Tahanea Atoll, Tuamotu, French Polynesia

May 07, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


This morning National Geographic Orion returned to the blue lagoons of the Tuamotus. Joyed to be back among coral reefs (while also missing the beauty of the high islands of the Marquesas and Marquesan culture) we dawned mask and snorkel and returned to the underwater world.

The Tahanea atoll is massive, spanning 30 miles long and 9 miles wide. It enters the lagoon through one of the three navigable passes near where we dropped the anchor for morning and midday activities. While some were out snorkeling in the morning, others surveyed the underwater expanse through the glass bottom boat. After lunch we dropped the kayaks and paddleboards. Those hungry for inland adventure took to exploring one of Tuamotus’ 70+ “motus,” or islands, that surround this lagoon.

One of the great discoveries of the day was a shell midden of discarded mollusk shells (Pinctada maculate) that produce the smallest pearl in the world, a tiny golden gem known as poe pipi. While not the buried treasure left behind on the atoll by pirates in the 1700s, it was a discovery that helped paint the picture of some of the valuable resources of the Tuamotus. Exploring along the shore adjacent to the pass, we found piles of rocks stacked like cairns which we assumed was a product of the popular anchorage and sailors leaving their mark on the land. The day was made complete with a bar on the beach upon our return from the day’s adventures.

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About the Author

Elise Lockton

Naturalist

Elise’s passion for travel and interpretation is evident when you learn about the places she has chosen to live, work and travel. A degree in environmental studies introduced her to the world of interpreting nature, which has evolved into both a passion and profession.

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