Oceania was the last area on earth to be settled by humans, the last to be discovered by Europeans and the last to be both colonized and de-colonized. The word Polynesia means many islands. The Tuamotus are one of five French Polynesian archipelagos. They are some of most remote islands in the world, tiny green oases floating in the desert of the sea.
The Tuamotus are composed of 78 distinct coral reef atolls, stretching 930 miles north-northeast of Tahiti. From a distance the islands come and go from sight, thus the dangerous archipelago and labyrinth nicknames. Before satellite navigation, these reefs were the cause of numerous shipwrecks. Since first populated 1,000 years ago, they have known other names: Pakamotu (cloud of islands), Puamotu (dangerous islands) and finally Tuamotu, a Tahitian name meaning distant islands.
Kayaking here provided a daily opportunity for absolute disorientation in an idyllic and wild setting, both challenging and beautiful. We visited both the inhabited and uninhabited, exploring the health of the reefs and the lives of the people who live and depend on these most-remote atolls. From Shark City in the giant lagoon of Rangiroa, to Toau (population 10), to Fakarava where we camped for days on spits of sand. Along the way we dove for pearls, spearfished and cracked open coconuts for milk and meat. We also discovered that a way of life, both culturally and environmentally, is at great risk here in paradise.
Jon Bowermaster; Peter McBride; John Armstrong; Alex Nicks; Willie Williams
This ongoing project from writer and adventurer Jon Bowermaster includes a series of expeditions to explore the world’s oceans from the seat of a sea kayak. Used as both transportation and as floating ambassadors, sea kayaks allow Jon and his teams – comprised of some of the world’s best photographers, filmmakers, scientists and navigators – to reach corners of the world rarely seen. The goal of each expedition is adventure and education through exploration of local cultures, histories, environmental issues and the future of these varied regions. Supported by the National Geographic Expeditions Council, the expeditions have taken Jon to the heart of the Aleutian Islands, through the Tuamotu Atolls in French Polynesia, across the high plains of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, up the wild coastline of Gabon in West Africa, along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and around the rugged shores of the Australian island of Tasmania.