The atoll of Fakarava has been a UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve since 2006, so it's not surprising that visitors to the island are often amazed by the size of its sprawling lagoon, which appears to meet the ocean somewhere on the horizon. The turquoise waters near the shores of the lagoon become much darker further out, giving some idea of its depth (up to 164 ft in the middle, at what was the bottom of the now immersed crater). The coral ellipsis of Fakarava is 17 mi long by 5 mi wide, meaning that it takes an hour and a half by boat to travel the length of the atoll, from the motu of Rotoava (at the northern pass) to the motu of Tetamanu (alongside the southern pass). Rotoava is the largest motu in the atoll and it is also where you will find the airport, the village and most of the accommodation (a hotel and a dozen or so guesthouses), although you can also stay on the motus close to the southern pass. It is the only motu to have an asphalt road - a grey band running between the houses dotted around its coconut plantation - though it is only useful if you have a bike or a scooter as there is no car hire or taxi on the atoll of Fakarava. Given the extraordinary nature of the Fakarava lagoon, two-thirds of holidaymakes come here primarily for the diving, whilst others spend their time snorkelling, kayaking or even getting to grips with the Polynesian pirogue boat. Of course, if none of that takes your fancy, you could always just lie back and relax on the beach! A little further inland, Fakarava is also home to various pearl farms which are open for visitors to come and see how the famous Tahitian pearls are born.
Take a bike and go for a ride along the asphalt road on the main motu (which is 12 mi long). Visit a pearl farm, such as the Dream Pearl Farm or Hinano Pearls, on the motu of Rotoava. Try your hand at snorkelling, kayaking or diving in the turquoise blue lagoon, or even hire a Polynesian pirogue boat.
'Must-sees' are the village of Rotoava, its seafront and its colourful church. The old Topaka lighthouse, between the village and the airport, and the Biosphere Reserve near the northern pass (the atoll has been a listed site since 2006) are also sites of interest. The village and ancient church of Tetamanu, near the southern pass also deserves a visit.
There is no ATM machine or bank in Fakarava, and whilst the Maitai Dream hotel does accept credit cards, the smaller family-run establishments don't, so make sure you take enough Pacific Francs with you in cash.
It is best to avoid drinking the tap water, so factor plenty of bottled water into your budget! A bottle of water from one of the little shops in Rotoava will cost about ?1, but you can expect to pay three times as much in the hotels, guesthouses and restaurants.
There is no main restaurant in Fakarava, but you will find some very charming little places to eat, with terraces overlooking the lagoon, as is the case of the Teanuanua ('Rainbow' in Polynesian) snack bar, in the village of Rotoava.
A pearl, either on its own or worked into a piece of jewellery. These can be bought from the shops at the pearl farms or 'won' by participating in the pearl lottery organised by the Havaiki Pearl Guesthouse.
The Maitai Dream is Fakarava's only hotel, it is therefore the ...