POINTS OF INTEREST
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
The Tuamotus are a unique string of coral ringlets that form protective circles around interior lagoons, allowing for the proliferation of rare species of both plant and marine life. Their ecosystems are so pristine that UNESCO designated the atoll of Fakarava a Biosphere Reserve. Snorkel or drift-dive the Garuae Pass to see some of the world’s most beautiful coral formations. Snorkeling and diving excursions are available from The Gauguin.
One of the liveliest towns in the Tuamotus, Rotoava, on the northern coast of Fakarava, is also home to most of this atoll’s population. You can easily explore it on foot or by bicycle. Here, you’ll find two churches, a few shops, the town hall, and the village school.
Phare de Topaka
Just outside of town, on a spit of land jutting into the ocean, stands this unique stone lighthouse, shaped like a pyramid. Although no longer operational, it is distinctive as one of the oldest lighthouses in French Polynesia. The lighthouse lies on a dirt track reached from PK3.1 off the road to the airport. “Rue Flosse” Nicknamed for former French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse, this 18-mile stretch of roadway parallels the coast and passes some beautiful beaches. Rent a bicycle and go exploring!
Located at the southern tip of the atoll, Tetamanu, now a tiny village, was once the capital of the Tuamotus. Built in 1874, the remarkable Catholic church here is the oldest in the archipelago and was built by European missionaries entirely of coral. Tetamanu is also the gateway to Fakarava’s other iconic pass, Tumakohua Pass. The south pass is accessible only by boat.
St. John of the Cross Catholic Church
Located off the main road 1km south of the wharf, this lovely white-washed church is worth pulling your bicycle over to check out. It’s roof and shutters are painted a vivid red and if you peek inside you’ll see a lovely lagoon-blue vaulted ceiling adorned with coral and shells. Not the oldest church on Fakarava (the oldest is in the village of Tetamanu) its cheerful interior is full of music and locals on Sunday mornings.