This rain – relentless, chilling, downright vengeful – wasn’t in the brochure. I am sitting on the gunwale of a dive boat off the French Polynesian atoll of Fakarava about to back-roll into a tropical sea famous for its abundance of sharks.
I’m with two other divers and a guide in Tumakohua Pass, one of the two major breaks in this necklace of coral where the ocean feeds a 60-by-23-kilometre lagoon.
Swells pitch the boat as the rain turns horizontal. We are only a few hundred yards from shore, but the dock from where we departed is barely visible through the gale. At our guide’s signal, we drop from the maelstrom into the blue calm.
Fakarava is one of five atolls in French Polynesia, a collectivity of 118 islands cast across the South Pacific Ocean like unconfirmed rumours. The best known of these, and the territory’s commercial and cultural center, is Tahiti. I came to these islands to dive and in hopes of finding remnants of the ancient Polynesian culture, a playful, kind, egalitarian ethos exquisitely captured in David Howarth’s book “Tahiti: A Paradise Lost.”
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