The Tuamotu Archipelago-the atolls of Ahe and Rangiroa

The Tuamotus are a group of islands in French Polynesia just west and south of the Marquesan islands about 480 miles. They are know for the black pearls they culture inside the lagoons ans well as luxury hotels with cabanas over the water.

These islands, or rather atolls to be technical, were not what we imagined or expected.  They are not islands that have tall mountains like the Marquesan islands.  Basically the tuamotus are collapsed islands and the land that is tall enough to be above water are called “motus”.  This means the inside is these islands are like a lagoon surrounded by mini islands/motus.

This is a view of the outer reef. You can see the reef by its brownish/green color then the water turns to dark blue…..the depth after the reef is over 1000 ft deep.
Clay, Briley and Trevor walking on a bridge that connects 2 motus so that cars, bikes, and even a bulldozer can get around. Not all motus are connected so on Sunday the main town’s dock in Ahe is filled with boats that have come for church service or visit other family members.
Literally picture perfect!!!!

For cruisers..this means calm anchorages (no swell) and some protections from the wind.   With this said…we had to go through large enough passes to get inside this wonderful paradise. Personally, I was very nervous planning to go through these passes as currents can be very strong and it is best to travel through the passes at slack tide and with the sunlight behind you to detect coral heads (we called bommies”).  As you can imagine, the weather, tides, and sunlight never align perfectly so we had to prioritize which was more important with the information we had.  Of course we made it safely but as we timed our entrance, we were welcomed by a squall that reduced visibility and increased wind…gotta love that!!!!  We ended up sailing with SV Me Too (Clay, Jill and daughter Briley) and SV Fandango (Ian, Brad and Elizabeth) as we had the same plans to visit the same atolls.  Many of our other cruiser friends took another route through the Tuamotus.

Most importantly we loved the tuamotus and the people there. Here are photos of the 2 atolls we visited.

Ahe Atoll-

We stayed here about a week as weather blew over us.  Town was very small and was sparsely populated.  Fruits and vegetables are delivered by ship, just like the marquesa but because there is no real soil, it is hard to grow anything.  There was a small store we got flavored ice in a plastic cup but no restaurant, no provisions, just wonderful people and beautiful coral to snorkel..literally in “our back yard”.

Pig taking a nap
These balls are to help hold up long strings to culture young oysters…..we saw them in use for everything…including decorations : )
We stopped at the police station just to “checkin” and make sure they knew we were here. We walked around town, maybe 30 minutes but when we returned, the flag was at half mast. We of course knew something had happened and asked. I believe there was a bomb that killed 25 people that day….. It made for a sad day.

 

Trevor’s first haircut…..I have never cut hair before but for my first time…it looks ok?!
We swam and snorkeled just off the boat as the water was clear and blue. This is Briley coming over to Slow Flight to hang out on her floaty Panda and a spatula as a paddle! Love that girl!
Brad towing Elizabeth in her Blow up kiddie shark pool…..she was also transporting Baileys, a rare treat for everyone!
With just 3 boats, it was easy to have impromptu meals together and we all shared in hosting. Brad had come over earlier but when it was decided dinner was on Slow Flight her needed a shirt. Trevor had 2 of the same shirt and these guys get a long so well (almost a carbon copy when it comes to humor) I thought this photo should make the blog.
On one of our snorkel adventures, we decided to harvest oysters. I had 1 bottle of champagne left so we had oysters on the half shell and champagne. Here is Brad and Jill shucking…Brad is wearing a glove AFTER he cut himself….
I really wish I could post video….this octopus was right by the dock where we put our dinghies. It swam by us, stopped, changed color from red to white and shape from circle to an octagon…it was amazing!
These are clams…..there were so many variations of color: Purple, greens, pale pink, black, blues….. This was taken 15 feet from our boat.
We happened to be in Ahe for a local competition  either for fun or to see who advances and would represent their town in the national competition, Heiva in July.  We were not sure either way but they happily had us join their fun.  Here is Trevor and other cruisers learning how to husk a coconut with a wood stake.
These women would spear a coconut on a pole (in the background) with these handmade spears.  We all cheered when someone hit the coconut!
Clay, Trevor, and Briley playing soccer with the local kids in SAND! Let’s just say the kids won….or we just lost count. Here is Trevor playing goalie.
We all were invited to watch and cheer on the Va’a races.  Va’a similar to “canoes” but it is BIG deal here in French Polynesia.  We are in the start and finish boat with some of the locals and other cruisers.
This guy won…but this photo does not give the power behind each stroke. We were on a large boat with a 250 HP engine and this guys had 1 paddle and 2 arms. It was extraordinary to see how athletic these men were (there are women who race Va’as but not in this one)
SV Me Too (Clay, Jill, and Briley) and us invited this local couple aboard our boats so they could see how we live. These guys basically took us under their wing and included us in meals, tours, and the celebrations and events.

