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Lagoon Excursions

Don't come to Fakarava without spending at least half a day on a lagoon excursion. The pensions will organize these trips. One of the best is Fakarava Explorer (tel. 98.42.66; www.fakarava-divelodge.com), operated by English-speaking Ato Lissant of Pension Paparara. Ato takes dolphin-watching and snorkeling cruises to Garuae Pass, motu picnics, and fishing trips. He charges 13,000CFP (US$163/£82) per person for all-day tours to Tetamanu, with a minimum of five persons.

History, Snorkeling & a Robinson Crusoe Picnic -- The most enjoyable lagoon excursion I've ever made in French Polynesia was a full-day excursion to the near ghost village of Tetamanu, on Fakarava's far southern end. After a 1 1/2-hour speedboat ride from the resort, guide Coco Randal landed us at Tetamanu for a look at its early-19th-century prison ruins and restored 1834-vintage Catholic church. After petting a huge grouper and drift-snorkeling with the current inside Tuamakohua Pass, we went out for a picnic on a tiny islet completely surrounded by brilliantly pink sand. Unlike any other lagoon excursion in the Tuamotu Archipelago, this one adds a bit of history to fine snorkeling and swimming.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Garuae Pass is one of the most exciting dive sites in French Polynesia. At nearly a kilometer ( 2/3 mile) across, it dwarfs all other passes in the Tuamotus and has just about every kind of fish, shark, and ray you're likely to see in French Polynesia; the coral here is very good, too. As at Rangiroa, hammerhead sharks gather here from December through March, manta rays between July and October. July also sees huge schools of marbled groupers. Most dives are of the drift variety; that is, the dive boat takes you beyond the reef and you ride the incoming tide through the 15m-deep (50-ft.) pass back into the lagoon. You had best be an advanced diver to explore Garuae Pass, but those with either advanced or intermediate credentials can dive the much smaller and less challenging Tuamakohua Pass, at the southern end of the lagoon. Novice divers can choose from several sites in the lagoon, much of which is teeming with sea life since it's a protected marine reserve.

TOPdive Rangiroa is based at the Matai Dream Fakarava (tel. 98.43.76; www.topdive.com), while Fakarava Diving Center is at the nearby Pension Paparara (tel. 98.43.23 or 77.10.00; www.fakarava-diving-center.com). TOPdive charges 7,500CFP (US$94/£47) for a one-tank dive in or near Garuae Pass, while Fakarava Diving Center charges 6,500CFP (US$81/£41). A full-day's outing to Tetamanu, including a picnic lunch and diving in Tuamakohua Pass, goes for about 18,500CFP (US$231/£117) per person. The island's other reputable dive center is Te Ava Nui Plongé, in Rotoava (tel. 98.42.50; www.divingfakarava.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.