Rangiroa

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Tuamotu Islands Rangiroa

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Introduction

Rangiroa (meaning Vast Sky in Tuamotuan) or Te Kokōta (Hyades in Māori), is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus, and one of the largest in the world (although it is smaller than Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and Huvadhu in the Maldives). It is part of the Palliser group. The nearest atoll is Tikehau, located only 12 kilometres to the west. It is about 355 kilometres northeast of Tahiti.

Rangiroa houses about 2,500 people on almost 80 km2. The chief town is Avatoru, located in the northwestern part of the atoll.

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Geography

The atoll consists of about 415 motus, islets and sandbars comprising a total land area of about 170 km². There are approximately one hundred narrow passages (passes), called hoa, in the fringing reef. The atoll has a flattened elliptic shape, with 80 kilometres in length and a width ranging from 5 to 32 kilometres wide. The width of land reaches 300 to 500 metres wide and its circumference totals up to 200 km. The lagoon has a maximum depth of 35 metres and its surface is 1446 km². It is so large that it has its own horizon. On account of its shallow depth, the currents that come in and out through the passes and with the winds can sometimes create interior storms.

Only two islands, located on the northern end of the atoll, are permanently inhabited. As of 2007, the total population on the atoll of Rangiroa was 2,473 inhabitants. The main villages are Avatoru (pop. 817), Tiputa (pop. 971), Ohutu (pop. 546), Taeo'o, Fenuaroa, Otepipi and Tevaro. Both Avatoru and Tiputa were built on neighboring islands, 12.5 and 4 kilometres in length respectively. They are separated by the major Tiputa Pass. The other major pass of the atoll is Avatoru Pass, immediately to the West of the island of Avatoru. Rangiroa is a major underwater diving destination because of its lagoon's clear blue water and exceptionally diverse marine fauna. The most popular diving sites are the Blue Lagoon, Avatoru pass, Tiputa pass and Les Sables Roses ("The Pink Sands").

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Sights and Activities

Scuba Diving

Rangiroa offers some of the best dives in the world in and around the Tiputa Pass, which lies at one end of the one main road and runs 3.5 kilometres to the Avatoru Pass. Sedentary common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) regularly play group in the Pass. They can be viewed from the mainland but it is also one of the few places where they can be approached in scuba diving. Because of its large size and the existence of only two passes, each high tide creates a strong incoming current while each low tide creates a strong outgoing current in those two passes. When the current is flowing inward through Tiputa Pass, about 200 shark specimens gather at the entrance to the Tiputa Pass, at fifty meters deep. Led by the strong current, sharks can remain motionless and allow divers to observe them without any difficulty. Large manta rays, green sea turtles, and humphead wrasses can also be seen. Occasionally, tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks can also be spotted. In January, large number of stingrays gather in the Tiputa Pass, as well as hammerhead sharks that feed on them.

A notable site in the atoll is the famous Blue Lagoon, which is a smaller lagoon formed on the southwestern edge of Rangiroa. Its shallow waters accentuate the bright blue color of the water. The Pink Sands are sandbars surrounded by numerous ro'a are located on the southeastern portion of Rangiroa.

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Getting There

By Plane

Air Tahiti flies into Rangiroa from various Polynesia islands such as Bora Bora, Papeete, Fakarava etc. Rangiroa Airport is located at the main motu of Avatoru, near the village and near most hotels and pensions. The airport has an Air Tahiti agency, snack bar, souvenir boutique and public restrooms.

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Getting Around

Most travellers stay at Avatoru motu (Tiputa motu is only accessible by boat). Not much point renting a car, it is probably best to hire a bicycle, there is only one main road on Avatoru after all, and it is just a few kilometers long!

You will need someone with a boat to bring you to the outer motus.

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Eat

There are only a handful of places where you can grab something to eat on the island. Do not expect 5-star gourmet food; however, you can give a try at the following places:

  • Snack Rio, near the airport, with some very decent local food besides the takeaway pizzas.
  • Te Mao Lounge Bar can offer nice events, with local groups who play music
  • Cafe Obelix - A truck restaurant. Very decent local food and kindly ruled by their owners

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Drink

Like other similar small and sleepy atolls of the Toamutos, there is no night life. The locals maximise the sunshine hours by getting up before 6:00am and retiring early when the sun has set.

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Sleep

are only two "large" hotels, the luxurious Kia Ora and the comfortable Novotel. Besides those hotels, there are several smaller family-run pensions, for instance Les Relais de Josephine.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 9:19 on Jul 19, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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