Rangiroa Atoll –

Rangiroa is a large and more populated atoll, both with locals and cruisers and tourists, than Ahe.  Our days were filled with activities.

Where is a view of the pass we had to navigate through. These passes range from 10 feet in depth to 80 feet. Some very narrow and some wide. These factors affect the current when trying to enter/exit the atolls.
Photo opp! From left to right; Trevor, Briley, Clay, Brad.
Jill and I read there was a night club on Rangiroa which of course we had to check out…unfortunately we didn’t find it but we did find this gem (Te Moa, which means Shark in the local language) where we had dinner and craft beer from all over. Clay and Trevor toasting to something other than light beer : )
A restaurant we had lunch at that had a view of the pass we navigated to enter the atoll. Paradise!
I just thought this would shed light on the local culture. There is a guy diving with a spear gun right off the reef near the pass…you can see his cooler where he would put his catch in.

Snorkeling the Aquarium, snorkeling the pass, and a trip to the Blue Lagoon – 4 boats decided to travel across the atoll and navigate through the coral to the Blue Lagoon…literally a lagoon inside of a lagoon!

 

The Blue Lagoon was literally like a bathtub of crystal blue waters. We spent the night there…it was rolly as all get out.  Part of the reason is because we were at the end of the atoll and the wind/waves are able to build as it travels across the water.  I must say that anchoring here was deep and if you got your chair wrapped around a coral head, you would need dive gear to untangle it. 
The Blue lagoon had baby rays and baby black tip sharks. You could see their tails pop out all the time.
On our way back to the to the main town, there was a small little island that we all anchored at for a short snorkel and beach combing…lunch of fresh tuna on SV Me Too.
We snorkeled the “Aquarium” and that is exactly what it was.  So many fish and BLACK TIP SHARKS?!!!!  I was nervous to see my first shark but they were dosel and didn’t mind us a bit.  At one point I had 6 sharks circling around me…I hurried up with the rest of the group at that point!  Here is Trevor with a shark about 10 feet from him.
Another aquarium find…..this morel eel was the largest we have ever seen EVER!  

 

The group decided to snorkel the pass.  This is where the current just pushes you with it so you go at slack tide and make sure you are out of the pass in about 30 minutes.  We (Trevor) attached the dinghy with line to his body and floated so we could return to our boats.  It was so cool to have the current take you and all the fish and sharks underneath you pass you by.  Swimming up current was almost impossible, even at slack tide.  

Pearl Farm 

Our tour basically let us view how the Black Lipped oysters were cultured and made. Much too long of a story that you could easily Google so I won’t go into it. Here is a 7 year old oyster that was opened for us with the pearl inside if it.
In short, the baby oysters are grown for about 3 years in atolls like Ahe then sold to oyster farms in Rangiroa. When the 3 year old oysters arrive to the pearl farm a nucleus (round plastic balls) are inserted into the oyster. Along with the nucleus, the oyster gets small amount of black graft (the black lips of another oyster) that gives the pearl it’s green, blue, silver, black hues that make them so valuable. Here the technician is placing the nucleus and graft inside the oyster and then will be placed back into the water so the pearl can grow. This is not a technical explanation but hopefully you will get the point.
After the pearl is extracted, measured, valued the shells that have the mother of pearl inside are then transported to make other items. We have seen the mother of pearl in everything from jewelry to utensils, to tile.

Winery Tour – This is the only winery on an atoll in the world so of course we had to go.  The tour was almost all in French but whatever….. Soil has been brought in, the fermentation happens on Rangiroa, then sent to Tahiti for bottling and distribution.  A bottle costs about 20-25 usd but worth it to taste a local wine.

 

Winery-kegs of wine and rum
Jill and I’s favorite Tahiti wine

Up next will be our trip to Tahiti and the other society islands : )

2 comments

  1. Kimi, your adventures with Trevor are incredible! And your adventure reports are wonderful! I feel so fortunate that you can not just put these together, but send them from the middle of the South Pacific! The Blue Lagoon looks like a place equal to two bucket-list items! The underwater pics are tremendous!
    This is a fantastic read; I had to go back to it a couple of times. Thanks for the real-time adventure!
    Ready for the next! –Kelvin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *