In preparation for our family’s big trip back to French Polynesia, we asked our relatives what their favorite islands were. Out of the 118 ones to choose from, Fakarava (population: 800) came up over and over again. After visiting, I can certainly see why. It is actually the second largest atoll in French Polynesia, which, I learned, refers to ring-shaped land forming around a lagoon. The waters there were the bluest I’ve ever seen, and I was happy to have made a new “Ramiti Family” at the pension we stayed at. The motto was fittingly, “where the sky meets the sea.”
Looking out the window from the plane, the view was just magnificent. As soon as we landed, the owner Eric picked us up in a little speedboat to transfer my family to the Ramiti pension, or resort. Living without wifi or electricity was not as bad as I had imagined–it forced me to finish four books and really relax after a few really stressful months. Favorite read of the trip? The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in the 1970s Paris.
Welcome to Ramiti, quite possibly one of the most peaceful places I’ve stayed at. The place was charmingly decorated and housed about 8 bungalows. At one point, there was only one other family staying at the property, so it was really isloated–yet comfortably so.
To be honest, my dad and I got a little antsy from “too much paradise” (I know, #VacationProblems) after about 3 days and had an itch to be productive in some manner. On the other hand, my brother, our marine biology enthusiast, was in heaven and could spend weeks exploring the underwater life.
Every morning started out with a simple and delicious breakfast of croissants, baguettes, grapefruit, bananas, fresh juice, coffee, and a selection of cheese and grapefruit, mango, and strawberry jam. Since the resort is nowhere near a grocery store, food that isn’t caught near the premisis is flown in from Tahiti. In addition to us human passengers, our boat also transported bags filled with baguettes to the hotel.
During breakfast, the Ramiti staff would tell us about the day’s excursion, which ranged from snorkeling at a pink sand beach to sccuba diving with sharks–Fakarava is famous for it’s “Wall of Sharks”— to having a BBQ on a boat.
We of course opted to join all the excursions, as they were included as part of our package. The sun is pretty harsh, so we made sure to wear swimming shirts and lots of sunscreen.
Mosquitos are also a huge problem. Luckily, each bed is equipped with nets, but I still got attacked at least 20 times during my stay in Fakarava. Funnily enough, my family didn’t get bitten quite as often, but the night I left to go back to Paris, my mom got 5 bites! I guess they went after the next sweetest victim 🙂
On one of our day trips, our guides took us snorkeling where we collected wild sea urchins, clams, and Ma’oa (Tahitian snails). We opened them up, sprinkled drops of lime on top, and ate them raw from the shells. It was such a neat experience. I’m too squeemish to try snails (still have yet to taste escargots in Paris), but my brother loved them.
Coconuts and other tropical fruit were also abundant in Fakarava. Our “superman” guide, Harrys, picked one off a nearby tree and cut it to make this beautiful, tasty drink. My favorite.
Fish was caught and served almost every meal. While the dishes were healthy, delicious, and fresh, you can imagine how happy us Americans were to hear poulet on the menu for a BBQ that week.
Our guide, Marama, also taught us how to fish in a very easy way: simply take a hook, attach some bait (we used chunky bits of octopus), and dangle it in the water. Within seconds, we had a bite!
One of my Tahitian uncles, who’s in his 80’s, fishes in an even more traditional way. Every day, he walks to the ocean outside his home and dives to the bottom, holding his breath for minutes at a time. When the water has stilled, fish come swimming by and he takes a spear and brings back his catch for dinner. Impressive, no?
One of our favorite parts about the trip was the hospitality. We easily became friends with the staff and their numerous pets: dogs, cats, chickens, birds, bunnies, and a giant pig. The chihuahua, fittingly named Yoda for his pointy ears, was infamous for chasing after chicks and prancing around with yellow feathers sticking out of his mouth.
Overall, I highly recommend visiting Fakarava. The lagoon is even more breath-taking in person and it’s nowhere as touristy as Bora Bora.
Thank you for a wonderful stay, Ramiti!