Rangiroa, or "Endless Sky" in Tahitian, is French Polynesia's largest atoll. A long, narrow grouping of 415 small motu strung together in a misshapen circle, it harbors a lagoon so large the entire island of Tahiti could fit in it. It's also impossible to see from one side of the lagoon to the other. Rangiroa's tourism industry has been built around the lagoon and the two passes (Avatoru and Tiputa) that connect it to the ocean. Divers descend on Rangi, as it's nicknamed, to "shoot the pass. View more
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Learn about the cultivating of black pearls in Rangiroa and French Polynesia on this visit to a local farm.
Board the tour vehicle for a 10-minute ride along the main road of Rangiroa and past the airport to one of the numerous black pearl farms on the island. Most pearl farms are small in size; the workers at the farm visited are representative of the farms in this area.
Your visit begins with a 20-minute introduction to pearl farming presented by the knowledgeable staff. Listen as farm representatives discuss the chronology and evolution of the industry and how oysters are selected and then grafted for production. Grafting is the key element, as it requires a skilled artisan to perform the precise opening of each oyster to introduce the mantel and the nucleus to the pocket inside. It is the mantel that coats the nucleus to form the pearl.
Following the introduction, move on to one of the work sheds where oysters are sorted and cleaned. Then, watch a grafter at work as he skilfully performs his trade. Afterwards, you have the opportunity to view a selection of unset black pearls. The guide provides explanations on how the pearls are graded for quality, shape, and lustre. There are round, baroque and semi-baroque pearls, ranging in grades from C to A.
Re-board the tour vehicle and return to the pier.
Please note: This tour requires a minimal amount of walking to the tour vehicle and at the farm; guests must be able to enter and exit the vehicle via steps. This tour is suitable for guests with limited mobility but is not wheelchair accessible. Transportation is very basic; vehicles used are mini-vans and mini-buses and are the best available. Due to the limited number of vehicles available, all seats are utilised. We thank you for your understanding. Commentary at the pearl farm is by the local workers. They are not certified guides and their English may be basic and accented. Pearls can be purchased at the boutique at the end of the visit. They accept cash (Euro, USD, Pacific Franc) and credit card (American Express, Visa, Master Card). Guests needing more than 10-15 minutes to shop should return on the next transfer back to the ship or the Pearl Farm may return you to the pier. Space on this tour is limited.