It’s easy not to notice the small, lovely islets that form a ring around the lagoon of Fakarava, the second largest atoll in French Polynesia. After all, it’s the lagoon that draws your attention, its beauty pulling at you like a magnet. There is a purity in the lagoon, and in the quiet elegance of the marine life that live out their lives in the shallows near shore. It’s almost as if each time you glance at it you’re seeing and feeling it for the first time. Here, the world seems unblemished. Life in the small villages, with their bougainvillea lined roads, bright coral churches, quaint homes, boulangerie, snacks and restaurants seems to hover above the clear waters that surround this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The land and underwater wildlife in Fakarava are remarkable, including rare, endemic protected species. The atoll features such an untouched environment that it has been officially designated a UNESCO biosphere. One of the purposes of such a reserve is to combine conservation of natural resources and human development in a harmonious way (research, surveillance, training and education of locals).
Fakarava (meaning “beautiful” or “making things superb”) is as beautiful above as it is under the water. It features fluorescent corals and divinely warm water. All you need is some simple snorkeling gear for you to fall in love with this oceanic wonder. Divers around the world dream of Fakarava: huge coral heads, schools of fish by the thousands, “walls” of sharks close to the passes … so much to experience.
The famous French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954) would claim that colors were for setting oneself free. The artist spent three months in Tahiti in 1930 exploring as far as Fakarava, where he was enthralled by the infinite variety and shades of blue of the lagoon. This discovery was such that it triggered a new creative artistic move for Matisse. Think of Fakarava visual therapy for the soul.