Dolphins at Tiputa Pass on Rangiroa.On Rangiroa, you swim with sharks, not dolphins. The dolphins are too busy flying.

Rangiroa is overshadowed by sister islands Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea and Tetiaroa, aka Brando Island. But soon after spending five days on “Rangi,” I’d say it’s a great complement to any of these.

Rangi has lengthy been identified to scuba divers for its crystal-clear waters in what is the biggest lagoon in French Polynesia.

As a snorkeler, I saw a lot of sea creatures there I hadn’t observed in the wild before, including an octopus, two varieties of sharks, humpback unicorn fish and giant clams with “lips” ranging in colour from light tan to blacklight psychedelic blue.

But even landlubbers will locate that its spectacular marine life is surprisingly accessible. The sea is so abundant with life that even if I had never gotten my toes wet, I could claim bragging rights to viewing dolphins, humpback whales and enormous manta rays that produced it above the surface.

Rangi has noticed a tourist or two in its time — there are a handful of black pearl shops along the sole 7-mile-extended road connecting a dozen motus (tiny islands that, with each other, type a coral ring). Rangi also, nevertheless, provides a window into contemporary Polynesian culture that is decidedly untouristy. (Click right here or on the images for a slideshow of much more images from Rangiroa.)

Water planet

But very first, the flying dolphins. Close to one particular finish of the road, an easy walk from Kia Ora, the biggest resort on the island, is Tiputa Pass, a channel separating two motus. When the tide shifts, water rushes by way of the channel and for causes unknown tends to make the 40 or so dolphins that live in the channel unusually playful. Perhaps they use the rushing water as a booster some thing motivates them to launch from the water like a rocket, shooting often 20 feet into the air prior to arcing down.

A well-liked nearby boat tour is to the “blue lagoon,” a shallow portion of the huge lagoon, about a 45-minute boat ride from tourist accommodations. Tiny blacktip reef sharks, understanding the guides will at some point feed them, escort passengers as they wend their way from the boat via a field of sea cucumbers to 1 of the small islands dotting the shallow water.

A cemetery in Avatoru, Rangiroa.From there, guests wade out to “bird island” (the bird life in Rangiroa is not as diverse as what is underwater but is impressive nonetheless). That tour contains a picnic lunch and, on the way back, an chance to swim with some extremely large reef sharks and the even bigger lemon sharks.

The finish outcome is that one starts to appreciate the distinction amongst shark species. I had previously dreaded the thought of a shark, any shark, getting close to me while I was in the water. I have no doubt some species would send me swimming swiftly to the boat, but I became really relaxed in their presence in Rangi waters.

From the boat, we saw several huge manta rays at the water’s surface and watched as they dived, distorted by the clear water, morphing into monsters of the deep.

Humans, as well

There are, of course, hundreds of remarkable dive/snorkeling spots around the planet. Ultimately it was the people I met on Rangi who left memories that can not be duplicated.

Kia Ora had a steady of bicycles, and I rented one for three of the five days I was there, riding the seven miles to the administrative capital, Avatoru, population 817, and back.

Rangiroa javelin throwersTourism has tiny presence in Avatoru there are not any sights to see, per se. As my indulgent family knows, I am drawn to local cemeteries, primarily due to the fact, unless they are host to popular folks, they’re unself-conscious, unfiltered windows into the nearby lives and culture. The tributes folks produce for loved ones connect me to a nearby community — folks I haven’t met, living and dead — in techniques that transcend time. One particular can’t appear at the headstone in Avatoru’s cemetery with the simple, handwritten epithet “Ici repose ami Lucien” (“Here lies buddy Lucien”) without questioning about the lives of each the mourner and departed.

And a block away, in a park, was a celebration of living, in the form of a sport I’ve constantly connected a lot more with classic civilizations than with Polynesia: javelin throwing.

Javelin throwing, but with a South Seas twist. The target was a coconut, mounted higher atop a pole, 20 yards away. The javelins were light and flexible, and thrown with the palm of the hand.

The three guys playing did not speak much English but have been friendly and let me photograph the seemingly impossible activity. At some point when I was pointing my camera at them, a handful of bullseyes have been hit — there have been far more spears sticking out of the coconut when I looked back at the target than when the contest began. But remaining cool need to be element of the game: I would not have identified any points had been scored by looking at the players’ reactions as they threw.

Travel advisers ought to know that Rangi’s not for everyone. It really is remote and laid-back. Ultimately, it really is the kind of location on which you are going to want to spend either two days or two lifetimes.

E mail Arnie Weissmann at and stick to him on Twitter. 

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