We LOVE Raraoia! This tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific is home to around 200 people, of which roughly half are under eighteen. It consists of a narrow strip of land covered with palm trees surrounding a stunning lagoon. This is also the atoll where Thor Heyerdahl’s raft Kon-Tiki finished its epic voyage from Easter Island in 1947.
We arrive here on a Wednesday morning after a rather rough three-day passage from Nuku Hiva (including huge squalls during the last night of the crossing). We stand off just outside the pass, which is the entrance to the atoll, and wait for the sun to be high enough so we can see the reefs and zigzag our way in. There are two other yachts already anchored here and we are a group of three. The water is as flat as a pancake as we drop our anchor and we immediately jump into the turquoise water for a family swim. Toucan and Nelly Rose drop their anchors nearby and swim over for arrival beers on Rehua. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
After lunch Toucan and Nelly Rose go for a nap. We feel a bit jealous but have promised the kids to go ashore. Just as we are getting ready Florent stops by the boat in his pirogue and asks if we can help him fix it. Florent is thirteen and school holidays started a few days ago for the secondary school kids. They go to school in Makemo, another atoll 75 miles away, and only come home in the school holidays. We take him to the beach and Seathan helps him fix his pirogue with some of our spare rope. Afterwards Florent takes us for a tour of his village. He shows us the small shops (in somebody’s house, no signs or anything), introduces us to several people, he shows us the school, the church, the town hall, the post office, and the small airfield.
It’s a beautiful village, very organised, clean and happy! There are no hotels, no restaurants and no tourism apart from the occasional yacht that stops here. Back at the dinghy jetty we meet the other kids and they are all very inquisitive, friendly and cheerful. They have nice bikes, skateboards, cool clothes, but they’ve never seen playmobil, which Aeneas carries around in a little plastic see-through bag.
The next few days we spend catching up with schoolwork, swimming, snorkelling, fishing and hanging out with the local kids. The boys have a great time. On Friday Seathan goes shark diving with Bruce, Di and Pim just outside the pass. The report comes back that the water is gin clear and the sharks are not of the Tiger variety (as recounted by our neighbours Jess and Chris). I stay on the boat with the kids and we go for a quick snorkel before school. We see a black tipped shark accompanied by a remora just under the boat. It is a small shark but I still feel quite nervous. The boys are not troubled at all and think it’s super cool.
In the evening we are invited to the end of year performance of the local school children. There is a nursery and primary school on the island. The thirty or so kids are divided into two groups and there is one teacher for nursery and one for primary school children. We love the show and feel very privileged we are allowed to join the local community in their celebrations. The children are all dressed in local attire and perform a Polynesian dance. Afterwards the adults bring some more dances. It’s a fun evening and after the show the boys are invited to eat along with all the children and join their party. I get offered the flower outfit from the main dancer, a stunning arrangement that smells divine.
We spend a few more peaceful days near the village and on Monday we sail across the lagoon. We leave around midday when the sun is high and we can clearly see the coral head “bommies”, or “patates” as the French call them. Tyrii and I sit on the bow and he says, “ The world is full of amazing places. You just have to look for them.” He is right. A lot of wisdom coming from our ten year old!
We pick one of the many desert islands and drop our anchor in three metres of turquoise water above sand. It’s the most stunning anchorage and we are in heaven. In the evening we have sundowners aboard Rehua and start planning the beach barbecue party for Di’s birthday on Thursday.
On Tuesday I have my first diving lesson. Bruce is a qualified dive instructor and Di kindly lends me her gear. I’m a bit nervous about breathing under water but after a short lesson we plunge into the sea and I’m amazed at how natural it feels. I love the colours of the coral and the fishes as seen from the underwater perspective. It’s even better than snorkelling. I’m very lucky and privileged as I get to see an enormous manta ray on my first dive. It swoops by us and turns around floating away like an alien spaceship.
We plan to stay here a few more days, it will be hard to leave this place… but we want to see a few more atolls before sailing to Tahiti. We want to enjoy paradise just a little longer before we head back to civilisation!
Anchored near the village, view from our cockpit
Seathan fixes Florent’s pirogue
Walking through the village playing coconut rugby
the local school
the monthly supply ship is anchored off the village
unloading of supplies
the local kids
Stocking up on essential supplies (i.e. beer!)
The boys and Felix
end of school year dance performance by the local children
local flower outfit
sunset over the village
on our way across to the other side of the lagoon
on the lookout for bommies
anchored near our own private desert motu (or reef island), our second anchorage in Raroia
Boys going ashore
Rehua from the top of her mast
Rehua from the water
Toucan and Nelly Rose, our travel buddies
The lagoon is protected by a huge reef
There are plenty of motus or reef islands to explore
first dive lesson
visit to a pearl farm
labour intensive work to prepare the shells before they can grow pearls
Kon-Tiki monument: Thor Heyerdahl’s raft landed here in 1947
BBQ on the beach
Later on in the evening!