Fakarava pictures and video by Brian and Susie Schoepf

I was a little hesitant to spend 10 days on a boat with my brother, sister-in-law and husband. What do I pack? What will we eat? What will we do? Will I be seasick? The list of questions goes on and on but were all senseless worries. Ten days with no email, no texting, no internet, no TV or other mindless distractions.

Ten days in paradise. Everything was awesome.

After a long day of travel turned in to a long night of travel and then another half day we finally landed on a little strip of coral in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Fakarava. There, anchored, just a short dinghy ride away was Akela. Jim and Laura were there to greet us and row us to our home for the next ten days.

Our first night aboard we visited, had dinner, a couple of drinks then crashed hard. Sleeping was another worry of mine (yes, I’m a worry wart), as it turns out I never had a problem.The sunrise/sunset were early, 6am-6pm and dawn comes early on a sailboat, so we didn’t stay up late and arose early everyday.

The next morning after a quick run to shore for a few provisions we sailed south to Pakokota. We dropped anchor there for the night. We went ashore to explore and check out the yacht club, which was basically a series of huts with no windows. We sat outside and had a much needed beer and discussed plans for the remainder of the day. I snorkeled to shore for the first time ever. I had a hard time trying to figure out how to “turn off my nose” and breathe through my mouth. After a little practice breathing through the snorkel became much easier.

The next day we had a rainy, cool sail to the southern most point of the atoll, Tetamanu. Here we weaved between the other boats at anchor and coral bommies to find our anchor spot for the night.  Tetamanu is a wonderful little diving outpost on the tip of the coral located at the south pass of the atoll. While snorkeling you enter the water in the pass when there is an incoming current. At its strongest point you can ride the current, with no kicks, flying above the reef, taking in all the beauty of the colors of coral and hundreds of fish. The awe and excitement were overwhelming, passing over the coral gave you a feeling I can’t even describe. Absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done or seen. I wanted to do it over and over again. Seeing all kinds of beautiful fish and coral and sharks, yes sharks, I was in the water with sharks, and lots of them. It was definitely scary at first but what can I say, I swam with sharks!

After a couple of days of hanging out we pulled up anchor and made the short three hour sail east to Hirifa. Hirifa, a series of huts at the south east corner of the atoll. Each stop is more beautiful than the one before. It’s hard to believe that places like this exist. Only in pictures have I seen such beauty. There is a fascinating couple there, living on their boat, he’s French, she’s American. They teach kite surfing and spear fishing to those that find themselves at the southeast corner of Fakarava atoll. Good timing for us. No sooner than getting the anchor set, they pulled up next to us and invited us to a BBQ on the beach at sun down. Most of the boaters in the area attended and coincidentally all brought the same side dish, rice. It was amazing to hear everyone’s stories, from all corners of the world, speaking French, German, Tahitian, and for us, English and how they got where they are today, this little spec of sand in the middle of nowhere in French Polynesia. We made our plates out of palm fronds which was super cool. I went to bed that night thinking “did I really go to an impromptu beach BBQ and eat fresh caught fish on a plate that I made? This place is awesome!” 

We sailed more, snorkeled more, explored more. We rented bikes and explored Rotoava. We played cards, games, laughed and sang songs well into the night. We remembered Max and know he would’ve loved to show us Fakarava.

I need to watch more National Geographic, I related it more to Finding Nemo. Fakarava is truly the most beautiful place in the world and am so glad I got to experience it. Thank you Jim and Laura for sharing this fabulous place with us. Happy 30th Anniversary Brian, we’ll never be able to top this trip. 



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