Rangiroa, Tuamoto Archipelago, French Polynesia

Rangiroa, named for the Polynesian word Ra’iroa meaning “large sky”, is the largest atoll of 75 found in the Tuamoto Archipelago and one of the four largest in the world.  The Archipelago is runs northwest–southeast for some 1450 kms. This palm-fringed atoll is 70 km long and 26 km wide and it is impossible to see one side from the other across the lagoon. The lagoon is 1640 kms square and the atoll has only 40 sq. kms. of land.  It is home to only a few thousand people. Its main products are from oyster and fish farms. The oysters produce the famous black South Sea pearls.  Tourists come for the diving.  Today I took a tour to a pearl farm.  The explanations were very thorough. We were told how they prepared oysters for growing pearls and then watched some technicians actually doing the work.  Rangiroa has a school for pearl technicians and apparently it is the only one in the world.  It takes three years for a pearl to grow and oysters can be used up to three times.  Each time, the oyster will produce a larger pearl. There is a lot of maintenance to be done to the oysters during the growing process and it is not mechanized.  Hence the high prices.  This afternoon I went swimming in the lagoon.  The water was warm and clear.  I attach two pictures of the pearl factory.  Our next and last port is Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands.

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