I am kicking myself today. With no dive buddy and no diving organized on the ship, I had given up on the idea of scuba diving in French Polynesia. We are in Rangiroa and of course the first thing you hear about the island is how fabulous the diving is. I brought no gear (easily overcome) and no Certification card (not so easily overcome). We tendered in and found outfitters right along the beach where the boat docked. I’m an idiot.
Anyone headed this way should at least bring snorkel gear. A reef reached easily by boat from the pier offers wonderful snorkeling-the best of the trip according to some cruisers. If you want to stay dry, you can still see the fish from a glass bottom boat. Want to say a little cash? With your own gear you can snorkel right off the beach.
At our dock, there were vendors selling handicrafts-mostly jewelry made from local finds. There was also a woman with fresh flowers and palm leaves that would help you make a headband of flowers. After making mine, Boris and I headed down the beach to a nearby resort. We are on a narrow part of the island and we crossed to see the rough side with its serious waves.
The ship is anchored on the side of the island with the calm water. The Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa was on the point of the island with the water bungalows on the calm side. The rain came just as we reached the resort lobby with it’s beautiful shell chandeliers. There was an activities desk, but it doesn’t appear the island offers a wide variety of options. The drivable part of the island is only 7 miles long. It is a beautiful location and the water is warm and clear so with the right agenda Rangiroa could be a perfect choice.
When the rain let up, we headed to the hotel bar with its glass bottom. I tried the signature drink at the Miki Miki Bar made with multiple rums and coconut ice cream and added the drink flowers to my headband. We enjoyed our drinks while watching the rain on the water and the fish below the bar platform. After another downpour, we walked back along the beach passing the multiple dive and snorkel shops and enjoying the water under our feet.
Rangiroa is part of the Tuamotu archipelago and the biggest atoll of French Polynesia. It is two islets separated by a pass. There are two main villages, one on each pass. The rest of the island is almost uninhabited. Rangiroa is a “real natural aquarium” and was classified by Cousteau as one of the most beautiful and elaborate sites in the world. Lots of variety for divers, but I would have loved to see the sharks-grey, white tip, black tip, and hammerhead-that inhabit these waters.
Like the rest of French Polynesia, Rangiroa has the waters for producing the Tahitian black pearl. “Black” refers to the black lip pearl oyster shell; the pearls themselves come in a wide variety of colors. The biggest pearl farm on the island, Gauguin’s Pearl, employs 50 local workers and has a large impact on the island’s economy.
Rangiroa is also known for its vineyards with vines that grow on the edge of the lagoon. The atoll is free of the insects that harm the vines and the fruit, making it an ideal location. Three grape varietals are grown on the atoll, but other fruit is very scarce on the island.
For me, given the diving options available, I would rank Rangiroa among my favorites of the islands we have visited in French Polynesia.
This is our last full day on the Marina. Although we dock in the early morning as in most cruise itineraries, I will not leave the ship until 4 pm due to the flight schedule. Of course you could book a day room, go on an excursion, or leave the ship for additional vacations days in the area. Boris is going to do some historical touring, but my plan is to stay on board.
Tonight is my last high tea, mass with Bishop Robert Lynch from St. Petersburg, Florida, and dinner in our favorite specialty restaurant Red Ginger. We’ll close the night with a concert by our favorite performing artist.
If I find a performer I like aboard, I usually become a groupie for the cruise and watch for them on the daily schedule. This cruise we have enjoyed pianist Constantine Dragulyou, a young man from Romania far too talented to be playing on a cruise ship. He has taken full advantage of modern technology and uses a computer instead of sheet music. I took a look one night and realized he usually just has a play list up and performs from memory. He showed me how he can pull music up from his storage if he is less familiar with a song. One evening, Boris asked for a song he didn’t know. He apologized for the delay, pulled the music from the Internet, and played a lovely version of The Last Time I Saw Paris for the first time.