Rectangular-shaped Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu Islands after Rangiroa, 37 miles long by 15 miles wide. Land at charming Rotoava village home to most of the atoll's inhabitants which consists of a long avenue bordered by a post office, two shops, a restaurant and a bakery. Fakarava's immense lagoon has several black pearl farms, idyllic white sand beaches and encloses more than 80 motu (islets), home to many breeds of nesting birds oblivious to visitors. Snorkeling here is excellent with many tropical fishes including huge napoleon wrasses, white-tip, black-tip and (harmless) grey sharks, and sometimes manta rays.
Across the lagoon is the tiny village of Tetamanu. With beautiful beaches and remnants of a bygone Polynesian village. There sits the oldest church in the Tuamotu built of coral, with the date of 1875 above the door. There are only about 10 local people living in this area, and there is no road, no shop, just pristine nature and a stunning lagoon.
Fakarava is usually said to have been discovered by the Russian navigator Bellinghausen in 1820 who named it Wittgenstein. Robert Louis Stevenson who visited the island in 1888 published a vibrant account of his sojourn in his book "In the South Seas". Later, in 1930, Henri Matisse the painter spent some unforgettable days there and raved about the "exquisite shades" of the lagoon. Fakarava has been classified by the UNESCO as a biosphere reserve.
The Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia, lies to the east of Tahiti, in the eastern South Pacific Ocean.The group comprises about 80 atolls extending, in two parallel chains, over a distance of 870 miles (1,400 km).
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