we learned that we were the first travelers ever to have visited Marokau. We arrived and they welcomed us ashore, greeting us with wonderful hospitality that included fresh coconuts and local music. Wandering through palm trees across the village toward the inner lagoon provided photo opportunities of the shallow waters whose turquoise colors are not easy to depict through words.

We were incredibly excited to hear that donations made in thanks for welcoming us had been used for filter systems to provide clean drinking water for the children on the island – something we too easily take for granted in the developed world.

After a wonderful morning ashore, we enjoyed lunch and a presentation by Captain Tim Cashman before heading out around the reef’s point, to explore the Marokau waters. Expedition staff team set up the snorkel platform and glass bottom zodiac. Guests wasted little time suiting up to snorkel, while our Dive team and Undersea Specialist descended onto the reefs to scuba dive.

This atoll has experienced several tropical storms and cyclones over the years, a past made evident from the unique topography along the reef, with canyons, shelves and gullies, and patches of both damaged and healthy coral. As well as the usual tropical reef fish suspects, divers, snorkelers, and glass-bottom Zodiac cruisers enjoyed the company of several different elasmobranch species encounters, including white-tip, black-tip, and grey reef sharks, and a surprise appearance of spotted eagle rays.

A squall of heavy tropical rain passed through, rendering those in the water warmer than those above, and we enjoyed a dramatic display of clouds and a peek of a rainbow as we sailed off into the sunset, further west into the Tuamotus.

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About the Author

Maya Santangelo

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Maya was born and raised in Southern California, where her curiosity for the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Relocating to Sydney, Australia with her family at 11 years old, she learned to scuba dive, eventually becoming a PADI Instructor. Her fascination for the underwater world undoubtedly fueled her interest to study marine biology at James Cook University. Working as a professional guide in some of the world’s top dive destinations, including Palau and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Revillagigedo Archipelago, Maya realized a passion for sharing her love for the ocean with others, and the value of citizen science in the dive industry.

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