The vast expanse of the Tuamotu Group is dotted with huge sunken atolls with tiny fringing coral islands along its outer reefs: Rangiroa and Fakarava are amongst the largest coral atolls in the world - so vast that you can't see the islands on the opposite side of the lagoon.
The closest of the islands lie some 350-km from Papeete or an 90-minute flight. A dozen or so atolls are connected by regular flights from Papeete and have guesthouse style accommodation or budget beach huts. The beaches on these atolls are generally of white sand and backed by towering coconut trees although the lagoons are often very tidal and too shallow for swimming. Traditional villages can be found on most atolls with islanders living a subsistence lifestyle of fishing and planting, supplemented by the farming of exquisite Black Pearls which is a major source of income for the people.
Rangiroa Atoll is the most developed island for tourism. It is also the second largest atoll in the world with a lagoon in its centre measuring 75-km across and 25-km wide. Surrounding this lagoon are over 200 tiny islands, stretching for 200km around the lagoon, most no more than 300 metres wide. Few places rise above 10 metres from sea level making the threat of cyclones or, worse still, tsunamis, a real worry for its 2000 inhabitants. Rangiroa is the most famous shark diving destination in the South Pacific with over 10 species commonly sighted.
About 250-km south west of Rangiroa or 450-km north of Tahiti is Fakarava Atoll, the second largest atoll in the group and with a flourishing tourism industry. The airstrip is located on the north eastern side of the atoll, close to Rotoava Village which has 500 inhabitants, mostly fishermen. Snorkelling in the lagoon is excellent and there are several dive companies offering courses and dive excursions to the outer reef passages.
150-km to the north east of Rangiroa is Manihi Island, famous for its black pearls which are farmed extensively in the lagoon.
There are daily flights also to the Tuamotu Group and to the Marquesas making access to all these remote islands relatively straight-forward.
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