Your Guide to Fakarava, French Polynesia

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Your Guide to Fakarava, French Polynesia

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If you’re a diver, snorkeler or just seeking a pristine South Pacific paradise, consider Fakarava. This is Mother’s Nature’s sanctuary, a protected coral atoll rich in birds, flora and crustaceans. Come explore the island of dreams. Here’s your guide to Fakarava.


Where Is Fakarava? 

Fakarava is located southeast of Rangiroa. It’s home to the second-largest lagoon in the Tuamotu Atolls of French Polynesia – the ecosystem housed within the large, rectangular reef is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There are several smaller atolls (Niau, Raraka, Taiaro and Toau) that are closed off to the ocean, creating an especially unspoiled nursery for marine flora and fauna.

Where Can I Dive at Fakarava?

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It will come as no surprise that such a gorgeous, primeval marine setting is one of the world’s best diving destinations (many of the Tuamotu Atolls fit this mold). Two notable passes that feed into the lagoon include the Garuae Pass on the north side and the Tumakohua Pass on the south side. Tumakohua is home to Shark’s Hole, an underwater valley that is home to lemon, whitecap and hammerhead sharks.


Who Lives in Fakarava?
Not too many people. When a site is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it comes with additional responsibility to activity contribute to conservation efforts. Fakarava’s 800 residents are mainly peal and coconut farmers living in the villages of Rotoava and Tetamanu. Given that their livelihoods depend on sustainability and protection of this untouched environment, they strive to protect the region’s biodiversity. The local residents will gladly welcome you into their secluded atoll home, but with the understanding that you, too, will do everything you can to maintain the rare, underwater paradise for which Fakarava is renowned.

Where Can I Stay in Fakarava?

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As you likely guessed, the pristine paradise of Fakarava doesn’t have all that much by way of accommodations, but that’s what keeps the region so wonderfully quiet and secluded. The airport, and the majority of the accommodations are in Rotoava, close to the north pass. You might choose a charming guesthouse on a working pearl farm or an open-air bungalow allowing the ocean breeze to ventilate your room. In the south, the abandoned Tetamanu Village lies next to the south pass and is mostly known for its dive sites and pink-sand beaches. There are no glitzy resorts, no jet skiing … you get the picture.


When Is the Best Time to Visit Fakarava?
There are slightly different weather patterns in the Tuamotu Archipelago than in the Society Islands. You may dive year-round in Fakarava, but the seas tend to be rougher in the dry season of June through September. The wet season, November through April, will see a storm or two that doesn’t typically stick around for long. But you may also get a full week of cloudy weather and periods of rain. Aim to visit during the month before and after each season, when the conditions are practically perfect.


How Do I Get to Fakarava?
The most convenient way to get to the atoll is by air. There are direct flights from Tahiti (70 minutes) and Rangiroa (30 minutes) – including direct flights from Rangiroa to Fakarava without connecting in Papeete.


If you’re flexible, you can also arrive at Fakarava via cargo ship. The Saint Xavier Maris Stella IV serves the Tuamotus from Papeete, but does not always carry passengers. On the other hand, you can charter a yacht and cruise around the atolls, ultimately landing at Fakarava.


How Do I Get Around in Fakarava?
Your chosen accommodation will typically arrange a pick-up service from the airport in Rotoava. Once you’ve settled in, the best way to get around the main motu is by bicycle.


To reach the remote south pass (the best one for diving), you may charter a boat, stay at one of the guesthouses near the pass or join a day trip to the pink-sand beaches.


What Should I Do for Money in Fakarava?
There’s just one ATM in all of Fakarava – at the post office and, thankfully, accepting of international cards. The only caveat is that it may be out of service – and there are daily/weekly cash withdrawal limits. Check with your accommodations before you arrive as to whether or not they accept credit cards. The dive centers accept credit cards.

What’s the Difference Between the North Pass and the South Pass in Fakarava?

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The North Pass (Garuae Pass) is likely where you’ll do most of your diving. It is the widest pass in French Polynesia with excellent drift dives. You’ll find a coral garden along Ohotu Cliff, walls of grey and white tip reef sharks, and schools of napoleons, barracuda and goatfish. Your dive guide may even lead you to Nurse Shark Cave, where you can spot napping nurse sharks in the afternoon.


The legendary South Pass is known for its walls of sharks. Diving is more challenging here due to the remoteness of the pass. You can choose to spend a few nights in Tetamanu Village and dive with Eleuthra; join a dive safari from Rotoava with a two-tank dive, picnic lunch and pink-sand beach visit; or join an excursion to the pink-sand beach, skip the snorkeling and book a single dive with Eleuthra.


What Are the Beaches Like in Fakarava?
In a word, sublime. Plus, the beaches are all a short bike ride away, no matter where you are. The best one is Plage de PK9, a postcard-perfect stretch of white sand fronting a turquoise sea and backed by swaying palm trees – and almost always completely empty. You can enjoy some pleasant snorkeling here, with excellent visibility and a sandy bottom.


The pink-sand beach is one of the most beautiful spots in Fakarava. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, these pastel sandbars appear as if floating in the lagoon. Visit the pink (sometimes orange-y) beach on a day tour – it’s a 90-minute boat ride each way.

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