There’s nothing quite like an atoll in the South Pacific Ocean to make you feel like Robinson Crusoe. Despite its sheer tranquillity, Rangiroa’s is one of the largest atolls in the world and its stunning lagoon is so vast that it could fit the entire island of Tahiti inside it.
Compared to Bora Bora or Tahiti, Rangiroa is decidedly low-key but it is the “big city” for many folk coming from elsewhere in the archipelago. It boasts a few paved roads, local shops, a couple of resorts, internet and restaurants – actually everything you could possibly need for a tranquil holiday with all the basics without being too remote.
Those who come to Rangiroa are not necessarily the beach-loving crowd. The island’s beauty lies more in its coral reefs making it a world-renowned diving mecca, blessed with prolific marine life.
If you prefer to stay dry, boat trips across the lagoon to the stunning Île aux Récifs and Lagon Bleu can’t be missed. Raira Beach beside the lagoon is a terrific spot for a memorable waterside meal on the terrace overlooking the picture-perfect lagoon.
Île aux Récifs
Just south of Rangiroa and an hour’s boat ride from Avatoru, Île aux Récifs is a picturesque spot, dotted with raised coral outcrops which form weathered shapes chiselled by erosion into the exterior reef. They stretch for several hundred metres, and create channels and basins making for superb swimming as you admire the peaceful coconut grove that borders the beach.
Head east from Avatoru and begin a memorable diving experience. This popular dive shop runs beginner courses as well as diving trips for the more experienced. If you prefer snorkelling, there’s also a trip that takes you to see the extraordinary fish and coral life at Tiputa Pass and Motu Nuhi Nuhi. Depending on the weather, you may even be able to spy dolphins near the pass, playing and jumping the waves.
Here you’ll find all the ingredients for a Polynesian paradise: magnificent coral reefs, natural pools, and a jade green/azure lagoon. You can walk knee-deep across the seabed to visit the bird-sanctuary island or laze as you soak up the sun on incredibly photogenic pink and white coral sands. Get there via lagoon boat excursion from Avatoru – look out for the small blacktip reef sharks on the way.
For something off the beaten track, this charmingly quiet village on the eastern limit of Tiputa Pass is well worth stopping at. Although it doesn’t have tourist accommodation, the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere is captivating and gives a true sense of atoll life. Hopping on a boat across the Tiputa Pass adds extra magic to the experience. Wildlife to look out for are silvertip and sometimes hammerhead sharks, friendly dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, tuna, barracudas and a kaleidoscope of colourful reef fish.
Even such a low-key place as Rangiroa has annual events you might like to time your holiday with. The beginning of April sees the Rangiroa Pro Junior, a World Surf League event in Rangiroa featuring some of the best junior surfers on the planet. If you are visiting in mid-September, don’t miss the local Fareirei Haga which promotes cultural activities such as fishing and handicrafts, while the locals take part in various contests.