It has been over a year since we last sailed through the Tuamotu island group. Since then, we have found many more wonderful destinations, but nevertheless, we still find ourselves nostalgically thinking of those unspoiled coral atolls. We spent three amazing years sailing in French Polynesia, visiting a dozen different atolls. All of them were wonderful in their own way, but I especially liked Rangiroa because it is the most diverse of them all. So today, when you are admiring snowy landscapes through your office window, I will take you on a short virtual trip to this magical island in the hope that these tropical photos will help take the chill out of your bones.
The entire population of Rangiroa lives in the village of Avatoru on the atoll’s northern edge. Their economy depends heavily on diving tourism and there is a safe mooring field for visiting boats just in front of the main dock. This anchorage is one of the most peaceful places that I’ve ever visited.
The sea here is calm, but the village even more so, especially in the evenings. On the atolls people go to bed at the same time as the chickens.
To find some solitude, one only needs to sail several miles in any direction from the main village. The atoll is largely empty and there are no boats on the sea and no people on the land. Walking, you only meet birds and crabs which is especially handy if you like to walk around naked ...
The east coast is a paradise for kite surfers. The sea is very shallow, the sand is soft and the wind blows constantly. Since we started sailing, this was the first spot where I really missed my windsurfer ...
The southern part of Rangiroa is completely different. It’s rough and wild. Over the centuries, the ocean swell has slowly but steadily shaped the volcanic rocks into interesting sculptures. The Feos, as the Polynesians call them, are extremely sharp rocks, way too sharp to walk on barefooted.
But my favourite view of Rangiroa is underwater. The visibility here is just stunning.
There are so many fish that sometimes I wished there was an underwater traffic light.
The most beautiful diving is in the pass into the atoll where you can swim with dolphins, different types of sharks, barracudas, rays and mantas. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that Rangiroa is indeed very popular amongst divers. In fact, it seemed that one was more likely to run into a crowd underwater than on land.
If I had to choose one word that best summarizes this island, I would choose the word, ‘silence’. The lack of noise really is the best soundtrack to the turquoise water and pink sand. I enjoyed it mostly at night, lying on deck, staring into the starry sky around the Southern Cross. The silence was so deep that I knew exactly what was happening around me. I could hear a coconut falling from a palm tree somewhere far away. I could hear fish chasing their prey. But the very best thing was hearing the deep breaths of a turtle that was slowly swimming by, happily oblivious to my presence.
I have always had a connection to the sea. Born in the coastal village of Sistiana (near Trieste) in northern Italy, my earliest memories are of watching the heavy waves slam ashore when the local winds were blowing hard. As a teenager, the sailing club became my focus – not just for my love of water sports, but also for the handsome boys that sailed there. I went on to become an Optimist instructor for the club by summer and a junior school teacher by winter. However, ten years of focusing on the needs of children dampened my maternal instincts somewhat and I felt the need to travel. The sea was the obvious way to go…