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MOTHER NATURE MADE HER MARK, PUT DOWN HER PAINTBRUSH AND ORDERED A MAI TAI

French Polynesia Coral Reef

Add Fakarava, French Polynesia to Your Travel List

Rose-colored glasses don’t cut it here. To illustrate the kaleidoscope that is Fakarava, French Polynesia one would need lenses shaded in coral, turquoise, fuchsia, emerald, gold and all the other facets of the color wheel. This is the place where Mother Nature decided to let her hair down and show off a bit, though you’ll have to pry your eyes from the enchanting blue lagoon in order to appreciate the full tapestry of her work. Don’t miss the bright red bougainvillea climbing the coral-colored houses in the villages that surround the water, or the enticing blend of pink and white sand that covers the beaches, or the canopy of lush greenery that shades the shores. Yes, Mother Nature made her mark here, and then likely put down her paintbrush and ordered a Mai Tai.

Fakarava sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Fakarava sunset over the Pacific Ocean

This second largest of the Tuamotu Atolls in French Polynesia is more than a pretty face. Fakarava is indeed a haven for supreme relaxation – no amateur recreation here, strictly the kind of leisure that allows visitors to fully exhale stress and inhale an intoxicating mix of salt air and coconut-scented breezes. However, for those seeking more than a suntan, there are abundant pursuits to get your blood flowing.

As are most French Polynesian and Tahitian lagoons and atolls, Fakarava is a scuba diver’s paradise. There are two distinct passes that draw divers from around the world with their secluded beauty and awe-inspiring sights. Garuae Pass, located on the north side, is the largest navigable pass in French Polynesia. This pass is spectacular to swim or snorkel, as the intensely cobalt currents give way to a playground for sharks and schools of reef fish. If you’re lucky (and patient), manta rays and dolphins may join you for a few laps en route to the coral basin of Ali Baba Cavern.

The southside complement to Garuae Pass is Tumakohua Pass, which is centered around Shark’s Hole. Ominous enough in name, the dive spot does not disappoint divers who come for the thrill of the untamed waters of the South Pacific. It is common to encounter more than a hundred lemon, white-tip, and hammerhead sharks in one dive, as well as the thousands of reef fish that teem along the flourishing coral leading into your dive.

The sub-aquatic ecosystem draws more than just underwater adventurers. The complexity of this area has also earned the attention of UNESCO, which designated Fakarava a Biosphere Reserve in regard to the abundant wildlife above and below the water line. While exploring this rainbow of nature, you’ll find a pervasive respect for the land and sea, as the many coconut and pearl farmers who reside here take the great responsibility of its preservation to heart, while also welcoming visitors to their beloved islets.

Glamourous Neighbors

Fakarava shares the warm waters of the South Pacific with some swanky neighboring islands, namely, the Society Islands. Even their name exudes a chicness that conjures images of oversized sunglasses and private cabanas. Bora Bora, Tahiti’s capital of Papeete, Moorea and Raiatea each boast their own character, but all are united by the pristine natural wonderland and water so blue it resembles a gem favored by the elite. But as glamourous as these isles are, pretentious they are not. The people are as welcoming as the lagoons, and the culture of each offers centuries to be explored.

Adventurists take note: your time in French Polynesia and the Society Islands will be filled with as many active pursuits as you can crave – from lofty hiking expeditions to deep water discoveries – and punctuated with an equal measure of tranquility and relaxation.

Here, you’ll find warmth – in sunshine, in smiles and in the sea.

Fakarava, French Polynesia was a maiden call this year, and will return to Crystal Symphony’s 2019 “Storied Isles of the Pacific,” along with the Society Islands and Easter Island, Chile. The voyage embarks from Valparaiso to Papeete February 19, 2019 so mark your calendars.

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